OPINION: A plea from the Scottish island Donald Trump's mother Mary called home - Let this be the end of our disgrace
The word on the pews and the surf beaches of the Isle of Lewis is – please let this be an end to the disgrace of Trump.
Church groups on this Island, birthplace of the current President’s mother, spoke out against Trump last week in an article in the Scottish edition of ‘The Times’, not normally the most radical of newspapers.
Churchgoers are now united in this stance with surfers, artists and pretty much everyone else on ‘the rock’.
I live by the shores of Broad Bay, the waters fished by Trump’s Lewis grandfather. This is a few miles along the shore from the village of Tong. These were very productive fishing grounds for past generations. The Donald did once make a much publicised visit.
The seconds he spent on scene at the family croft were squeezed between the real purpose of the visit – golf course ‘development’ on mainland Scotland.
In the past the Island has had a reputation for extremes – a hard version of Presbyterian Christianity and a vibrant tradition of oral culture in songs and stories.
Several of the strongest figures in twentieth century Scottish literature, notably the Lewis-born poet Iain Crichton Smith, spoke of island religion as a force that would stamp on creativity.
Yet in recent years we have seen collaborations between communities of psalm singers and cutting-edge musicians. These include a collaboration between the psalm singers of Back Free Church (also up from Broad Bay) and gospel choirs from the States.
A documentary film of the sharing and a published CD probed musical affinities across oceans and across race.
When you see the winds speed down from the Northeast you know they’ve come all the way from the Arctic. I used to joke that this was what caused that trademark sweep of hair on the head of cousin DJ Trump.
Of course we now know from the elusive tax returns that it was not the Arctic wind but 70,000 dollars worth of hairdressing. I’ve also had to revise what I’ve learned of the secret of success from The Donald. I thought he had proved it was losing half of your father’s money. Now, if you believe the figures, it seems he lost all of it and a lot more.
If ‘The Apprentice’ wasn’t enough to save the show, maybe a couple of cracks at the Presidency would do it….
The sad thing now, looking at the disaster of Trump’s presidency, is that all the signs were clear in his previous dealings with a community in Scotland.
I happen to be a Hybridean rather than Hebridean, with one side of my family from the Moray Firth coast of Scotland. In fact an uncle of mine lived for some time just up from the beach at Balmedie, now a battleground between a world ranking nature reserve and, yes, another Trump golf course.
In 2011 Anthony Baxter (Journeyman Pictures) dramatised the conflict between a mighty corporation and the families who would be forcibly displaced from their long established and modest settlements. At the time the Scottish establishment didn’t find a long enough spoon to sup with the Trump devil. As so often happens, colossal changes to the environment are presented as necessary to provide jobs, jobs, jobs
These are of course never guaranteed. What really happened? Molly, a widow aged 86 at the time, had her water cut off and world-ranking wetland walks were fenced-off. A unique habitat of shifting wetland was changed forever. Residents who dug their heels in were contained by high fences.
I saw the documentary along with a live link with Baxter at the Stornoway arts centre, an Lanntair. A packed audience was visibly moved at the injustice of it all. The film includes footage of its director being arrested as business interests exert pressure on civic powers. It’s a bit like ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ in a cooler climate.
In 2020 Baxter released his follow-up. ‘You’ve been Trumped Too’ which won a rare four star rating from the film critic Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. It returns to the scene to probe what happened at Balmedie since the first film.
By 2016 Molly still had not got her water back. A son got the tools out and did the job himself. There might be gold taps at Trump Towers but how can we believe the empire couldn’t fix one water supply?
So how come you’ve not seen these films sweep across the far less revealing political ‘debates’?
The film-maker and distributors were subject to the enormous legal pressure applied by Trump’s corporate might. The real-life story is the sad tale of a big bully targeting those who do not have the wealth to fight back with like power.
I was complacent at the time of the last USA presidential election. Then I was a bit worried when some friends said they could not see much difference between the candidates. The result caused countless deaths. Let’s take just one example. One mad phone call to Turkey and the results of years of foreign policies are reversed, either from spite or self interest. Troops are mobilised, previous allies abandoned and innocent lives are lost.
Now there is the privileged Superman’s response to Covid 19. Trump came off more lightly than most but thanks to help not available to most.
Barrack Obama is the Lewisman we would like to claim, if Ireland had not got in there first. Respect for the USA returned for a time. Now is the chance to begin restoring that. From the pews to the surf beaches, most folk on the Island where Mary Trump was born are holding their breath.
We’re depending on you guys to do your bit to rid us of our disgrace. Republicans, if you really can’t bring yourself to vote for the Democrat who at least is rational, please abstain. Disillusioned Democrats, please don’t feel it makes no difference. If you haven’t yet cast your vote do it now for the sake of the planet, as well as the USA.
The You’ve been Trumped trailer can be viewed at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z83Uhje_D0c
The author of this opinion piece, Ian Stephen was born on Lewis and lives there still. He is the author of many books including the novel ‘A Book Of Death and Fish’ (Saraband, 2014).
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