The risks of rhetoric

September 19, 2017

Just after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the US, I saw a British TV programme in which Jacob Rees-Mogg and other luminaries were quizzed about their reaction to this startling event. The others were cautious, even critical, over the new man in the White House. Not our Jacob. It was, he explained, an entirely good thing – because Trump would expand the US economy, and that in turn would be good for our economy.

I squirmed at Rees-Mogg’s implication that the only thing that mattered was money. It seemed bizarre to overlook the rather obvious fact that this man who was going to make us all rich also had his finger on the nuclear button. There’s not much joy in seeing wages go up if we all get incinerated before we can spend the cash.

That was in January. Since then I haven’t noticed Trump enhancing the US economy in quite the splendid way that our Jacob promised. And our own economy doesn’t seem to be surging uncontrollably ahead either, as nurses and teachers try to get by on starvation wages while London is overflowing with luxury flats – all empty, as they’ve been bought as investments by the wealthy overseas. (And I thought homes were for living in: I really must keep up).

But what I have noticed is an increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Trump over North Korea. Driving home tonight, I was listening to the news on the radio. Trump’s speech to the UN couldn’t have been better calculated to raise the political temperature – already dangerously high – with Pyongyang. It sounded like a kid in the school playground, bullying ever more angrily to see what response he could provoke.

Except this isn’t a school playground. It’s our world, and it’s the only one we have. I’m starting to feel genuinely fearful that Trump could, by accident or by design, provoke a nuclear war.

Am I alone, or are you fearful too?

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