(photocredit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
President Trump’s travel ban is clearly controversial – but I would argue it is also revolutionary. Here’s why.
The ban is a triumph of belief over fact. The seven “proscribed” countries omit those which have harboured or generated the most murderous of foreign nationals to have assaulted the US and its citizens – like Saudi Arabia.
If we look to the stated aim of keeping America safe, the greatest threat to US citizens in the US is not any foreign national but their own fellow citizens – Over 1000 deaths due to home-grown gun crime for each life lost to terrorism.
And the blanket ban on all refugees is a strikingly obdurate, almost paranoid act against some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, which has unsurprisingly been termed “un-American.” It may only be 90 days (initially) but that is absolute purgatory if your life is hanging by a thread on a day-to-day basis.
Hang on though – we might not like it but to “dump Trump” is to overturn democracy. Right?
Wrong. It is easy to see how the office and person of the President is being confused with the policies of his administration. There certainly should be a distinction between the two. But the personal responsibility and accountability that Mr Trump has taken for the leadership of his administration makes it difficult to disentangle this. Nevertheless, if he suddenly comes to his senses and changes tack, I would happily welcome him round for a cup of tea. (I’ve not put the kettle on just yet though).
“Ok,” you say, “even if it is legitimate to “dump Trump”, all he is doing is honouring an election pledge?”
I would make two points here: First, what you say to gain power is not what you do to keep power. Thank you Machiavelli for distilling that universal truth. Second, whatever you may want to do, in the US there is the small matter of the Constitution.
And this is where it gets even more disturbing. The Attorney General, arguably the most senior, learned and respected custodian of constitutional wisdom outside of the US Supreme Court, says “Hold on – really not sure about this.” And the President sacks her. And the White House describes her act as one of “betrayal”. Breitbart really has got its feet under the Presidential table, hasn’t it? Disagreement will be not tolerated and vilified.
Three concluding points: Where is all this going to go? What has all this got to do with us in the UK? And what on earth do we do about it?
The President’s apparent desire to not just “drain the swamp” but to throw every baby in reach out with the bathwater is unlikely to deliver what his supporters want – jobs and security. The instability that his administration is both reacting to and furthering is not constructive.
So Trump may not see out his term. Then we have Vice-President Pence. The US has a history of conservative VPs becoming progressive part-term Presidents (step forward LBJ). But Pence’s election statements are just as worrying, in many ways, as his boss’s. It doesn’t look good, but Congressional elections in 2018 will be an early indicator either way.
What’s it to do with us? Well it’s a global world. We didn’t have a vote, but the US administration affects us all deeply. We have a right to say clearly “Not in our name” and “No state visit”. And we certainly need to choose our friends and trading partners with great care as we plan for Brexit Britain. As the Observer said last weekend on a possible US-UK deal last weekend – Trump doesn’t want free trade, he wants a free ride. Disturbingly it sounds like some senior UK ministers would be happy to accommodate him.
And then finally, what on earth to we – as honest, decent, caring compassionate, democratic civilised British citizens?
We have a great challenge in our own country, the encouragement of intolerance and the schisms in society pre-date Trump’s inauguration. The “serenity prayer” (non-religious version) is never far from my mind. There are many things we cannot control, but some things we surely can: How we chose to live our lives, the values we display as we go about our daily business. Courtesy, respect, compassion. Being inclusive, treating others as we wold wish to be treated. These are not platitudes or homilies but the defining characteristics of progressive human society underpinned by one factor: Hope.
A better society starts, as it always has, with us as individuals. I’d say it’s just our human instinct to search and find those “sunlit uplands” and you can’t change that.
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To outgoing US Attorney General Sally Yates we say “thank you”