Wax it means wax it: Madame Tussauds sets to work on Theresa May

London destination states it remains in very first phases of four-month procedure of developing figure of UK prime minister

Her automated mottos and stilted election project might have made her the label Maybot, however a much more lifeless version of the prime minister will be revealed.

Madame Tussauds has actually revealed the commission of a wax figure of Theresa May that is to be positioned outside the Downing Street set at the London tourist attraction, signing up with political heavyweights such as Donald Trump and Angela Merkel.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt="Real"of phony? the completing touches are made to a waxwork of donald trump at madame tussauds in london."src=
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/99e62baac7dee6671b5ca92928cd2311a8100f2d/0_134_3500_2101/master/3500.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e0d7ef34d17862a8537fe855f1f3267e”/&gt; Real of phony? The complements are made to a waxwork of Donald Trump at Madame Tussauds in London. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

Released images reveal the very first phases of the procedure of producing the May figure, where the head is made in clay prior to the wax mould is formed.

Since the questionable election outcome, the extremely gifted group at Madame Tussauds London have actually been working relentlessly to develop a spectacular similarity of the brand-new PM, the tourist attraction stated. These main clay head shots produced by primary carver Stephen Mansfield demonstrate how they have actually completely recorded the similarity of the most effective female in British politics.

The completed figure will be revealed later on this year.

The procedure of producing a wax figure usually takes around 3 to 4 months, with a group of carvers investing about 170 hours moulding, prior to hair insertors and colourists include the ending up touches.

The selected clothing and shoe choice stays a firmly secured trick, however the option will be a specific reproduction of among Mays extensive and heading getting collection, the destination stated.

Edward Fuller, basic supervisor of Madame Tussauds London, included: Following the current basic election, we anticipate hearing the agreement of thegreat British public as we expose the very first phases of Theresa Mays wax figure in development.

While the prime ministers Brexit method might be uncertain, we can be sure that her finished figure will bear a striking similarity to the female herself when it releases later on this year.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/10/wax-madame-tussauds-work-theresa-may-figure-prime-minister

Unlearning the myth of American innocence

The long read: When she was 30, Suzy Hansen left the US for Istanbul and began to realise that Americans will never understand their own country until they see it as the rest of the world does

My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.

When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. In Turkey, the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.

For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for ones own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.

Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we dont become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still dont know myself.


I grew up in Wall, a town located by the Jersey Shore, two hours drive from New York. Much of it was a landscape of concrete and parking lots, plastic signs and Dunkin Donuts. There was no centre, no Main Street, as there was in most of the pleasant beach towns nearby, no tiny old movie theatre or architecture suggesting some sort of history or memory.

Most of my friends parents were teachers, nurses, cops or electricians, except for the rare father who worked in the City, and a handful of Italian families who did less legal things. My parents were descendants of working-class Danish, Italian and Irish immigrants who had little memory of their European origins, and my extended family ran an inexpensive public golf course, where I worked as a hot-dog girl in the summers. The politics I heard about as a kid had to do with taxes and immigrants, and not much else. Bill Clinton was not popular in my house. (In 2016, most of Wall voted Trump.)

We were all patriotic, but I cant even conceive of what else we could have been, because our entire experience was domestic, interior, American. We went to church on Sundays, until church time was usurped by soccer games. I dont remember a strong sense of civic engagement. Instead I had the feeling that people could take things from you if you didnt stay vigilant. Our goals remained local: homecoming queen, state champs, a scholarship to Trenton State, barbecues in the backyard. The lone Asian kid in our class studied hard and went to Berkeley; the Indian went to Yale. Black people never came to Wall. The world was white, Christian; the world was us.

We did not study world maps, because international geography, as a subject, had been phased out of many state curriculums long before. There was no sense of the US being one country on a planet of many countries. Even the Soviet Union seemed something more like the Death Star flying overhead, ready to laser us to smithereens than a country with people in it.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk empire a variety shop in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Photo: Michael S Williamson/The Washington Post

I have TV memories of world events. Even in my mind, they appear on a screen: Oliver North testifying in the Iran-Contra hearings; the scarred, evil-seeming face of Panamas dictator Manuel Noriega; the movie-like footage, all flashes of light, of the bombing of Baghdad during the first Gulf war. Mostly what I remember of that war in Iraq was singing God Bless the USA on the school bus I was 13 wearing little yellow ribbons and becoming teary-eyed as I remembered the video of the song I had seen on MTV.

