During Freshers’ week, the University hosted a show debate on the state of relations between the United States and Scotland. The motion proposed to end the “special relationship” with the US government. Watching this debate was incredibly surreal for me as an American. I was intrigued and frustrated at the same time, and furiously wrote in my notebook what was said. The fact that this discussion is occurring is unsettling, despite the hypothetical nature. The participants mentioned that this was the first chance they have had to discuss renegotiating relations with the US.
Personally, I was struck by the calibre of the people involved and the passion in their arguments.
A member of the proposition cited America’s history of international trespasses and intervention as justification for cutting ties with the Trump administration. I certainly agree with this critique: the US has unethically entered wars overseas and has both supressed and introduced democracy according to its own interests. However, the irony of this rhetoric forgets the role British imperialism and colonisation had in invading North America, the genocide of Native Americans, and the eventual independence of the United States.
Another argument suggested Scotland should abandon the Trump administration and support its opponents instead. How does a country do that? Obviously, the Scottish parliament is not going to give American protest organisations any tax dollars to fund the resistance. The proposition did not provide an idea of what this support would look like, but it’s certainly true that protestors of Trump, like myself, are growing weary.
Hearing British politicians and activists express that they feel helpless was surprising. I came to Glasgow after working and living in Washington DC for two months over the summer, during which time I attended protests and met with my senator to defend the Affordable Care Act. I knocked on doors to organise communities to fight the budget cuts to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). I had polite conversations with people I strongly disagree with to initiate some form of constructive dialogue. I felt like I was doing whatever I could to stop my country from falling apart.
When your country is in conflict, it affects every aspect of your life. Living in Scotland, I’m completely removed from friends and family who live with this reality, and I can’t help but feel guilty for leaving, or that I’m not doing everything in my power to “resist”. It seems there is little I can do from across the pond besides donating what little I can and writing my representatives with no guarantee they will actually listen. And people here feel helpless?
We are eight months into Trump’s presidency and I am exhausted. It’s hard to have a conversation without someone bringing up US politics, and I invariably end up losing my voice trying to explain what the hell is going on. The show debate left me shaken. No one mentioned Russia’s intervention in our election by the spread of disinformation, the hacking of the Democratic party’s headquarters and emails, and the attempted hacking of our electronic voting systems in 21 states. Our democracy was attacked, and it is the job of our allies to stand by us no matter how incompetent and dangerous Trump is. There is not much any of us can do but wait for the 2018 congressional elections and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. My heart sinks with the ding of every news notification on my phone, but for now we must fight issue by issue.
The American people are entering a period of awakening. When I stood up in the chamber and stated the effect that fear has had on the US, I attempted to highlight how this fear is manipulated, leading to situations like Brexit and the election of Trump. Throughout history we have seen leaders with authoritative tendencies gain power by manipulating this fear. From my perspective, Scotland ending the special relationship with the US out of fear will decrease the international pressure needed to mitigate the damage this administration does to my country, the global economy and global security. You can shut out another country, but that will not get rid of the problem or the consequences.
We cannot allow Trump’s administration to go unchallenged. Giving into helplessness and hopelessness is what permits fear to win. If I’m not giving up hope, if the Americans that actually care are not giving up hope, then Scotland shouldn’t either.