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Why protesting Obama after Trump's victory makes so much sense

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture: the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency.”

lead President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Press Association. All rights reserved.Yesterday, as I began to write these lines, Air Force One was descending on Athens’ airport, bringing the US President to our city: not the delirious orange-haired one, but the One Still There Even Though Most Of US Have Forgotten He Is Actually Still In Charge. Obama, the liberal darling of so many inside and beyond the US border, is the president under whose watch 2.5 million people were deported - more than any other US president in history and directly comparable to the “2-3 million” pledged by Trump.

Under Obama, the US has continued and excelled in its business-as-usual war, carnage and destruction the world over. But admittedly, under his watch this hell was now delivered with some impeccable puns, flawless speeches, making us feel warm inside and a sense of humility we can all relate to. Right?

A superstar, a great showman of a President? Check. But Trump is also those exact same things - perhaps in many ways more skilful than the Great Man himself: Trump read into the anguish of millions and tapped into it before the liberal elite had time to utter “let us respect and uphold the values of the US constitution”, or some gibberish of that kind.

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture that commenced with Obama: a complete and utter reliance upon the single showman (and yes, it will be a man) as the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency.

lead lead Obama in Athens, opening his final foreign trip as president with reassuring words about the US commitment to NATO. Yorgos Karahalis/Press Association. All rights reserved. A narrator that now so easily obstructs, behind the cleverest of jokes or the most infuriating of bigoted statements, what is a plain and simple truth: that sovereignty and all regimes, democratic or otherwise, do not hang in the balance as well-humoured or addictively infuriating men in suits come and go. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And the greatest trick the Democratic Apparatus ever pulled was convincing the world that it is to be replaced at the People’s Will: convincing the world that an electoral swing may somehow shut down Guantanamo Bay, that it may drop the numbers of the world’s largest prison population, that it may bring less war or carnage. And just before anyone has had the time to call on the con artist, the next one has already jumped on stage: sombre or delirious, the show must go on.

Oh, and the show does go on. Despite and against our effort to live our lives, it tramples over our sisters and our brothers in Guantanamo Bay, in the homeless camps, in the skid rows of inner US cities, inside prisons and beyond their thick walls, at the razor wire of the border and beyond it, at the refugee camps that have been popping up around the world faster than you can say “The new president is an affront to our liberal democratic values”. These values now matter less than a well-delivered pun.

There is some impeccably delivered irony in the fact that Obama’s last international stop before handing to Trump is Athens. It is as if he is paying homage to the Syriza debacle, a symbolic affirmation that no matter what the intentions, any attempt to soothe – let alone transform – power “from within” is doomed to a sitcom-like spectacle of representation. A spectacle that would be hilarious if it was not deadly; a spectacle that can only be fought by supporting life in the struggle against its representation.

The Obama visit to Athens. Closed off streets. dromografos. Some rights reserved.

The Obama visit to Athens. Closed off streets. dromografos. Some rights reserved.

About the author

Antonis Vradis is based at Loughborough University's Geography department. He is also part of the collective project Transcapes, and was part of The City at the Time of Crisis, a member of the Occupied London collective. He researches the politics of urban social innovation in Europe and is Senior Editor of the journal CITY.


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