And Im proud to be an American

Where at least I know Im free

That at least is funny. We were free at the very least we were that. Everyone else was a chump, because they didnt even have that obvious thing. Whatever it meant, it was the thing that we had, and no one else did. It was our God-given gift, our superpower.

By the time I got to high school, I knew that communism had gone away, but never learned what communism had actually been (bad was enough). Religion, politics, race they washed over me like troubled things that obviously meant something to someone somewhere, but that had no relationship to me, to Wall, to America. I certainly had no idea that most people in the world felt those connections deeply. History Americas history, the worlds history would slip in and out of my consciousness with no resonance whatsoever.

Racism, antisemitism and prejudice, however those things, on some unconscious level, I must have known. They were expressed in the fear of Asbury Park, which was black; in the resentment of the towns of Marlboro and Deal, which were known as Jewish; in the way Hispanics seemed exotic. Much of the Jersey Shore was segregated as if it were still the 1950s, and so prejudice was expressed through fear of anything outside Wall, anything outside the tiny white world in which we lived. If there was something that saved us from being outwardly racist, it was that in small towns such as Wall, especially for girls, it was important to be nice, or good this pressure tempered tendencies toward overt cruelty when we were young.

I was lucky that I had a mother who nourished my early-onset book addiction, an older brother with mysteriously acquired progressive politics, and a father who spent his evenings studying obscure golf antiques, lost in the pleasures of the past. In these days of the 1%, I am nostalgic for Walls middle-class modesty and its sea-salt Jersey Shore air. But as a teenager, I knew that the only thing that could rescue me from the Wall of fear was a good college.


I ended up at the University of Pennsylvania. The lack of interest in the wider world that I had known in Wall found another expression there, although at Penn the children were wealthy, highly educated and apolitical. During orientation, the business school students were told that they were the smartest people in the country, or so I had heard. (Donald Trump Jr was there then, too.) In the late 1990s, everyone at Penn wanted to be an investment banker, and many would go on to help bring down the world economy a decade later. But they were more educated than I was; in American literature class, they had even heard of William Faulkner.

TV
TV memories Lt Col Oliver North is sworn in before Congress for the Iran-Contra hearings, July 1987. Photograph: Lana Harris/AP

When my best friend from Wall revealed one night that she hadnt heard of John McEnroe or Jerry Garcia, some boys on the dormitory hall called us ignorant, and white trash, and chastised us for not reading magazines. We were hurt, and surprised; white trash was something we said about other people at the Jersey Shore. My boyfriend from Wall accused me of going to Penn solely to find a boyfriend who drove a Ferrari, and the boys at Penn made fun of the Camaros we drove in high school. Class in America was not something we understood in any structural or intellectual way; class was a constellation of a million little materialistic cultural signifiers, and the insult, loss or acquisition of any of them could transform ones future entirely.

In the end, I chose to pursue the new life Penn offered me. The kids I met had parents who were doctors or academics; many of them had already even been to Europe! Penn, for all its superficiality, felt one step closer to a larger world.

Still, I cannot remember any of us being conscious of foreign events during my four years of college. There were wars in Eritrea, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Kashmir. US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. Panama, Nicaragua (I couldnt keep Latin American countries straight), Osama bin Laden, Clinton bombing Iraq nope.

I knew Saddam Hussein, which had the same evil resonance as communism. I remember the movie Wag the Dog, a satire in which American politicians start a fake war with foreign terrorists to distract the electorate during a domestic scandal which at the time was what many accused Clinton of doing when he ordered a missile strike on Afghanistan during the Monica Lewinsky affair. I never thought about Afghanistan. What country was in Wag the Dog? Albania. There was a typical American callousness in our reaction to the country they chose for the movie, an indifference that said, Some bumblefuck country, it doesnt matter which one they choose.

I was a child of the 90s, the decade when, according to Americas foremost intellectuals, history had ended, the US was triumphant, the cold war won by a landslide. The historian David Schmitz has written that, by that time, the idea that America won because of its values and steadfast adherence to the promotion of liberalism and democracy was dominating op-ed pages, popular magazines and the bestseller lists. These ideas were the ambient noise, the elevator music of my most formative years.

