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BONNIE GREER: Why Britain should give Trump the Big Apple treatment

Bonnie Greer believes the British public should ignore Donald Trump during his visit. (Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

BONNIE GREER says Britain should ignore President Donald Trump during his visit next week.

To understand Donald John Trump, you have to understand New York City.

New York is not only a place, it is a state of mind; and an aspiration.

“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” is not only the lyric of a song. It is still the truth.

New York City is a place that has seen, done, and been it all.

A friend recently saw a stark naked man strolling down a packed city street. He sent me a video and I knew immediately that this was happening in New York City.


Because no one paid any attention.

No dogs barked; folks continued their conversations; and the cars passed around the naked man as he crossed against the light.

A New Yorker has a special kind of vision, a sort of peripheral glance that takes in everything at once and grades it. I still walk down the street like a New Yorker: noticing the women sitting at the outdoor cafes; their handbags casually placed at their feet; the men flashing fancy phones.

This is how you live in New York – on the defensive. And, therefore, visibility and invisibility become key and core of who you are, what you want; where you are going.

No one chooses invisibility there, except the very rich; the Mafia; your landlord; or the person who sold you the lottery ticket that won.

To be famous in New York is the same as being ‘made’ in Mafia jargon: You are protected; you are special. When I lived there in the 1980s, during the rise of real estate mogul Fred Trump’s son, Donald, what you wanted to be was not from the Bronx. Or New Jersey. Never.

For these were places of oblivion; outer darkness; the land of losers and exiles. These are the outer boroughs, the areas off the island of Manhattan.

A big postcard of the time showed an urban landscape: buildings; streets; all in total blackout. The title of the picture: “New Jersey By Night”.

One of the delights of the late World Trade Center was going to the top – to the Windows on the World restaurant – and gazing down at that tiny island and taking in the fact that this was the place where everyone fought to live, to rise and to conquer.

In the 1980s, New York City was just beginning to rise from its 1970s slump, when, frankly, the place was more beautiful, more creative, more everything than the gentrified and coke-filled new decade was turning out to be. But if you wanted to be ‘in’ and were from the outer boroughs you did not care.

Donald Trump was born and raised in the borough of Queens. He is a member of that despised tribe that New Yorkers call ‘bridge and tunnel people’ – those who have to come to Manhattan Island from elsewhere. Trump is the guy from Saturday Night Fever, except with lots more money. In his mind and in his heart, he is always gazing at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that link between Staten Island and Manhattan, or the Brooklyn Bridge that does the same for Brooklyn, or the various crossings linking Queens to NYC, trying to figure out how to cross over. And get New Yorkers to love him. He is, in spite of his wealthy upbringing, what New Yorkers of Italian descent refer to as a ‘mook’. Not a special guy. The stuff on the bottom of your shoe: you scrape him off and move on. Except now Trump cannot be scraped off.

He wears his gangster-cut box suits and still gets no respect from those who really matter to him: New Yorkers. Real ones. He does not even go to the city, preferring to stay in a kind of Trump archipelago: Pennsylvania and Michigan, which he barely won; Florida which he must win; and the Deep South. Everyone else can go hang because it is all about who loves you. Listen to him and you will hear that what he really talks about is love. Of him and of his.

Trump used to pose as his own press agent – creating the persona ‘John Barron’ – to try to get New York reporters on side and get favourable mentions in the newspapers. He did not even disguise his voice. This became something of a running joke/weird thing among certain writers. And I wonder what they made of it when Trump named his last child Barron.

This lack of love from New York; this utter refusal to admit to his greatness from those who matter to him is why Nancy Pelosi rattles him. And why she is winning.

Nancy Patricia Pelosi was born a D’Alesandro, the youngest child and only daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., also known as ‘Big Tommy’, a former Congressman and a powerful mayor of Baltimore.

Born and raised and steeped in the political culture of a big city right on the edge of the Washington DC Beltway, Pelosi knows the temperature of the capitol and its culture.

A man like Trump needs constant feedback, total affirmation, and a choir in constant full-throated display about what and who he is. Big Tommy taught his little daughter Nancy that people can turn on a dime. The electorate can be fickle. Trump does not yet know this. Pelosi watches Trump tour the same handful of states, over and over, all for what the late great Cockney songwriter, lyricist and performer Anthony Newley referred to as “the roar of the greasepaint. The smell of the crowd”.

What Pelosi has done, up until now, is quite simply to ignore and, when she chooses, command him. It was she who told him when he would be permitted into the chamber of the House of Representatives in order to make his annual state of the union address.

It is she who is now setting the pace of whatever his fate will be at the hands of her caucus, which holds the majority. And even if he is impeached, he will not be convicted in the senate.

So Trump is, of course, trying to ramp up the action – the attention and focus – by stating that none of his administration, past or present, will appear before the various committees of the House. He wants the circus of impeachment. Trump is inherently Dirty Harry: “Go ahead. Make my day.”

Remember, NBC created The Apprentice for him. It was he who yelled “You’re fired!” to the world. He was the centre. God.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman from New York, and her wing of the party are demanding Pelosi move now, and the day that she does may not be far off. But Pelosi wants everyone to wait. To let Trump hear the deafening silence of the Democratic Party in congress going about their business. No focus on him. This is why not having a demonstration against Trump during his visit to Britain next week would blindside him. To arrive in London to the sound of crickets would make a man like Trump even more unsure of his ground.

Tumbleweed blowing down the streets of one of the most famous capitals in the world would add further uncertainty to the increasingly rocky world of the mook from Queens.

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