President Trump Should Be Refused A State Visit - A Special Relationship Does Not Mean A Blind Eye

31/01/2017 15:14
Carlos Barria / Reuters

When I was nine years old, my father was deployed on the HMS Exeter to the Persian Gulf. It was the first time I remember being told of our special relationship with the United States of America, of our many vows to rise up with them to defend the values we share.

A decade later, Tony Blair declared we stood "full square alongside the U.S." in the wake of terror attacks on their soil. Her Majesty The Queen ordered their national anthem played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, an anthem written in 1814 but inspired by the bombardment of their fort by our Navy two years earlier.

A special relationship indeed.

I love America, and Americans. I have lived on both her coasts, feeding on the energy of New York's theatre crowds and the warm salty air of California's beaches, eaten my weight in crab from Baltimore's harbour. I also spent many months in her heartland, thriving on the hospitality of a small town in Missouri. Theirs is a special sort of optimism, a steadfast loyalty to a nation founded as 'We The People.' I have been the beneficiary of their generosity, and an admirer of their aspirations to liberty and justice for all.

But those aspirations are now under threat from within, from the highest office in their land. The very laws that have made America so great for more than two centuries have allowed her to betray herself.

It is impossible for me as a proud British subject to reconcile the Prime Minister's literal hand-holding of their president with his betrayal of his own people. It is impossible for me to comprehend a British government that does not stand by our friends, the people of the United States, and instead honours the person flying in the face of our common values and basic decency.

That is not to say we should not extend every courtesy to President Trump - in fact, I think it is more important than ever to maintain our diplomatic ties and treat the office itself with respect. But a special relationship does not mean a blind eye, or carte blanche.

I am deeply embarrassed that the Prime Minister was the very first dignitary to kiss the ring, and on a day when an executive order was signed unfairly and irrationally punishing people from seven countries and countless refugees seeking a better life, on none other than Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both America and Great Britain have long histories of welcoming immigrants to our shores, and in the span of a year both have allowed fear to cloud our memories. Let us not forget that we failed a similar test of our willingness to welcome people in need, when as a country we voted to leave the European Union largely on a campaign littered with xenophobia. Let us not forget that one of our MPs, Jo Cox, was killed in the midst of that campaign. How dare we not learn from our mistakes.

Instead we choose to honour. We offered an admitted sexual predator and uninformed xenophobe the full hospitality of our wonderful Queen Elizabeth II - my only solace in knowing she's been dragged into controversy is knowing that she, after nearly 65 years on the throne, has gracefully outlasted the rise and fall of many an ignorant leader before Mr Trump and no doubt will do so again with the dignity that has defined her reign.

We also offered President Trump the opportunity to speak before Parliament, to stand where Nelson Mandela addressed both Houses, where Churchill lay in state. That is an honour to be earned, not granted in some misplaced desire to show unity with someone who does not know the meaning of the word. President Obama was not honoured with an official state visit for more than two years, President George W. Bush for nearly three.

In 1776, the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Therein, after indicting the king, Thomas Jefferson wrote of the British people, "We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations..."

Even in a time of war, even when they revolted against our king, the American people have seen our shared values, and it is incumbent upon us to defend them now. We must not honour those who disrespect women and minorities, advocate torture, and demonise people by nature of their faith. We must not endorse this behaviour by rolling out the red carpet to despotism. It is as un-British as it is un-American.

We should not honour Donald J. Trump with an official state visit, or with the opportunity to speak in our historic halls.

Sometimes the best way to show our loyalty is to do what we know is right, and stand for it steadfastly, even when it would be easier to stick to the party line. We are at present uniquely situated to defend our friends' values. We failed that test within our own borders - we must not fail them too.

Elizabeth Gower-Alton is an actress and president of Full And By Films.