Dear America: from Old York to New York - a heartfelt letter from a concerned old friend
There has long been the closest of friendships between the people of Britain and America.
In time of war, and in an age of global terrorism, we have instinctively turned to each other for support.
The bonds of kinship between our peoples are stronger than those between any other two countries.
Ours, truly, is a special relationship.
Now something new unites us – the coronavirus pandemic that is blighting both our countries.
As we have shared loss and grief in two world wars, so we do again as this terrible disease scythes through our communities, taking lives and destroying livelihoods, turning cities into ghost towns and their citizens into prisoners of lockdown burdened by fears of falling ill and having no job to go back to.
And it is because our friendship runs deep that so many of us in Britain feel able to speak frankly about our serious concern about what is happening in America, hence this letter.
He also risks undermining international solidarity in the face of this global pandemic.
There could hardly be a graver indictment of the most powerful democratic leader in the world, yet the charge sheet of President Trump’s reckless irresponsibility grows longer by the day.
The United States, with its vast resources and immense medical and scientific sectors, has the world’s highest death toll from Covid-19 and the pandemic shows no sign of abating.
Where there should be leadership, there is bluster. Where there should be decisive action, there is petulance.
Whilst presidents and prime ministers across the globe have striven to find ways of tackling the pandemic, President Trump’s erratic and even bizarre behaviour has made matters worse for his country.
From the start, he underrated the threat. In his view the virus was no worse than seasonal flu. He insisted that the threat to America was minimal, and claimed mass testing was taking place when it was not. He contradicted your country’s finest scientists in their assessment of the danger and created a storm of fake news by claiming a malaria drug as a miracle cure.
He went on to belittle lockdowns in limiting the spread of coronavirus, saying that such a solution would be worse than the problem. When challenged and questioned by America’s journalists, he insulted and abused them, reserving particular venom for female reporters.
In every other democratic country, including Britain, party political differences have been put aside in favour of consensus in beating a disease that does not discriminate between age, social status or ethnic background.
President Trump has turned his back on such consensus in America. Instead, he is at odds with the governors of some of the worst-affected states, insisting that they lift the lockdowns imposed in an effort to save lives. When they refused, there was more bluster, claiming he had the authority to overrule them. Then the most foolish and spiteful act of all – withdrawing US funding of $400m from the World Health Organisation, weakening the international effort against coronavirus when co-operation is the only rational and humane way forward.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is pouring billions of his fortune into helping efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine, said President Trump’s act was “as dangerous as it sounds”. Britain’s world-renowned medical journal, The Lancet, went farther, calling the decision “a crime against humanity”.
What will it take for President Trump to start acting in America’s best interests and stem the loss of life?
More than 30,000 Americans have died. More than 600,000 are infected, close to a third of the global total. A tide of human suffering is sweeping across your country, which your friends in Britain watch with despair and anger.
Despair because we hate to see such needless loss, and anger because the leader in which America’s voters put their trust has, in this time of emergency, given greater attention to his prospects for re-election than saving lives.
In November, your great country goes to the polls to elect the next President. It is not the business of citizens of another country to tell you who to vote for.
That is a matter of your individual consciences and convictions. But your friends in Britain would ask you to remember every harmful action of President Donald Trump before deciding who is fit to lead America on the long road to recovery after the pandemic.
With every good wish, and a prayer to boot: Your grand old friend, The Yorkshire Post.