Welcoming Trump…and Other Words We Mustn’t Use


‘Irish American News’, July 2019.



I’ve been thinking lately about climate change.  And about golliwogs.

There you go:  if talk of climate change has begun to bore you as much as it does me then that word – ‘golliwogs’ – probably grabbed back your attention.

It is one of the many words that are no longer acceptable in polite company.  It’s a relic of a past where hurtful and casually racist expressions were used regularly.  Yet those of you who are old enough to remember it will recall seeing that bizarre caricature that it represented for much of your early life, when it peered out at you, unremarked on, from the labels of Robinson’s jam jars.

It is an image that has quite rightly been consigned to History’s overflowing rubbish bin.  After all, we’re all a bit more ‘woke’ now… supposedly, in any case.  But it came back to mind recently due to – of all things – the visit here to Ireland of President Donald Trump.

I was listening to the usual hysterics getting themselves into a right old trousers-wetting frenzy about the cheek of the man to come here on a private visit, conveniently forgetting that he had in fact been invited by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny.  (Lord, was that only just over two years ago?  It feels like a lifetime.)

And it seems to me that if you invite someone to your home then you at least have manners enough to be a good host.  And in the main Ireland was that, I’m glad to say.  In fact, apart from the expected contingent of headbangers who were out there demonstrating against the visit – the visit of a sitting American President who also actually employs people in this country, to me a very good thing – it all went off quietly enough. At least this time we didn’t make an unholy show of ourselves, as we did when he paid a previous visit, back in the days before he was President and considered to be the harbinger of the End of Days or one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…or something.

On that memorable occasion a no-doubt bewildered Trump stepped off the plane only to be confronted by comely maidens dancing at the crossroads; harpists; singers; and a nice red carpet.  All we were short of doing was dressing a couple of guys up as leprechauns, with Darby O’Gill and the Little People on backing vocals, and the country’s humiliation would have been complete.  Of course, we did instead wheel out some government representatives to bow and scrape to him, doffing imaginary caps and all but mumbling, with heads low and eyes averted:  “Gob ‘n’ begorra, sir, but is it to be throwin’ a bit of the ould work our way you do be here for? “

Bloody Hell, those images are still burned into the national psyche and may take a generation to get rid of.

So all in all I’m glad that this time it was a more subdued affair.  But there still was that Trump Blimp on show.  You know the one, the ‘witty’ caricature of a Baby Trump complete with a little nappy.  And it got me wondering what would have happened if, during HIS visit here, those of us who didn’t like President Obama  had floated a golliwog above their demonstration.

Can you imagine?  Seriously, can you imagine?  There would have been such howls of protest that they would have been heard on Pluto.  And rightly so.  I’m all for the right to protest but that baby balloon is just pathetic.  It was even worse in the U.K. where he had been the week before and there was a giant image of Trump sitting on a toilet seat.

I just don’t get it.  We have welcomed other statesmen (and some of them with seriously dodgy track records) and you didn’t get that kind of ignorant and insulting behaviour displayed towards them.  But, for whatever reason, when it comes to Trump it is open season.  Anything goes.

Of course, his attitude to global warming sends people off on one as well.  It’s outrageous, I tellz ye! Outrageous!  And his visit came at around the same time as we were getting our results on the latest round of elections, something else that I find harder and harder to pay any attention to.  Yet you would need to have been in a coma not to have noted the rise of the Green Party.

Now you would expect them to have a few words to say on the environment in general, what with the give-away in their name – but all I could think of was how they behaved in Ireland the last time they got in shouting distance of a little bit of political power.  Guess what, they behaved EXACTLY like every other political group you ever heard of.  In other words, they were all for themselves and screw the people who elected them.

Playing a particular blinder this month was Dublin’s Ciarán Cuffe, who has been with the Greens since 1982.  In fact a new savior of the planet is all but announced now, so well did he do.  Congratulations.

Still, it’s amusing to recall that in 2003 Mr. Cuffe stepped down temporarily because it had to be dragged out of him that, quite apart from fighting the good fight for the future of Planet Earth, he had a nice little earner on the side in the shape of substantial shares in ChevronTexaco, Exxon and four other oil companies.  “Just a misunderstanding”, sniffed Green leader Trevor Sargent at the time.

I guess that another misunderstanding was with the shares he had with the American Sara Lee corporation, which at that time was getting it in the neck from concerned  environmentalists over their unfortunate tendency to *ahem* pay rock-bottom prices to Third World farmers.

I’m not really having a go at Mr. Cuffe; well, nothing more than a half-hearted one anyway.  It’s just that I don’t believe any of them anymore.  If a politician told me that Hell was black at midnight I’d still be checking it out first.  And all politicians – of every party – felt that this time they had to spout some half-assed rhetoric on how they were concerned to their caring little fingertips about the effect we are having on this genuinely amazing globe of ours.  We are and there’s not a doubt about that.  But do I believe that they give a rat’s ass about it beyond droning out some tedious buzz-words?  Not a bit of it.

Some of my younger acquaintances really DO give a damn.  In fact, this old cynic’s heart has been gladdened at just how much they are seriously concerned.  I like that.  Stops them playing with their phones.

But I’ve been here before.  In the sixties and early seventies we had it drummed into us how overpopulation would have us living in cupboards by the year 2000 on a staple diet of Soylent Green.  Well, that didn’t happen because this planet has a way of taking care of itself.  This planet will survive us. Look at the way the soil around Chernobyl has begun to cleanse and heal itself in a totally unforeseen way, with wildlife now thriving in the area.

Whether we ourselves will survive us – and whether we really deserve to – ah, that’s another days’ work.