Theresa May: A Bystander

Following Donald Trump’s appalling ban on refugees from Muslim-majority countries, Theresa May has stated that she does not agree with the policy. However, it seems that in Theresa May’s order of priorities, securing a successful trade deal for Britain comes first. Before her trip to the United States, she made an unequivocal statement to the BBC professing how the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US will work:

"I will be talking to Donald Trump about the issues that we share and about how we can build on this special relationship. It is the special relationship that also enables us to say when we do find things unacceptable."

(Photo Credit: The Daily Mail)

In the few hours after Theresa May left the White House, the order for the refugee ban was signed. Theresa May responded by withdrawing, stating simply that “the United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.” Now, watch Emily Thornberry’s response to Trump’s actions. She perfectly sums up my view, and the views of many other British citizens, on the signification of Theresa May’s actions, or, to put it more accurately, her inaction.

Thornberry’s words hit home. The dangerous slope of discrimination, prejudice and racism is something which the UK, as a world leader, has to take action against, not just rhetorically condemn. We are still living in the shadow of the discrimination, prejudice, and racism which resulted in the Holocaust. While this comparison may seem stark, Donald Trump’s campaign of hatred against of marginalised groups makes the link inevitable.

(Photo Credit: The Times of Israel)

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a talk held by the University of Bristol’s History society; Harry Bibring, a Holocaust survivor, shared his story with us. Growing up in 1930s Austria, a survivor of Kristallnacht, and child of the Kinderstransport, he told us about how his life slowly shrunk around him as a result of discrimination. First, he could not visit his beloved ice rink to skate, as it was barred to Jews. Then, he had to leave his Gymnasium (German Grammar school) and move to a state school. He was forced to sit on the floor at the back of a cramped class, unable to see or hear anything, castigated merely because he was a Jew. His gift for storytelling and his amazing sense of humour was punctuated by moments of harrowing sadness. He showed us the letters sent by his mother once he and his sister Gertie were in England, which contained all the maternal love that could possibly be squeezed into the 25 words permitted on the Red Cross letters. The last one to arrive from his mother before her transportation to a concentration camp bids them: “Good luck for life.”

(Photo Credit: The Mirror)

He closed his talk with a call to action. He asked each student in the room to not stand by. Not to be a bystander in the face of prejudice and discrimination. This, to me, is precisely what Theresa May is today. A bystander. But there are things, as Harry told us, we can do. Write a letter to your local MP protesting against Donald Trump’s planned state visit. Sign the online petition against the visit, so on the 20th February, when the debate is held in Westminster Hall, Theresa May can realize exactly how many people in the UK are willing to stand up against this despicable form of discrimination. The government needs to realize how many people in the UK refuse to be a bystander.

I will leave you with the words of the German philosopher Friedrich Hegel: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

(Photo Credit: Boston Discovery Guide)