It seems that Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, is afraid of protestors in bobble hats armed with flasks of tea and colourful placards.
He posted a nonsensical excuse on Twitter today about his cancelled UK trip, claiming he won’t open the new American embassy because the old one sold “for peanuts” and he doesn’t like the new one because it’s above a chippy and he won’t go south of the river. Or something.
It’s too easy to lampoon Trump. It’s like laughing at a Labrador someone has put an Easter Bonnet on.
While I’m enjoying the fact that Trump has put on display of cowardice and an inability to behave like any kind of statesman yet again, the bigger picture is far more reassuring. Protesting works.
Trump supporters have been on a relentless campaign to mock and belittle solidarity against Trump, hurling the word “snowflake” from all angles and waging a war against compassion, claiming we are easily “triggered” by their lot. No one looks more triggered right now than Donald John Trump.
At home, Nigel Farage is pirouetting about the media, this time saying perhaps we should have another referendum. He is Britain’s very own Trump, only he didn’t even need to get voted in to steer the country in another direction and almost ruin my Glastonbury. He just had to be photographed drinking a pint.
Whether we get a second referendum or whether Trump ever grows a backbone and tries our fish and chips, the left needs to take a proper look at itself and question why the likes of Farage and Trump gained such massive popularity in the first place, leading us in turn to spend so much time making placards and chanting ourselves hoarse.
Not everyone Brexiteer is a bigot. Some are; some are right wrong ‘uns, but not the masses who fell for Farage because he listened to their concerns.
Too many on the left shut down any quibble about immigration with screams of “YOU’RE RACIST”. Has anyone ever won someone over with this argument?
“Well, I was going to vote Leave because I don’t understand a word anyone is saying in the post office anymore, and the country has changed so much that I don’t know my place in it, but then quite a few people on Twitter just called me a ‘racist sack of sh*t’ and, well, I suddenly thought I must vote Remain and I signed up as a volunteer for Help Refugees.”
I will admit: I am not the world’s greatest debater. I get too emotional. I once flounced out of the pub because a bloke I was drinking with kept insisting that “Charlie Chaplin just isn’t funny”. (I was very young and have since learned that when faced which such an atrocious statement, all you need to do is gently ask, “You don’t think he’s funny? Ah. Which of Chaplin’s films have you seen?” I guarantee you the answer will be: “Er, none.”)
It’s hugely important though, now more than ever, to listen to and engage with people you don’t agree with. If we don’t, we create huge vacuums which the far right will swoop in and fill. As indeed they have.
This idea that everyone who voted Leave is a bigot, who’d rather Britain sank into the sea then have a few more Polski Skleps, has damaged us and played right into the toxic hands of Misters Farage and Trump, who need to polarise people in order to force through their own agenda.
Recently I was invited by Patrick Derham, the headmaster of Westminster School, to give the Locke Lecture to its A-level students. Fancy that, an old leftie like me invited to talk to some of the most privileged young people in the country in one of the top public schools. Why would anyone not jump at the chance?
Some don’t, it seems. One teacher mentioned that a few academics refuse their invitations to speak there on political grounds. Baffling. When you are passionate about your politics and your ideology, why on earth would you pass on the chance to talk to young people? Especially if they are likely to have been raised with different values to your own?
God forbid you find some common ground or provoke thought. If you’re against public schooling, then don’t send your children to a public school – but dammit, grab the chance to engage with young people.
It’s time for Remainers to talk with and listen to our Brexit-voting relatives and neighbours sensibly about Europe. Have a listen to Billy Bragg’s “Full English Brexit”, which is a masterclass in finding compassion for someone whose views you find unpalatable.
I’m going to try very hard to listen to people I disagree with. Unless you think Chaplin was only about slipping on banana skins, in which case you are dead to me.
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