Monday, 1 August 2016

Beware the man of providence, for he’s a danger to us all

It’s bad news when people start looking for the Providential Man (the capital letters are, naturally, mandatory).

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Napoleon in France, or Franco in Spain, or Pinochet in Chile. When you get to the point that salvation seems to depend on a single man, you’re on the edge of deep chasm. That's because a providential man always comes with a refusal of dissent – after all, the darling of Providence can’t be wrong, so why should one tolerate disagreement with him?

At the Republican National Convention, when Donald Trump accepted the party’s nomination for US President, he listed many of the problems that beset American society. And then he announced:

I am your voice. I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order.

He alone can rise to the challenge of his times. He alone can speak for his followers. He alone has the answers.

It’s no surprise, then, that he wants to build a wall. The only difference between him and other providential men dabbled with totalitarianism, is that he wants to build a wall to keep others out. But walls are walls, and once you’ve got into the way of building them, you’re likely to build a lot more. And some of them will be to keep people in.

Just as revealing has been his reaction to the Democratic Party’s Convention. There, Khizr Khan paid tribute to his son Humayun, a Muslim who also happened to be a Captain in the US army, killed in Iraq in 2004. He had told his men to step back from a suspect car but went forward himself to check it, only to have it blow up and kill him. Trump’s proposal to prevent Muslims entering the US would catch a man like the dead Captain, if he travelled outside the country and wanted to return.

Khizr Khan rightly criticised Trump for trampling on the rights of fellow Americans, including those who are prepared to put their lives on the line like his son. With his wife Gazala standing sad and silent by his sid he brandished a copy of the US Constitution and offered to lend it to Trump so that he actually read it.

Khizr Khan offers Trump a copy of the Constitution to read
with Gazala by his side
And Trump’s response? He was ‘viciously attacked’ by Khan. Worse still, he asked why Gazala had remained silent: had she been forbidden to speak?

She’s explained since that she found the sight of the photo of her son, projected behind the stage when her husband was speaking, simply too moving.

So Trump, far from moderating his proposals against Muslims, has attacked the father of a dead soldier and extended the attack to the bereaved mother too. That may sound callous, but don’t forget that he’s the only man who can save the United States. To question his thoughts, therefore, is to question a providential man – and who can arrogate to himself the right to speak against Providence?

At the moment, Trump’s behaviour seems to have hurt his standing in the polls, leaving Hillary Clinton with a good lead over him. But that means that over 43% of US voters still back him. I’d like to say it’s despite the kind of bigotry he expresses but, sadly, it may be because they share that bigotry.

They’re dangerous, those providential men. Providential man Trump poses a great danger to the US, as Khizr Khan pointed out so powerfully. And, don’t forget, as the world’s only superpower, a dangerous US is a danger to us all.

No comments: