This blog post first appeared on Slugger O’Toole on 20th July, 2018.
For the record, I didn’t travel to London to protest at Trump’s visit to the UK. But when large scale protests are taking place literally within chanting distance of your hotel room, then I wasn’t going to miss the chance to join in.
The first protest, led by the Trump baby balloon (not overly impressive in the, em, plastic), had just made its way into Parliament Square as we arrived. I was immediately struck not only by the diversity of the protestors, but also the creativity and genuine effort put into the placards. Quite a few were laugh out loud funny, and with my camera already to hand I began to capture as many as I could.
The following photographs were all taken in London at the weekend; I snapped around sixty signs, though only about thirty are included here. By the time we were leaving the second march, this one in Regent Street, themes began to emerge. I’ll begin with the largest group; signs that personally attacked Trump. Some funny, some just mean. Quite a number were variations on “Trump is a [insert own expletive noun] and can [insert own expletive verb].” I’ve chosen to leave most of those to your imagination!
I noted that Boris got several references. Another sign told Trump where to go, adding “And take Boris and Nigel with you.”
This took real effort; four medieval costumes (on a day when the temperature was touching thirty) to proclaim, “Still not as medieval as your policies”.
Lots to laugh at. Personal favourite? Probably the inauguration crowd…
Later that night, a friend posted on Facebook, sounding off about people turning up to protest at Trump, but not at low wages, or fuel prices or homeless veterans. I replied that there was always space to do both, but later it struck me that perhaps many of these signs missed the point.
It’s easy to get personal about Trump. He’s obnoxious, with little going on in his head and listening to him makes most people retch or cringe or both. But perhaps we have fixated on the ridiculous. Protesting about Trump should be protesting against what he stands for. To be fair, this was in evidence.
Leaving aside fuel prices, my presence was a protest about low wages and care of veterans as part of a much bigger picture; the protest was about Trump’s lack of care for anybody but himself. He doesn’t believe immigrants should be treated well, or that all people should have access to health care, or that women should be free from sexual assault, or that we need to look after the planet, or that countries should work together to promote human rights. List too long for placardblog, as they say.
Central to politics in the UK, over the last century (or so) has been how we, as a country, care for each other. What is personal, and what is the responsibility of the government? How we do we, as far as possible, try to ensure that no one gets left behind? Trump has no understanding of those last three sentences. That’s the reason to protest; it’s not about orange, it’s about his outlook.
There was one last, fairly small group of signs. A handful focussed not on the personal or the political, but on the possible.
And here is the challenge. The ultimate protest is not to poke fun or point out policy deficiencies, it is to be positive. To imagine how we want the world to be and then figure out how we make it so. There isn’t a wall so high or wide that can’t be undermined by having the courage to show kindness. The best way to protest Trump, is to promote the compassion he lacks.