The chorus of outrage grows surrounding Trump’s latest tweets, which suggested that four of his most outspoken critics – all Democratic congresswomen, all women ‘of colour’, and all excepting one born in America – hate America and should ‘go back home’. The four are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent; Rashida Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants; Ilhan Omar, who fled Somalia aged 12 and wears a hijab; and Ayanna Pressley, who is just black.
Were these just the usual ‘off-colour’ remarks we have come to expect from a president who is notoriously thin-skinned, and does not take kindly to be called ‘a mother fucker’ (the term was used by Rashida Tlaib as she sought to have him impeached) – choice abuse that the BBC did not bother to report on their website, or those who compare American border guards to Nazis, or those who attack American Jews, or those who belittle the 9/11 attack with the words ‘some people did something’ (Ilhan Omar). Or are they conclusive proof that the president is ‘a racist’? Mrs May has declared the president’s remarks ‘completely unacceptable’, as have both Tory leadership contenders, who have been competing to demonstrate their outrage. The Telegraph is embarrassed. The President’s Republican supporters are conspicuous by their silence. Even Breitbart, the American ‘alt-right’ news network is silent.
Will nobody stand by the President?
It was unfortunate that a black American should have been caught up in the crossfire, and I don’t imagine that the President had her especially in mind when he made the tweet. But the heart of the matter is this. Trump suffers from a pathological condition. He says out loud what millions of ordinary people think but dare not say:
That immigrants, and their children, who come to America to enjoy riches and opportunities they could never have dreamed of back home, and freedoms they would have been denied, should show some respect for their adopted homeland, its traditions, its people and their ways, instead of denigrating them at every turn. And that the way to combat injustice and foster mutual understanding is not to pursue sectarian identity politics, the neo-Marxist ideologies of diversity and multiculturalism, but for newcomers to assimilate, and be assimilated into, the dominant culture.
‘Why don’t you go home’ or ‘What are you doing here?’ is what millions of us instinctively think when we are confronted by minorities celebrating their ‘difference’ – by women encased in burqas, not because their religion demands it but as a public statement of ‘cultural difference’, or by men who celebrate in the street when England are defeated at cricket, or by those who would like to see Sharia law instigated and ‘blasphemy’ outlawed. It’s not that we can’t appreciate the value of other cultures and traditions, that we don’t respect individual liberties and the freedom of expression, which do not exist in Islamic states. Merely that we question the loyalty to this country of people who see no need to integrate or show the slightest appreciation of our ways of doing things. People for whom British values translate, apparently, into little more than ‘Give us your money and piss off’.
If I chose to live permanently in a foreign country, I would want to learn the language, learn what I could about its culture, its history and its traditions, take part in local celebrations and support local teams out of respect and solidarity. I would want my children educated in its culture and traditions – even though I might want to keep alive something of their parental inheritance at home. I would consider it the height of disrespect to run around waving a Union Jack or shout down my mobile in English on public transport. And I probably would not dress in a pin-striped suit, or dirty old jeans and T-shirt.
The other year, I was invited to attend the national day celebrations of a foreign country in which I had lived many years before and by chance got to know its Head of Mission here in London. I knew something of its history and its national heroes, its music, and could even recite some of its national poetry. I made sure that I had brushed up on the words of its national anthem, just in case I was called on to sing it. In the event, I was not, but I know I would have been moved to tears if I had.
Does it make me a fascist, a racist and a xenophobe that I expect the same of those who have made England their home – and of their children?
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