When I don’t know how to react to something, I follow the behaviours of people who do. It is a very good dictum! Trouble is ,some of the time, I think I know how to react and end up adopting positions which I subsequently regret. The views in this blog are not my own!
I didn’t know how to react to the Referendum Debate or the decision we took to leave the EU. Thankfully I could follow my partner and two noted business leaders (Stephen Kelly and Nigel Wilson) and a conversatin with Nigel Farage. I got a handle on how I felt by watching others.
Similarly with the campaign, the phoney war and now the Inauguration of Donal Trump.
To find the right reaction which dignified those who Trump was dismissing but empathised with those who supported Trump in hope and out of desperation, but mostly to my Minister Lesley Griffiths and Barack and Michelle Obama – whose behaviour throughout the ceremony was in sharp contrast to much going on around them.
An ambiguos message inciting hate through the language of love
Trump’s message is violence;- hostile to Islam, hostile to the political order (Washington) and hostile to the achievements of the previous eight years.
It is appealing, and I have watched and felt for the man who held a flag at half mast for the 8 years of the Obama administration awaiting the mighty leader that he sees in Trump. One woman told ITV news that she didn’t even care what Trump delivered, so long as she felt he was on her side. That is one of the scariest statements of the past few weeks.
Trump’s hostile message is appealing as it is couched in patriotism. But that patriotism is not noble, it cannot justify its prefudice because it puts America first. It is hostility, it is violence and it will end up demeaning America – not making it great again.
This prejudice springs from a faith that if something comes out of Washington it cannot be good. This bigotry is encapsulated in a line in Trump’s speech.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other -when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
There are two ways of reading this.
The first as a call to national unity where differences of religion, colour or financial status are banished by patriotism.
The second is the opposite; Trump is suggesting that a patriot cannot be seen as prejudiced, putting America first can justify any action.
I heard the second way.
Trump’s vague language allows ambiguity, it is slippery, it is fake.
Not only in the language of love, Trump’s speech is written in the language of the bible thumping evangelists who have always held authority over blue collar America.
By couching his speech in this cod evangelistic tone, Trump assumes the role of pastor, exciting messianic responses. I see this as an extension of his narcissism, he wishes to see himself (and to be seen by his flock) as a little like Jesus.
Trump’s appeal is summed up by his swearing his oath of allegiance on his mother’s bible – an act of stunning humility , vulgarity or downright blasphemy – Trump really rolled the dice on that one.
As Trump spoke , my mind turned to Lesley Griffiths and to the treatment of John Lewis on the Selma Bridge and to the words of Trump to Lewis on hearing he would not attend the Inauguration.
My reaction to Trump’s Inauguration speech is to reject any suggestion that Trump is acting as a man of God. I know my men of God and he is not one.
The mighty way
Then there is there is that phrase
“when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice”.
I take the equation in its simplest form – “a patriot cannot be bigoted” and then I looked at Barack and Michelle Obama and followed their behaviour throughout the televisual coverage. There is a telling shot when Trump strides ahead of his wife, it is the Obamas who looks out for her.
This is the lasting image of the inauguration for me – not Trump’s mother’s bible held by his wife. I look to the Obamas as the way to react to Trump. There is a grace and dignity in this inauguration and it is summed up in this picture.
I also look to John Lewis and Lesley Griffiths
Lesley Griffiths walked hand in hand with John Lewis over the Selma Bridge in 1988. 23 years before, John Lewis had had his skull cracked open on that same bridge. John Lewis led the boycott of the inauguration and Lesley preached of tolerance and inclusion – in a mighty way.