Fascists Not Welcome. No Ifs, No Buts, No Fudging, Theresa May Must Cancel Trump’s Visit
To say that he has crossed a line is a truism.
He has been criticised by all former First Ladies who are alive. Rosalynn Carter called the policy “disgraceful and a shame to our country”. His 2016 adversary, Hillary Clinton called it “an affront to our values”.
In a rare foray in politics and breaking partisan ranks, Laura Bush - citing her border state Texan heritage - has called it immoral and cruel, drawing a comparison with World War II internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent - which she described as “one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history”.
Michelle Obama retweeted Bush’s message with the line, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”
All were referring to American values. However, they could have gone further and said Trump had offended Western democratic values.
The Trump’s administration “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from parents at the border, then incarcerating the children is not just an affront to democratic values: it bulldozes through them. The administration is committing violence against children. Worse, by pretending that Democrats have forced the policy, it is doing so on the basis of deceit and making the children hostages. It is the politics of terror.
Trump’s approach to immigration is a cruel culmination that started with the racist rhetoric of his campaign, and continued in office with his purported “Muslim ban” and a Twitter war with London’s mayor Sadiq Khan - a practising muslim - while London was under attack.
He has distorted reality to portray London as a city with “no go areas” whose hospitals are like war zones. More recently, he has attacked Germany’s leader Angela Merkel, portraying the country as on the verge of a populist revolution of the kind that brought him to power.
Trump, no stranger to dishonesty, deals in mendacity to make his case. Merkel remains Germany’s most popular politician. Crime is down. In the UK, despite a spike in violent crime, London remains an open city whose citizens are best characterised by their tolerance of diversity. The dishonesty is one thing, the violence of language is another.
Trump is preventing any kind of debate except one conducted on his platform of bigotry and hatred. Many of the words he uses are darkly reminiscent of 1930s fascism. He accuses his Democratic opposition of wanting illegal immigrants to "pour into and infest our country", invoking the language of crimes against humanity. In Nazi Germany, the victims were "rats". In Rwanda, they were "cockroaches".
what we are witnessing here is unprecedented in modern political history
Democracy is not a perfect system of government.
Yet, when a democracy fails it is because it loses sight of its values. Unlike authoritarian regimes, those values still exist. Our failure is not absolute.
Trump provides us with a lesson on what happens when a democracy’s leader has no regard for those values and rights.
Those who have criticised Theresa May for her caution or reticence should be wary. She embraced Trump far too swiftly and inelegantly after his inauguration. However, it is easy to speak about boycotts and bans from the opposition benches.
In terms of international relations and national security, the United States is Britain’s greatest ally. Grandstanding might soothe consciences but the question is what practical good would it do. A generous interpretation of May’s actions is that she hoped she could guide him away from his worst excesses.
As such, it is unfair to criticise May for meeting Trump. She should be condemned for the length of the spoon she took to the supper though.
What we are witnessing here is unprecedented in modern political history. A close ally is slowly abandoning the politics of democracy and human rights, and embracing authoritarianism. The question - so recently unthinkable - of when and how to disentangle ourselves from what could turn into a toxic relationship must become part of the public discourse.
Trump might not be a blip but a radical shift for a country that is looking East rather than West. He might not be the first U.S. leader to look more comfortable standing next to Kim Jung Un rather than the leaders of the G7. The post-Cold War unipolar world could be decisively adjusting - and Europe could soon find itself seeking a new role.
The facts have changed. Engagement has failed. Eighteen months into his term of office, Trump has revealed himself as an opponent of tolerant, democratic values. For Britain, this moment would be easier were it not for the vote to leave the European Union. Whatever, it is one that Theresa May must match.
If Great Britain does not take a moral stand when vulnerable children are separated from their parents, incarcerated in cages and treated like animals, then when will it take a stand?
Brexiters may have foolishly pinned their hopes upon a swift U.S. trade deal but such talk was always as easy as the pre-referendum promises of “taking back control” and a mythical Brexit dividend.
Principles are only worth something if one sticks to them not just when they are convenient but also inconvenient.
May must not only condemn President Trump’s policy she must condemn the man himself. She must make it clear that so long as he continues to disavow democratic values, we will disavow him.
In doing so, the Prime Minister will be nailing her colours to the mast. She will be saying that while people might lump Brexit and Trump into similar categories, the United Kingdom and Trump share no values.
By his actions and with his words, he has shown himself for what he is
May is not powerless to stand up to her hard right. By giving support to his opposition, she can show the United States that there is a politics beyond Donald Trump. She can also show Europe that although we are on the road to Brexit, our heart will remain. In refusing Trump a visit, she could go some way to demonstrating that Britain is truly a European nation.
Brexit may consume this country but increasingly European nations are facing up to the hard populism from Poland, Hungary and Italy that threatens core European beliefs. Trump has directly allied himself with that movement. There must be no question that Britain does anything but condemn it.
By his actions and with his words, he has shown himself for what he is: Donald Trump is a fascist.
Trump wanted state ceremony. Even without one, he wanted a visit. He wanted Britain to fawn over him.
Theresa may might use the words of another woman - though this time with a forthrightness that pleases our nearest allies - and say, “No! No! No!”
About the author
Disclaimer is a group of writers, journalists, and artists who have been brought together by their desire to tackle serious issues with a light and humorous touch. A mixture of idealists and pragmatists, Disclaimer is socially very liberal, economically less so. The editorial stance is formed collectively, based on the shared values of the magazine. Gonzalo Viña founded Disclaimer with the help of Phil Thornton who oversees the economics coverage. Graham Kirby is the editor.
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