James McEnaney: Silence is not an option on Trump - it's time to pick your side

Commonspace columnist James McEnaney attacks Theresa May’s cowardice and calls on Scotland’s politicians to stand up to Donald Trump

ALLOW me to be absolutely, unequivocally clear right from the off: if Donald Trump's muslim ban doesn't appall you, if you do not find his three-month suspension of the US refugee programme abhorrent, if your first reaction is not to condemn the vicious xenophobia and white nationalism at the heart of these decisions, then you represent some of the very worst of humanity. Put simply, our world would be improved by your absence from it.

These people do not dirty their hands committing terrible acts, but they condone them with their apathy; now, our whole country has been dragged into that swamp by its own leader.

Theresa May, the vicar's daughter, has shown herself to be little more than a contemptible coward, refusing to offer outright condemnation of Trump's zealously, gleefully inhumane act. Initially commenting that "the United States is responsible for the United States policy on refugees", then finally  - after much hand-wringing and under increasing pressure - adding that she "does not agree" with the policy, her spineless capitulation to the new president, which began with the desperation of her groveling White House visit, is now complete.

Theresa May, the vicar's daughter, has shown herself to be little more than a contemptible coward, refusing to offer outright condemnation of Trump's zealously, gleefully inhumane act.

As things stand, we have all of us been made complicit in an act that betrays not just the very core of what America is supposed to represent, but also the desperate, defenceless people who will be the victims of Trump's callous disregard of any notion of a shared humanity.  If we now stand back, shrug our shoulders and carry on as normal we will become "the authors of a guilty silence" – that is a spot that never washes out.

As I write this, a petition to cancel Trump’s planned state visit has attracted 941,588 signatures, smashing through the 100'000 benchmark required for parliament to consider a debate on the issue (by the time I got to the end of that sentence, incidentally, the total had risen to 942,093). Politicians from all parties - including the Conservatives - have spoken out against the visit, calling for it to be at least postponed until the 'Muslim Ban' is repealed.

Of course, the prime minister will be desperate to avoid this, knowing as she does that any such slight would infuriate the infant currently residing in the White House. With Britain due to leave the EU single market and customs union in 2019, a rapidly agreed trade deal with the US is, quite simply, a political necessity for May's government, but the chances of that happening after the cancellation of a state visit would be as near to nil as makes no difference.

As Chris Addison tweeted: "If we hadn't just burned bridges with 27 sane countries, maybe we'd not have to be so fucking mealy mouthed now the real shit's hit the fan."

It seems likely, then, that at some point in the near future the American president - a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, who condones the use of torture, who casually demonises entire groups with racist tropes - will be a formal guest of the British state. For someone with such a fragile ego, this will be a significant victory, a clear sign that he is receiving the respect that he clearly, wrongly, believes that he deserves.

As things stand, we have all of us been made complicit in an act that betrays not just the very core of what America is supposed to represent, but also the desperate, defenceless people who will be the victims of Trump's callous disregard of any notion of a shared humanity.

At some point that visit will, almost certainly, bring him to Scotland.

Scotland's politicians - at least those with any shred of self-respect or moral decency - should refuse to legitimise Trump by meeting him in any capacity. There must be no bending of the knee to this sorry excuse for a president; instead, our MSPs and MPs should join the inevitable demonstrations against his visit.

"We must take sides," said Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Will alienating, even angering, the US president have consequences? Of course. But it is, without a scintilla of doubt, the right thing to do.

No more vascillating. No more hedging our bets. No more hoping against hope that things won't be all that bad.

It's time to takes sides.

Picture courtesy of Ryan

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