I don’t understand politics. Much to my shame, I am not as well-informed as a responsible citizen should be.
So I’m going to fumble a little here… I just need to express this. I need to get it off my chest.
I know I’m not the only one who, just over a week ago, watched President Trump’s inauguration with a feeling of sadness, disappointment and, above all, utter disbelief. The same utter disbelief and shock I experienced when I woke up on 24th June to the news that, apparently, it was the will of the British people to leave the European Union. The will of the people. Five words that British politicians – both in Government and in the Opposition – have been whipping us with and rubbing our noses in for the past few weeks. Interesting that nobody in the Government seemed to have paid much attention to the will of the people when thousands of us marched to protest about the war in Iraq. I wonder if, years from now, the expression the will of the people will become a synonym of delegating responsibility, passing the buck, and using the response of a misinformed person or people to further your own interests.
For years, I’ve had friends of all (as long as non-extreme) political convictions and not allowed our differences to get in the way of our friendship. Now, for the first time in my life, I find that I cannot be friends with someone who voted in favour of Brexit. Just like I cannot be friends with any US national who voted for Donald Trump. It’s just too important. I cannot sit at the same table with anyone who has contributed to depriving the younger British generations of the chances we have enjoyed being a part of Europe. And I cannot break bread or have a drink with anyone who had a hand in electing as Leader of the Free World an individual such as Mr Trump. As it happens, last June, H. and I met a couple of US lawyers in an Italian restaurant in London. They said they would vote for Donald Trump. They ordered wine for all of us. We accepted. At the time, although Mr Trump was already giving apparent signs misogyny, intolerance to some other cultures, lack of concern in the environment, and expressing generally extreme opinions, many of us still believed that he was somewhat “playing to the gallery”. Over the past couple of months, I’ve often wondered if this American couple did go through with their intention, and vote for him, or if, after hearing one shocking statement too many on his part, they changed their minds at the last minute. Now, I’m afraid I would not accept a drink from someone I knew had voted for him. Or voted for Brexit.
Most of us, at one time or other, have regretted our voting choice after the event. Politicians don’t honour their electoral promises, or else we discover a vital piece of information that escaped us before election day. We slap ourselves hard on our heads and realise how stupid we’ve been.
But not in the case of Brexit/Trump.
In the case of Brexit, all voters had to do was look around at all the political figures who actively supported a break-away from Europe. Nigel Farage. Marine Le Pen. Vladimir Putin. Need I continue? All voters had to ask themselves was whether or not they wished to keep company with the above. It was a no-brainer, as far as I was concerned.
Equally, with Donald Trump, people knew what to expect. An individual who does a ridiculing imitation of physical disability, whose words on women suggest a misogyny totally out of order in this day and age, who appears to care nothing about the environment. An individual who wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico, for crying out loud! Had no one heard of the Berlin Wall?
One could well ask how any of us non-US citizens dare protest against the election of another country’s leader. Fair point. Except that this isn’t just any other country. It happens to be, at this point in time, a country with major influence on the Western World. So, yes, we are entitled to shout our discontent and our disgust.
One thing in particular that strikes me about Mr Trump is his unbridled rudeness. The parallel with our own Nigel Farage is blatant. They don’t seem to possess a sense of boundaries. By this I mean they don’t appear to have any sense of that mark which any decent person should never overstep. They don’t have that sense of honour which demands that you treat even your enemy with respect and courtesy. Increasingly, the lines from George Orwell’s Animal Farm ring in my head: “Two legs good. Four legs better.”
I wonder about Donald Trump, in particular. Watching him on the news, signing order after order with a flourish, clearly enjoying the process, I wonder what has led him to be so unaware of common courtesy and boundaries. He makes me think of a spoilt child suddenly placed upon a throne and who sends people to be hanged, beheaded and tortured just because he can. Does it come with the territory of being a millionaire with the power of hiring and firing at will that you spend years surrounded only by “yes”-people, are allowed to get away with just about anything, and lose your perspective on right and wrong? Did his wealth and power ensure that he was never in contact with people who would establish their own boundaries firmly enough to stop his own from sprawling?
“Two legs good. Four legs better.” I can’t get these words out of my head.
When, about fifteen years ago, I watched Tony Blair say that he would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George W. Bush, I shuddered. Two days ago, when I saw Donald Trump take Theresa May’s hand to help her down the steps or slope at the White House, I winced.
We are heading into dark times. Times of tar-like ignorance. Times when I feel it’s important to take a stand. The time for wishy-washy evasiveness is over. There is a right and a wrong. They are not a matter of opinion.
I know I don’t normally write about politics – but I’ve had enough.