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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018
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'Do not deceive yourselves: Trump is the closest thing to Hitler Americans have ever seen'

It is vital that Ireland object to Trump’s plans for mass deportations and draconian restrictions on immigration, writes TCD’s Daniel Geary.

Daniel Geary

EVER SINCE THE alarming election of Donald Trump, I have been thinking back to that day last December when I became a proud citizen of Ireland. At my naturalisation ceremony, the minister offered a memorable message of inclusion. He told us that we were entitled to share in Irish traditions and that Ireland would benefit if we shared the cultures of our home countries. This perspective was rooted in the long history of Irish emigration that made the Irish today empathetic to immigrants.

The minister’s comments validated what I and my family felt in our daily lives ever since moving to Ireland in 2008: that we were welcome here. I sat next to a black woman in a hijab and hoped she felt the same way.

That day I was also a proud citizen of the United States. More than any other nation in the world, the United States has promoted a vision of citizenship not tied to biology but rather to shared democratic norms and the mixing together of people from all over the globe. I recognised an American vision when the minister articulated Irish citizenship as rooted in diverse old cultures fusing together to create a new one.

That ideal of multicultural democracy is in serious danger. Today millions of my fellow Americans no longer feel welcome in their own country, including many who were born citizens and whose families have been there for centuries. Trump’s election has brought to the surface vicious racist forces that I always knew existed but naively thought would never gain such political power again. The Ku Klux Klansmen who endorsed Trump are rallying in the streets while hateful messages and swastikas are appearing in schools and public parks. A convention of white nationalists in Washington, DC welcomed Trump’s election with “Heil, Hitler” salutes. Yes, Trump has now denounced these neo-Nazis, conveniently after their support helped win him the presidency. But he still bears responsibility for giving them new life.

‘No ordinary conservative Republican’ 

Do not deceive yourselves: Trump is no ordinary conservative Republican. He is the closest thing to Hitler Americans have ever seen. Trump rose to power as head of the birther movement that promoted the racist conspiracy that President Obama was not a native-born citizen. He has appointed as chief strategist Steve Bannon, a notorious white nationalist, anti-Semite, and conspiracy theorist. He has nominated Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, an old-school Alabama segregationist deemed too racist to hold a federal judgeship by a Republican Congress in 1986. If appointed, Sessions would almost certainly ignore his responsibility to protect the voting rights of African Americans.

As republicans, it is our duty as Irish citizens to oppose Trump’s racism and xenophobia. We owe this to our ancestors who emigrated to the U.S. at a time when Irish Catholics were the main target of nativist xenophobia, ancestors including my own great-grandfather Thomas Geary who was born in County Cork and settled in Chicago.

Ireland has a particularly important role to play in American immigration policy, where its practical interests best conjoin with its moral obligations. It is vital that Ireland object to Trump’s plans for mass deportations and draconian restrictions on immigration.
It would not surprise me if Trump offers to exempt Irish immigrants from the harsh regime he imposes on Mexicans and Muslims because we are white. We must reject any special deal for Ireland and insist that fair immigration policies apply equally to all regardless of race or religion.

Racist and dangerous

Enda Kenny was absolutely correct when he called Trump “racist and dangerous” several months ago. But he has gone silent since Trump’s election. Richard Boyd Barrett led a protest against Trump at the U.S. embassy. But the best-known example of an Irish politician speaking out against Trump was Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, whose speech openly denouncing Trump went viral.

Source: Aodhán Ó Ríordáin/YouTube

It was only the third or fourth time friends posted about the Senator’s speech on Facebook that I recognised him. Ó Ríordáin was the minister who spoke at my Irish citizenship ceremony. We need more Irish politicians and citizens to follow his example and call a “fascist” a “fascist”.

We can start by demanding that Trump rescind his appointments of Bannon and Sessions. Trump must hear that his associations with avowed racists are unacceptable. And the majority of my fellow Americans who rejected Trump at the ballot box must know that world opinion is on their side.

Daniel Geary is Mark Pigott Associate Professor of US History at Trinity College Dublin. 

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