I suppose one of the definitive aspects of being a parent is the acceptance of who our grown-up children eventually choose as a partner. In an ideal world we might have in mind someone with the qualities each of us might espouse: honesty, kindness, empathy, tolerance perhaps, with a sprinkling of humour and intelligence thrown in for good measure. We can all make our own list, most of which is wishful thinking considering that realistically stuff like that is mainly beyond our control. Someone a lot wiser than me (my father), once said that the trick was to welcome any prospective interloper graciously into the fold of the family while keeping your fingers firmly crossed under the table and keeping your mouth closed.
While this obviously prudent view of the world is what I have tried to pertain to since adulthood, I’m not so sure if that forbearance would withstand the pressure of a son or daughter deciding to bring home someone who, in the course of a conversation about immigration, came out with, “Why are we having all these people from s–thole countries come here?” Any decent human being wouldn’t have to think too long about where that particular person’s mind-set is and why they might think it acceptable to offer such defamatory opinions.
In ‘An American Dream’, a Channel 4 series about Donald Trump that followed his life from youthful entrepreneur to President of the US, I was struck by how rather more articulate he seemed at the beginning and yes, even how vulnerable he appeared at times. Undoubtedly, there was a sense of arrogance and superiority about him even then, traits that have seemingly been nurtured ever since, but what intrigued me about the younger Donald were his values, or rather, lack of them. Where does the absolute belief stem from that the only things of importance in life are one-upmanship and how much money you have in the bank? But even above and beyond the narcissistic tendencies that are portrayed now on a daily basis, Mr Trump’s lack of awareness or understanding of the human condition in all its forms is, in my opinion, the most belligerent aspect of his character. I am trying to be charitable here when I say that I hope part of the reason is simply blatant lack of will rather than some kind of terrible void in his personality that does not countenance empathy to any degree.
In my life so far I’ve been fortunate to have experienced and enjoyed living in a variety of different cultures. I’ve spent a number of years in the US, the Middle East and of course, the UK, my home. Not a single village, town or city in any of them would I describe as a s–thole despite many of their features being at times pretty dubious. Why? Because when you start to value something simply by how it looks or how it benefits you and not by its beating heart, i.e. the people who keep a place alive, then there is something terribly, terribly wrong with how you see the world.
As I get older the sheer speed of technological advances and the power of the internet are becoming an increasing source of worry but I’m determined to hold on to the one thing that means the most to me – integrity. It’s a dying word. Now, sadly, a kind of dirty word. A word that is being trampled underfoot so fast that it hardly has time to come up for breath anymore but I am holding on to it for dear life. I offer the word integrity to Mr Trump with a free definition: ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.’
In these awful and unpredictable times, I find myself watching live daily Press briefings from The Whitehouse. I would urge others to do likewise because they offer a much truer insight into Mr Trump’s character traits than the occasional soundbite carefully chosen on television news. It’s quite shocking to witness the belittling dismissals of any journalist who dares to ask an uncomfortable question (ignorance/control), or the blame that is apportioned to anyone but himself (conceit), or the conviction that money comes before all else (greed). Ad infinitum.
Returning to my original analogy of prospective suitors for our children – well, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed and as a parent, any one of the above mentioned personality traits would be that step too far. I really want to believe that there is still some hope that President Trump can prove himself to be the worthy and benevolent leader that surely he could and ought to be, especially in these present times. The lives of so many Americans now depend upon it. But I’m really not holding my breath.