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Accepting the Unacceptable or When May Met Trump

Theresa May, the British prime minister, won the honor to be the first head of state to visit Trump and the Gang in Washington D.C. May, wanting to assure herself that the Special Relationship that exists between the US and the UK was safe in the hands of a television reality star, showed none of the caution of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel. It should be noted that the Special Relationship is probably referred to by British officials more frequently than their American counterparts. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say many British people hoped that she would have a Love Actually moment at her first press conference with Trump. Sadly she did not.

As May prepared for her big meet in Washington D.C., during an interview with the BBC she said the following:

I’ve already said that some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relations to women are unacceptable, some of those he himself has apologized for. When I sit down (with Trump) I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female prime minister.

That second thought, that her actually being a female and a prime minister would have an impact on the Great Misogynist, that he would even get the point, was sweet. I’m hoping she didn’t actually believe it, but instead, needing to say something given she was meeting with a man who bragged about grabbing women’s pussies, thought referring to her gender and her position was as good as anything. Goodness knows how she felt when, dressed in her bright read outfit for all to see, Trump actually took her hand. Not good, I’m guessing. But it matters not. The photo will be out there until climate change changes everything. However, it’s the first sentence, the claim that Trump was unacceptable, that interests me here.

What could May have possibly meant when she said Trump was unacceptable? Please understand, I’m not picking on May here. To say that something or someone is unacceptable after the fact, is very common, almost to the point of cliché, particularly among political types. When something horrible happens, any number of people are on TV telling us it was unacceptable. But what does it actually mean to say a past event or utterance, or action is unacceptable? Every time I hear someone say that so and so, or such and such is unacceptable I want to ask, “What do you mean? If you mean it or he/she is really unacceptable, than are you not implying that you are compelled to to do something to maintain your integrity? And if so, what are you actually going to do?”

I looked up the definition of “unacceptable” on the internet and got:

not acceptable (of course); not welcome; not pleasing; not satisfactory; not allowable; intolerable; inadequate; and too bad to be accepted, approved of, or allowed.

So what did May mean when she said that Trump's comments about women, or his advocacy for torture, or his targeting of Muslims, is unacceptable? Something as gentle as unwelcome, or as uncompromising as intolerable? How would she react to the unacceptable? How would she relate to a person who she declared was so bad she could not approved?

If May actually found Trump unacceptable, surely she would not meet with him, which is, of course, an absurdity. Of course she was going to meet with the president of the United States. She had to meet with him. I can’t imagine anything Trump could do, besides nuking London, that would make him actually unacceptable to May. She would and will in reality accept whatever Trump does or says. Paraphrasing Nixon’s comment about the legality of the president’s actions, if the president does it, it is acceptable. Period.

Maybe May didn’t really mean Trump’s comments and behavior towards women, torture, etc., were unacceptable. She might not like them, but she has to accept them. We all know that. The US UK relationship and the must have trade deal are obviously more important than Trump’s mocking of disabled people, discrimination based on religion, or diplomatic ignorance. Perhaps the best we can say is that she was signaling her dissatisfaction with Trump’s remarks and behavior while knowing if relationship is what he demands, or the economic and political circumstances demand given Britain’s Brexit necessities, acceptable he will be.  

But just for a moment, imagine that Trump and the Gang actually do necessitate a Love Actually moment. What if Trump is such a category difference, and there is now some evidence to support that idea, that treating him as if his is a normal presidency is the irresponsible thing to do. Perhaps dangerously irresponsible. What if he actually is unacceptable and needs to be challenged at every turn. Well, if that is what the situation demanded, than obviously May didn’t see the movie. She couldn’t even bring herself to criticize the Trump and Bannon ban on Muslims entering the United States. She rolled out the red carpet and the Queen in a flash (Obama didn’t get his State visit until his second year in office). Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t find Trump unacceptable at all, but that she actually likes the guy as much as she needs him.

Imagine that. The red carpet for the likes of Trump. Boris Johnson in Parliament defended the invitation by pointing out that leaders like Robert Mugabe and Nicolae Ceauşescu had been graced with State visits (it’s come to that, the American president being compared to despots like Mugabe and Ceauşescu). A UK Government and Parliament Petition seeking to prevent Trump’s State visit, but not a visit as head of state, has, as I write this, over 1,800,000 signatures. There’s a chance it could eventually top two million. May is not moved. Trump’s ego will be stroked. He loves that. And while the visit is acceptable to the prime minister, to millions of British citizens it is not. I say, good for them. Next stop, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It's not easy leaving the European Union.

Copyright © 2017 Dale Rominger

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