|A snapshot from the protest in Glasgow, Scotland|
By Rob Huggett
If you ask anyone [from Scotland] their thoughts, their first reaction is usually a laugh or at least a smile. I mean, how could the U.S. have voted for THAT guy?! The guy from The Apprentice, the guy from Home Alone 2, the guy who looks like that--as president?! But then the initial smile fades, as if the realization of what has actually happened sinks in, and the conversation usually turns a little darker as we start to wonder what the hell is going to happen over the next four years.
Throughout his campaign, and even after he won the election, there was always this expectation that he wouldn’t actually follow through on any of the policies he threw around. He wasn’t actually going to build a wall between the US and Mexico, he couldn’t just put a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the states, surely he wouldn’t put a stop to the so-called Obamacare. Once he got in office, his policies would become diluted, or conveniently forgotten about like so many other politicians before him. It’s a well worn path; promise the voters what they want to hear, get into office then give them a watered down version, just enough to keep them happy and not severe enough to upset too many of those who didn’t vote for you.
With Trump, it now appears that he is actually going to go ahead with some of the most divisive, hate filled and frankly, racist policies that anyone has heard of for a long time. And not only that, but this is in America, the so-called land of the free.
I heard that there was a planned protest in Glasgow, where I live, against Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the U.S. I walked down to the meeting point after work. At least 800 people all stood around as various speakers took to the mic to give their thoughts on Trump and his policies. Unfortunately, I was a little too far away I be able to hear what was being said clearly, but from all the signs and banners which were being waved around, they certainly were not being complementary about the new president. The atmosphere though was one of hope and positivity. People were cheered as they made their speeches and in typical Glasgow humour, someone had brought their dog along wearing a t-shirt with ‘I wouldn’t dump on Trump if he was on fire,’ written down the back.
Of all the policies which Trump has promised, it is perhaps this ban and extreme vetting of Muslims which has struck a chord with the people of Glasgow the most. Glasgow has traditionally being the most left leaning and welcoming city in Scotland. There is a proud history of immigrants being made welcome here going back generations to Irish peasants fleeing poverty, Italian families at the end of the 19th century and many Hindu and Muslim families in the 1960s and 1970s. Glasgow was also one of the first cities in the UK to welcome refugees from war torn Syria last year. They even welcomed this Englishman with open arms eight years ago! There is a saying which has been coined by the local Council and tourism board which has been used extensively over the past few years to promote Glasgow as a place to visit; ‘People Make Glasgow’, and it is so true--all people. So when we hear how the new president wants to put a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country, then we get a little upset.
Further afield, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has issued a petition over the weekend calling on the Prime Minister to rescind the invitation she made to Trump last week and to deny him a state visit. At the time of writing there were over 1.5 million signatures and this was growing all the time. Although I want Donald Trump nowhere near this country, I would be a little uncomfortable with the hypocrisy of denying someone entry to the UK because of their own immigration policies. I say let him come over and let’s make it as uncomfortable for him as possible throughout his stay. Show him that it is not just the people of America who are unhappy with him.
It is not all anti-Trump though over here, though. I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this evening and saw a Facebook Live post by the right wing ‘political’ party UKIP, which was asking whether or not we should welcome Trump to the UK. You may recall their leader Nigel Farage was paraded by Donald Trump at some of his rallies leading up to the election. Although I think Donald slightly exaggerated Farage’s standing in the UK political spectrum, (having failed on at least three occasions to be even voted as an MP for his own constituency.) Unsurprisingly, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of allowing him to visit. What was most upsetting though was some of the comments on the page from people who clearly don’t see any problem with banning an entire group of people from entering the country because of their religious beliefs. “Wish he was in charge over here”, “Someone has to stand up to the Muslims”, “He is only saying it like it is” were some of the more legible comments.
What this has shown me, though, is that there is still not only a huge gulf between those who are for and against Trump, but also that there are many, many thousands--maybe even millions--of people who think he is perfectly within his right to do some of the things that he is doing. They fail to see the racism, xenophobia, hatred, sexism and bigotry of what he is saying and see his policies as a legitimate way to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist. All the bombast and jingoism about how he can make America great again, echoes the rhetoric of Nigel Farage who talks about turning back the clock in the UK to a time when everything was great. And even though these are hollow and vague statements, it still manages to capture the beliefs of so many people that it cannot and should not be ignored.
Going back to how I started this piece, I mentioned how there is always a hint of the absurd and comedy about this whole affair. People will joke about his hair, his permanently tanned features, his small hands, etc. And while I accept that comedy and politics go hand in hand, and he should rightly be ridiculed for some of the things he is saying and doing, this should not allow people to take their eyes off the fact that this guy is the president of the world’s only super power. This guy has the nuclear codes. This guy thinks climate change is made up. This guy believes that women are below him. This guy thinks that torture should be brought back. This guy thinks all Muslims are terrorists in waiting. And he is now in charge.
So when I see protests like the one I attended tonight in Glasgow, and see coverage on the news of other cities in the UK doing the same, and I see the millions of people in America taking to the streets to make their voices heard, it gives me hope for the future. Keep it up America, we are with you all the way.