The next day I would go to Oxford for some meetings with Oxfam people and to hang out with Lynn and Possum.
I had to leave the house early but first I let in the cleaners into the flat.
People in the States have asked me what Brits thought about Donald Trump. Typically, I would meet a new person and he or she would make small talk while looking down at the ground, then after 10 minutes broach The Topic.
“Sooo … what do you think of your new president?” They weren’t sure where I stood, so they posed an open-ended question.
When I expressed my opinion, they invariably let out a sigh of relief that I wasn’t one of “those Americans” who think he’s Terrific, and they would launch into a screed about him, usually looping in the themes of Brexit and nationalism.
“We think he’s a complete tosser!” was a typical comment. Tosser, wanker, arsehole, mad as a bag of ferrets. Just a few of the British endearments I heard about our president, not to mention the universal terms racist, sexist, nationalist, moron, jerk, sociopath, and narcissist.
Granted, I tend to hang out with very liberal people, but I went to a few parties where I wasn’t sure what was coming. It was always the same.
So when the Polish couple who cleaned the flat once a month stated that they love America, I expected the same. They were immigrants, after all. Fortunately they didn’t ask my opinion first.
“And we love your President Donald Trump!” the husband exclaimed as the wife nodded heartily. The husband waxed enthusiastic. “He is strong man! In Europe, we understand about the Muslims. You Americans need a strong man to keep them out!”
There was a lot going through my head at that moment. Normally I’m a fighter and I would have challenged them. But here I was, alone in Eton. No one knew I was here aside from Sam and my people back home. This guy was about 6’ 2” and burly, with blonde hair and blue eyes—an ideal Aryan. He was yelling—not angrily but animatedly—and waving the five-foot-long wand of the Hoover around in the air. This was not the time to mention I was a Jew, and how I empathized with Muslims and hated all of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
The wife stepped forward, excited to share her opinions. “We live in UK 11 years. We go home to Poland every year, town near German border, and see what the Muslims do. They change the country. They make crimes, they are dirty. They rape German women! No, no, we stay here. We have two kids; the boy he 13, the girl she 11. They English! We want keep refugees out of England.”
Wow. I couldn’t even begin to know how to tango with the illogic of her statement. During the election, I had heard a Vietnamese immigrant to the US on National Public Radio lauding Donald Trump and stating she would vote for him. I had figured she was an outlier.
But now I wondered. Is it a thing? “I made it to safety/prosperity so screw all of you in line behind me.” Or did a Vietnamese immigrant really see herself as completely virtuous and deserving of being taken in, while no Muslim was? It boggled the mind.
I couldn’t resist asking, “What will happen to you with Brexit?”
They beamed. “We love Brexit! Brexit will keep new immigrants out. There are enough immigrants here now.”
I really wanted to ask if they were aware that many Brits think Poles are pond scum. Google “British views of Poles” and 18 million results come up. I thought one chat room comment summed it up well:
“Poles are the second-largest overseas-born community in the UK after Indians. This isn’t new (Polish Jews came in 19th century) but much of it has to do with Poland joining the EU in 2004 making migration easier. So I’d imagine anti-Polish sentiment being the British equivalent of American dislike for Mexicans.”
But instead of diving into this conversation, I grabbed my bag, waved good-bye, and exited to catch the train to Oxford.