It was my singular honor when the shadow of Marine One passed over my house. The President of the United States was flying back from Boscombe Airbase in Wiltshire, England, after a brief 20 minute visit to Stonehenge, not far from where I live. He even had time to chat with Janice Raffle, a neighbor of mine who lives near Stonehenge, who had come down to the monument with her husband and three sons after hearing the President was there.
She said: “We had a brief tete a tete across the barbed wire. He was really a sweetie. He asked all our names and he was commenting on the fresh air and the beautiful countryside.” It had been, he’d said, on his bucket list to visit that ancient sublime mystery that is Stonehenge. That was the President of the United States visiting my adoptive country. That was Barack Obama. It was September, 2014.
Today I feel only relief. As if a toxic waste has recently been removed, a human Chernobyl, a one man desecration. The thing, the Trump, is departed finally from the soil of England, and the nation feels a little cleaner for it.
The massive protest has been dismantled, the signs put away, the Trump baby blimp deflated and stored against future infestations. One of the last things the Queen said to Trump was, “We hope to see you again soon.” With all due respect, Your Majesty, no we do not. Do not use “we” as an inclusive of us, ma’am, not even the Royal we.
I honestly do not know how you do it, America. A small exposure to the disease that is Trump is a blood-poisoning anathema. Trump brought with him a palpable heightening of racial unease, a cold, hardening drain of this island’s congenital bonhomie. It was bad enough that we were so put upon that we were required to endure the Trump-directed fawning, sycophantish obsequies of the nobility and the politically empowered. But we also had to witness the celebration of evil, the worst among us rising up from their respective moral sewers to congratulate one another for another triumph of intolerance.
But the best among us understand what Trump is, so it doesn’t surprise me that the best summing up of Trump that I ever read was by an Englishman, Nate White. I encourage you to read his entire polemic. But he said it best when he said of Trump:
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness. There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. “He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege. And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.