It’s over, he’s gone, and we survived. Can we finally breathe out now?
I’m talking about Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain, of course, an event that seemed only to deepen the current divisions in the country. While some were aghast that Trump was afforded such an honour, others were equally aghast at the politicians who declined the invitation to the Queen’s state banquet in protest at Trump being invited in the first place.
‘Whatever we think of Mr Trump himself, we must respect the office of the US presidency,’ some opined indignantly on radio and television. ‘Why should we,’ others objected, ‘when Trump himself doesn’t respect and honour his office?’ I’m inclined to agree with the latter.
If you still believe that Trump deserves the red carpet treatment simply because he is the president, consider the fact that he, the president of the United States, trolls people on Twitter, calling the London Mayor Sadiq Khan ‘a stone-cold loser,’ the actress/singer Bette Midler a ‘washed up psycho’ and Prince Harry’s wife ‘nasty.’ And he’d barely landed in Ireland following his UK visit, before he likened the Irish border to his proposed wall between the US and Mexico, at which point the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had to point out that actually, Ireland did not want a border at all.
Is this a man worthy of a state visit?
Thankfully, he’s left the UK but not without ruffling a few feathers, including, most crucially, suggesting that the NHS would be up for grabs in future trade talks between the US and the UK.
Trump is not a politician; he’s a businessman and a ruthless one at that. He doesn’t give a toss about people’s well-being; he cares first and foremost about money and glory. That makes him dangerous, as does his refusal to accept the reality of climate change.
While I have little faith in politicians these days, I have no more faith in business people. People’s lives are not something to be negotiated, traded for economic gain, yet that is precisely what the British government has been doing for years and post-Brexit it’s only going to get worse, as long as the money-obsessed Tories are in power.
I recently helped my 9-year old daughter revise for her school exams and preparing for her R.E. test, the principle of ‘stewardship’ came up, the idea that humans are responsible for the world and should take care of it.
To my daughter, that principle made perfect sense, yet the reality is depressingly different.
Instead of taking care of each other and nature and doing what we can to preserve the world for the benefit of future generations, we obsess about growth, productivity, money and ‘progress’. We’ve all but forgotten that we too are an intrinsic part of nature and that by doing violence onto nature, we’re doing violence onto ourselves.
It’s easy to feel cynical and dejected in the face of the political games being played out at home and abroad, but we can’t afford to let those feelings paralyse us. Complacency won’t do, hiding from the world won’t do, telling ourselves there’s nothing we can do to change things, won’t do. This is the time for active engagement, however small, however seemingly insignificant and futile. Every bit of action matter.