How are things looking from your vantage point?
Grim. I have not felt this apprehensive during my political lifetime. We have an impulsive, mercurial, self-centered madman in the White House, and a raft of other authoritarian leaders who have come to power—many of them fairly recently—in countries across Europe and around the world. Brexit and growing anti-EU feeling are also deeply disturbing, almost tragic. For all its faults, the European Union is one of the great creations of modern humankind. To be able to drive or walk without stopping across borders between countries that repeatedly fought each other bitterly signals an extraordinary achievement. Younger people, especially, know this and feel it in their bones. I would hate to see this achievement dismantled.
How do you feel about what’s coming in 2017?
Even more grim. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it yet. In the United States, Donald Trump has managed to be bellicose and threatening in the face of nothing more than the results of his own chaotic management style. Can you imagine what he’ll say and do in the face of another Islamic terrorist attack?
What can we do about it? (Practical advice is especially useful).
I’m inspired by the women’s marches that took place around the United States in January in various cities. The Encyclopedia Britannica, no leftist rag, called them the largest demonstrations in American history. I hope this is the harbinger of more such demonstrations to come, and of Americans of good sense plunging deeply into our electoral process, flawed as it is. A tragically high percentage of younger people did not vote in our last election. We need to change that, and to be able to offer to the public candidates who are truly inspiring, which Hillary Clinton, the alternative to Trump, was definitely not. I hesitate to offer advice to people in other countries, because each has a different situation. But people of good will, who care about democracy and tolerance, can’t sit still. Canada has set us all a wonderful example in its embrace, both by the prime minister and ordinary citizen volunteers, of Syrian refugees. The flood of tens of thousands of Americans who went to airports at the time of Trump’s absurd ban on travellers from 7 Muslim countries is something we can take heart from. As we can from the Europeans who went to railway stations in several countries with sandwiches and signs of welcome during the peak of the refugee influx a year or two ago, despite the backlash since then. I hope we will see many more such public demonstrations of democratic values in the months ahead.