“There is disorder under heavens; the situation is excellent”
Now that yet another week of Donald Trump’s frantic activity is safely behind us and slowly receding into memory, the time has come to think about the chaotic wasteland his visits left behind. Trump visited three places: Brussels, where he met key European leaders; London where he met Theresa May (plus the queen); and Helsinki where he met Putin. Everybody noted the strange fact that Trump was much friendlier to those perceived as American enemies than to its friends. But such facts should not surprise us too much. Our attention should turn in another direction. As is often the case with Trump, reactions to his acts are more important than what he did or said.
Let us begin by comparing what Trump said with what his partners said. When Trump and May were asked by a journalist what they thought about the flow of immigrants to Europe, Trump brutally and honestly rendered his populist anti-immigrant position: immigrants are a threat to the European way of life; they are destabilizing the safety of our countries, bringing violence and intolerance, so we should keep them out. A careful listener could easily notice that Theresa May said exactly the same thing, just in a more diplomatic and “civilized” way: immigrants bring diversity; they contribute to our welfare, but we should carefully check who we let in… We’ve got here a clear taste of the choice which is more and more the only one presented to us: either direct populist barbarism or a more civilized version of the same politics, barbarism with a human face.