by D Sohi
After repeated announcements of intent to visit the UK, Donald Trump, contentious President of the United States, finally fulfilled his promise. Every announcement of intent to visit was immediately met with a backlash; one example being the petition to prevent an official welcome. The counter-argument was that he was a democratically-elected head of state, thus couldn’t have his entry blocked. The furore surrounding his election is another discussion altogether. The petition’s purpose was to vocalise disgust for how he would be afforded special treatment despite his divisive politics and questionable support networks. The possibility that the petition’s message would be panned always existed in our minds, it was merely a case of principle.
The lead-up produced some expected reactions: individual campaigning bodies gathered momentum in their recruitment for resistance while the government reminded everyone that Trump would be given a state welcome. It appeared a veiled threat to mollify growing dissent. Evidently, Prime Minister Theresa May wanted nothing to spoil her attempt to maintain ties with Trump’s US. Still, campaigners persisted in the face of doubt that they would succeed.
On Friday, 13th July, the United Kingdom (London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and many more cities and large towns) came together in creative ways to express its anger at what Trump stands for.
I’ll be honest: I was only at the protest for 5 minutes. I was passing through and decided it was best to get on the London Underground at that moment, as the number of people present had created chaos. Oxford Circus is a busy tourist hub on a slow hour, so you can imagine how crowded it became when the protest train passed through at 4 P.M. There were amused onlookers (including myself and my peers), bemused tourists and perturbed, suited city-workers. I could empathise about the stress navigating a crowded pavement. However, this was justified. It was a delight to witness people united for a cause. People who are tired and fed up with the elite directing blame for misfortune towards the Other, while they reap the benefits. The placards were also extremely entertaining. As was the Baby Trump effigy (unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness the blimp).
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox commented that this display of opposition was childish, but is it really? If a guest came to someone’s house and acted appallingly – insulted the host’s looks, degraded the host’s décor to their face – is the host still expected to be “hospitable” when they’ve been offended and extend another invitation? I highly doubt it, unless the host is immeasurably restrained (or a masochist). The host is now under no obligation to be good-mannered. The UK is under no obligation to demonstrate good-will and its trademark hospitality when the guest is rude, careless, and uncouth. I’m not a monarchist or a May supporter, but I do think these examples exonerate the British public of Fox’s condemnation. By labeling Mexicans as rapists, by banning Muslims from certain countries from entering and ignoring domestic terrorism, by casually referring to instances of sexual misconduct and colluding to strip women of their rights, we really don’t have to be polite. Politeness doesn’t filter through walls erected by megalomaniacs; clear messages do.