Full of sound and fury

When the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, informed Donald Trump that he’s not permitted to come to Scotland, I get the distinct feeling (living physically so close to the situation) that what she really meant was Trump isn’t welcome here. Never mind the official explanation, this island doesn’t want him.

Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon specifically said that if Donald Trump has plans to travel anywhere, it needs to be out of the White House. Or as she specifically put it, “I have no idea what Donald Trump’s travel plans are, you’ll be glad to know, I hope and expect … that the travel plans he immediately has is to exit the White House.”

The official explanation is that we are under extreme lockdown here. For example, I’m permitted to go outside to go on a run or go to the grocery store or put petrol in my car (a thing I do these days every two or three months), but that is all. For anything else I need an explanation. And it had better be good. So yes, Trump would not be allowed on this island even if we liked him, even if we regretted having to say it.

But it was announced with restrained delight — by the BBC and ITV and Channel Four, by the Independent and the Times and the Guardian. There was the distinct feeling that behind the headlines and hidden in the chyrons and disguised in the undertones of newsreaders was an unmistakable hint of schadenfreude. It was as if we all said with a single voice, “We stand with Scotland, Donald Trump, you’re not wanted here.” For one brief shining moment everybody here — Welsh, English, Irish and expat — became a Scot.

On its surface, this is an odd reaction from a people who traditionally favor losers and underdogs. Every Fifth of November, for example, we celebrate the life of a man who was hanged as a traitor for his small part in an attempt to blow up the King, his ministers and most of Parliament in 1605. Today that very Parliament, outside its walls, proudly boasts a statue of Oliver Cromwell, an autocrat who ultimately disdained and banished Parliament.

So what gives? Why would we, who celebrate the displaced, the deposed, the executed, take such delight in turning back Donald Trump? Because Britons may like underdogs, but we don’t like whiny, bad losers. We don’t like cheats and liars. Say what you will about Guy Fawkes, he had pluck. Say what you will about Oliver Cromwell, he had moxy. Trump has neither. Donald Trump’s myth is, to quote that most Scottish of plays, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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