Can Trump’s visit bring us together?
Categories: Latest News
Friday July 13 2018
The UK is bracing itself for one of the most controversial visits by a head of state in recent times. Mr Trump, the 12th US President to make the trip, arrived yesterday, Thursday 12th, for a two day-visit to England, before setting off for a weekend of golfing in Scotland. Friday’s agenda includes a travel to Chequers – the Prime Minister’s country residence in Buckinghamshire – for bilateral talks, followed by a visit to Windsor to meet the Queen on Friday afternoon.
Trump’s visit has been on the news for quite some time, and for good reason. In June 2017, he cancelled the visit for fear of large scale protests, reportedly telling Theresa May he would wait for the British public to support him. At the heart of Trump’s concern was an awkward Twitter exchange with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, in which the US President wrote: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”. Besides Trump’s disrespectful reaction, which saw him use the London Bridge attack as a political tool, his ‘concern’ was highly misplaced. Khan’s “no reason to be alarmed” tweet referred to the increase of armed police presence in the streets.
The incident did not go down too well in Britain, a country that incidentally believed Trump would make the world a more dangerous place (66% of those surveyed by The Independent). While tens of thousands of people mobilised to protest against his potential visit, words of condemnation arrived from Khan’s office, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as several international figures. However, one has to wait a few months to see the Conservative Party take a stronger stand against the US President. In November 2017, Trump retweeted a video from the far-right, Islamophobic group Britain First (see here), and when he was called out for it, he took it again to Twitter: “Theresa @theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” What followed was another wave of criticism against the US President, with some explicitly stating: “He is no ally or friend of ours.”
While it is clear that, with the chaotic Brexit negotiations in mind, May is welcoming Trump’s visit to the UK as an opportunity to boost British trade relationship with the US, the event presents a unique chance to choose what country Britain wants to be, and on what side of history British people want to be found on.
In just 538 days of presidency, Trump has gone above and beyond to confirm people’s fear that the world would be a less safe place. From his collusions with Russia, to his destabilising policies in the Middle East, to his appalling environmental stance, Trump has seriously undermined the stability of the global system. And with his inhumane stance on immigration, his countless Islamophobic remarks, and his indifference towards the sufferings of the Global South, he has managed to spark outrage across the entire political spectrum and British society.
This is why, Trump’s visit to the UK can turn the divisive climate that has permeated British life after the Brexit vote into a moment of togetherness, unity and solidarity. Not just igniting solidarity against a man whose morals have rightfully caused disdain and concern, but also against a political ideology that has scapegoated minorities across the world to deflect public opinion from the true realities behind political and economic hardships. This ideology incorporates a political positioning that has put the weight of the global financial crisis on the shoulders of those most poor, while continuing to privilege the superrich with massive tax-breaks; a system of austerity that places the greatest burdens on the lives of those most vulnerable – for example through incessant cuts on welfare – to ensure the privileges of the top few are safe; a public narrative that accuses Muslims and other minorities of violence, without ever taking responsibility for violence perpetuated upon those minorities and in the name of our interests overseas; a political rhetoric that prefers to blame migrants for economic uncertainty and security issues; and a toxic atmosphere of hatred which has led to an increasing rise of the far-right and which is turning the wheels of history back to one of the darkest times in human history.
Trump represents all this, and that is why he should be opposed. Britain has the opportunity to send a positive message to the Government, and to the many people around the world that will be following the event, that it will not accept racism and bigotry, hostile environments, or leaders who put profits above people. And that in the divisive rhetoric of its leaders, the country has found unity.
Football is not coming home, sadly, but neither is Trump.