If you find irony in the notion of Donald Trump chairing an event at the United Nations on Monday conceived to “highlight and broaden international support for protecting religious freedom in the wake of increasing persecution of people on the basis of their own beliefs and faiths, and a growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship, religious sites, and relics by state and nonstate actors,” then good for you for still paying attention to ironies in these irony-laden times.
You might find it less ironic when you remember that this is Donald Trump, after all, and the man who once tried to ban all persons of Islamic faith from legally entering the United States certainly isn’t going to be defending the rights of those people, not at this or any other conference. Nor is the man whose tepid response to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting by a white nationalist going to worry very much about destruction of *those* types of houses of worship. In Trump land “religious persecution” is, very specifically, about persecution of white, nationalistic, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, and the perfectly awful times they have had to endure – especially these days – at the hands of those of us on the Left who run around persecuting them, the poor devils.
But don’t despair. If it’s irony you seek, there is a larger one to be had. There is the unmistakable irony that a simultaneous United Nations conference empaneled to discuss the prevention of planet-wide destruction through global warming is to be held right next door, so to speak, to the conference assembled to protect “from persecution” those persons who very much look forward to our planet’s destruction.
So there you have it, in a single day the United Nations will simultaneously become home to extremists sincerely praying for our planet’s demise and world leaders looking for solutions to prevent that demise. Is anyone surprised at which enclave Donald Trump has chosen to attend?
While contemplating these ironies it might be advantageous for us to recall, with gratitude, those freedoms that make it safe to contemplate them out loud. We can still thank, not God, but ourselves, for the freedoms of thought and speech we have secured across dark centuries of almost ceaseless bloodshed. And we have the right to recall, perhaps even the duty to recall, a time when religion came to us, not with the yellow smiley face of friendship, but with the brutal insistence of deadly force. The Religious Right’s tireless pursuit of power in America today ought to frighten us, and it certainly should convince us of how very much it misses the prerogative it used to so freely enjoy — to burn each of us at the stake for our smallest disobediences.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.