The most avid Trump idolator knows without asking that had Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley been white men instead of women of color, there would be nothing to see here. But years of following Donald Trump has turned “playing dumb” into something other than an act, not that it ever was otherwise for most of them. These days we have two kinds of “sieg heil” from which to choose, and it is not an accident that both of them come equipped with the female pronoun: “Lock her up” and “Send her back,” applicable to Hillary Clinton in the first instance and Ilhan Omar in the second. It’s the perfect chant for the misogynistic male and self-loathing female in the Nuremberg audience. Let there be dark.
It’s a message that works best far from the population centers ordinarily associated with free and liberal thought, far from New York, far from Los Angeles, far from Chicago, far even from Houston. Donald Trump goes where he’s welcome, to the rural North or the ignorant south, to places guaranteed to pack in the uneducated masses hungry to hate and eager to blame. These are the places of wide open country, where simplistic solutions to complex problems are easier to believe, and human beings are conveniently reduced to cultural stereotypes, packaged and marketed and labeled for disdain.
These are the tailor-made audiences for Donald Trump’s “rallies,” where the mere act of being born in a country different from the United States is a violation of an unwritten law, a law that can only be appeased with a life of servile, uncomplaining gratitude. It’s a human prejudice common enough that it can even be found in Britain, though in somewhat shorter supply. Four time Olympic gold medalist Sir Mo Farah, like Ilhan Omar, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. He came to England as a child and went on to win the ten thousand meters and five thousand meters running events in two consecutive Olympic Games, a feat only ever achieved by one other athlete. But despite this he’s still occasionally the object of popular scorn. The less enlightened members of our island population wonder aloud why a “real” Brit can’t win at the Games any more.
But the more enlightened members of our island population have done something about Donald Trump’s overt racism. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, London mayor Sadiq Khan and 13,000 signatories together with a variety of MPs and other enlightened British luminaries signed an open letter to Ilhan Omar, which said:
“We are disgusted by Donald Trump’s attack on you. His blatant, unashamed racism has appalled people around the world. You embody the best of America. Its diversity is its strength. Thank you for showing the world that America can still provide leadership to be proud of, even when the White House has abdicated that role. We stand in solidarity with you.”
In a separate message shared on Facebook, Sadiq Khan wrote that “love and solidarity will always trump hate,” adding that the four congresswomen “represent hope for the future.” He concluded: “Their home is America, but their message crosses borders.” Prime Minister Theresa May characterized Trump’s racist tweets as unacceptable.
The message is clear, women of color, women of courage, women of the United States Congress, that damaged monster in the White House may disdain you, but the best people in Britain have your backs. So too, might I add, will the judgment of history. And that will be the judgment that matters most, in the end.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.