• Posted on : June 1, 2017
  • Posted by : Tom Fletcher

I’m from a country, a profession and a generation that wants to believe the best of America, our ‘Shining City on a Hill’. We start from an assumption that the US is a sincere – if occasionally blundering - force for good in the world. The first enlightened superpower. We believed JFK that America “shall pay any price – bear any burden – meet any hardship – support any friend – oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”.  Our grandparents told us what this had meant in blood and dollars, from the beaches of Normandy to the reconstruction of Germany.
So we don’t see post 1945 global cooperation as an inconvenience, but the scaffolding America built for a world that had seen where extremism leads. We don’t see NATO as a business deal, but a blood brotherhood. We don’t see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as in need of a waterboard workaround, but a roadmap for a flawed but ingenious species to reach towards our better selves. We don’t see the Age of Reason as fake news.
And we do not believe that a hard fought global accord to reduce the pace of climate change is something to be toyed with like a tacky game show cliffhanger. But as a long overdue reset of our collective contract with our descendants, and with the planet they must live in.
This is no longer about the narcissism and neediness of one man. If Trump rips up the Paris Treaty, he rips up something more fundamental. The chapter on the Age of America could end in 2017. And there will be fewer chapters left to run in our collective story. It is a Bonhoeffer moment.
Those hit hardest don’t have a Twitter account. They are the hordes who will migrate, fight or die because of climate change. They are those as yet unborn. And make no mistake – we will all be held to account by them for how we react.
So there is a risk of understatement in the diplomatic responses. Some may choose their words carefully, in sorrow more than anger –‘concern’ at an ‘unhelpful’ move, a hope for ‘continued dialogue’.
We should indeed choose our words carefully. Here is a try. This would be an act of savage ignorance. Of brutal self harm. Of staggering short sightedness. Of obscene arrogance. Of grotesque sabotage. As ill conceived as the Bay of Pigs. As damaging to US global leadership as Vietnam.
If the US joins Syria and Nicaragua outside the Paris Accord, we must acknowledge that on climate, America under present management is a rogue nation. It is not working with us to extend the lives of our descendants. But against us to shorten them.
So what do we do beyond the handwringing and platitudes? In the UK we can start by downgrading the State Visit promised to Trump. There is no need for a snub – he can come as a guest of government, like every other new US President, from Truman to Obama. We should not ask a family so devoted to conserving the environment to offer a gold carriage to a man so committed to its destruction. 
America is going through a dark time of introspection and retreat.  It will come through, because its founding values and institutions are so compelling. America will once again exhort the world to tear down walls not put them up. History will have one more Ozymandias, leaving nothing but a tweet - “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
In the meantime, we must preserve our special relationship with the incredible, diverse American people, our exceptional security partnership and cultural connection. We must respect the office of the American President some of them elected.
But we should not be blind to the damage he is now doing to our interests, our values, and our future. We must continue to fight for the ideas that America carried forward with such power – reason, progress, tolerance, shared humanity. We must guard those values for when an American leader takes them up again, with renewed vigour.
With America where possible. Without America where necessary.  
Until the lights come back on in the Shining City.

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