Dear Theresa May,
These are uncertain times: at the same time that the UK is in the midst of Brexit negotiations we are faced with the tumultuous transition between American Presidents. As Prime Minister, it is of course of political necessity to tread carefully, and to try to protect the security of the UK by maintaining a relationship with America. To this end, you acted quickly, and were the first world leader to meet with the new President Trump.
Having only been President for one week on your visit, Trump had already made some controversial and significant decisions: signing orders regarding the widely protested Dakota Access Pipeline, discussing his support of torture tactics, making plans for a wall to be built between Mexico and the US, and beginning the discussions of the now enforced ‘Muslim Ban.’
Your response to some of these abhorrent and inhumane decisions has been, at best, disappointingly weak, and at worst, something too similar to compliance. I, and I’m sure many others, implore you to take a much firmer stand against such divisive, dangerous and hate-fuelled policies. Why? Well, in your own words (from your speech to Republicans ahead of meeting Trump)…
“I defy any person to travel to this great country [United States of America] at any time and not to be inspired by its promise and its example”
When people from seven countries have been banned from entering the US, that not only gives you seven populations to defy, but surely encourages you to question what America’s promise and example have really become?
“For more than two centuries, the very idea of America… has lit up the world…That idea – that all are created equal and that all are born free.”
If all are created equal and all are born free, policies that ban refugees from seeking safety in America, that discriminate against working class communities by reversing mortgage fee cuts, and other prejudicial policies, can have no place in America, and can certainly not light up the world.
“A little more than seventy-five years ago, you responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour by joining Britain in the Second World War and defeating fascism not just in the Pacific but in Africa and Europe too.”
If we are fighting together to defeat fascism, we cannot sit comfortably with a nation built on the promise to put ‘America first.’ We must learn from this same history the dangers of dividing society, and spreading racial and religious hatred and intolerance.
“…proving that open, liberal, democratic societies will always defeat those that are closed, coercive and cruel.”
What do you consider open, liberal and democratic? I wonder, perhaps if an ‘open society’ would be led by those who are transparent and honest (perhaps, for example, happy to share their tax rates)? And what do you consider closed, coercive and cruel? We can maybe agree that a ‘cruel society’ might encourage and endorse torture, and a coercive one might try to stifle the press, and instead prefer the use of ‘alternative facts.’
“’We must never cease’, Churchill said, ‘to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man…’”
“…we can either be passive bystanders, or we can take the opportunity once more to lead.”
Do not be a passive bystander. You have I’m sure heard the phrase ‘Silence is Compliance.’ Be fearless, Theresa May, in your support of freedom and human rights, even if that means opposing President Trump.
“Our values will endure. And the need to defend them and project them will be as important as ever.”
British Values as stated by the Government are those of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Trump’s recent ban directly challenges the values of liberty, respect and tolerance, and in fact, America’s constitutional law. The need to defend these values, and project them, is indeed as important as ever.
“…we should always be careful to distinguish between this extreme and hateful ideology, and the peaceful religion of Islam and the hundreds of millions of its adherents – including millions of our own citizens and those further afield who are so often the first victims of this ideology’s terror.”
Placing a ban on people from muslim-majority countries entering the U.S fails to even attempt to make such a distinction, discriminating not only against citizens of the countries in question, but against American and British citizens alike.
“We need to address the whole spectrum of extremism, starting with the bigotry and hatred that can so often turn to violence.”
In the campaign trail, and since his election, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated bigotry, and hatred, whether it be directed against muslims, immigrants, refugees, disabled people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, black people, or women. We need to stand firm against this bigotry and hatred that can so easily turn into policy when spouted by a world leader. Hatred and violence when enshrined in policy, is perhaps one of the greatest risks of all.
“We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.”
We may not always agree, but I, as a British citizen, as a young woman, as a member of the global community that you so often discuss, I am asking you to give me faith.
Give me faith that the UK, as a small but powerful country will not support politics of hatred and division. Give me faith that one man cannot overrule and undermine human rights, basic decency and the values that we should be proudly displaying. Give me faith in you, as the leader of this country, that you can stand your ground, that you can represent the values of the UK, and our voices.
I am just one person, so my faith in you as our leader may not be top of your priority list. But defense of basic human rights should be. You must be clear on your values, on our values, and actively speak out to protect them, rather than pandering to the divisive whim of a bigoted man; even if that man is President of the United States.
Yours, with hope,