But for me there was also an intervention a chance experience in the basement of Penns library. I came across a line in a book in which a historian argued that, long ago, during the slavery era, black people and white people had defined their identities in opposition to each other. The revelation to me was not that black people had conceived of their identities in response to ours, but that our white identities had been composed in conscious objection to theirs. Id had no idea that we had ever had to define our identities at all, because to me, white Americans were born fully formed, completely detached from any sort of complicated past. Even now, I can remember that shiver of recognition that only comes when you learn something that expands, just a tiny bit, your sense of reality. What made me angry was that this revelation was something about who I was. How much more did I not know about myself?

It was because of this text that I picked up the books of James Baldwin, who gave me the sense of meeting someone who knew me better, and with a far more sophisticated critical arsenal than I had myself. There was this line:

But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

And this one:

All of the western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the west has no moral authority.

And this one:

White Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any colour, to be found in the world today.

I know why this came as a shock to me then, at the age of 22, and it wasnt necessarily because he said I was sick, though that was part of it. It was because he kept calling me that thing: white American. In my reaction I justified his accusation. I knew I was white, and I knew I was American, but it was not what I understood to be my identity. For me, self-definition was about gender, personality, religion, education, dreams. I only thought about finding myself, becoming myself, discovering myself and this, I hadnt known, was the most white American thing of all.

I still did not think about my place in the larger world, or that perhaps an entire history the history of white Americans had something to do with who I was. My lack of consciousness allowed me to believe I was innocent, or that white American was not an identity like Muslim or Turk.

White
White Americans are probably the most dangerous people in the world today author James Baldwin in New York, 1963. Photograph: Dave Pickoff/AP

Of this indifference, Baldwin wrote: White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded.

Young white Americans of course go through pain, insecurity and heartache. But it is very, very rare that young white Americans come across someone who tells them in harsh, unforgiving terms that they might be merely the easy winners of an ugly game, and indeed that because of their ignorance and misused power, they might be the losers within a greater moral universe.


In 2007, after I had worked for six years as a journalist in New York, I won a writing fellowship that would send me to Turkey for two years. I had applied for it on a whim. No part of me expected to win the thing. Even as my friends wished me congratulations, I detected a look of concern on their faces, as if I was crazy to leave all this, as if 29 was a little too late to be finding myself. I had never even been to Turkey before.

In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours explaining Turkeys international relevance to my bored loved ones, no doubt deploying the cliche that Istanbul was the bridge between east and west. I told everyone that I chose Turkey because I wanted to learn about the Islamic world. The secret reason I wanted to go was that Baldwin had lived in Istanbul in the 1960s, on and off, for almost a decade. I had seen a documentary about Baldwin that said he felt more comfortable as a black, gay man in Istanbul than in Paris or New York.

When I heard that, it made so little sense to me, sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, that a space opened in the universe. I couldnt believe that New York could be more illiberal than a place such as Turkey, because I couldnt conceive of how prejudiced New York and Paris had been in that era; and because I thought that as you went east, life degraded into the past, the opposite of progress. The idea of Baldwin in Turkey somehow placed Americas race problem, and America itself, in a mysterious and tantalising international context. I took a chance that Istanbul might be the place where the secret workings of history would be revealed.

In Turkey and elsewhere, in fact, I would feel an almost physical sensation of intellectual and emotional discomfort, while trying to grasp a reality of which I had no historical or cultural understanding. I would go, as a journalist, to write a story about Turkey or Greece or Egypt or Afghanistan, and inevitably someone would tell me some part of our shared history theirs with America of which I knew nothing. If I didnt know this history, then what kind of story did I plan to tell?

City
City watch US army troops stand guard at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, in August 2007. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

My learning process abroad was threefold: I was learning about foreign countries; I was learning about Americas role in the world; and I was also slowly understanding my own psychology, temperament and prejudices. No matter how well I knew the predatory aspects of capitalism, I still perceived Turkeys and Greeces economic advances as progress, a kind of maturation. No matter how deeply I understood the USs manipulation of Egypt for its own foreign-policy aims, I had never considered and could not grasp how American policies really affected the lives of individual Egyptians, beyond engendering resentment and anti-Americanism. No matter how much I believed that no American was well-equipped for nation-building, I thought I could see good intentions on the part of the Americans in Afghanistan. I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilisation, and everyone else was trying to catch up.

American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others. How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.


In my first few months in Istanbul, I lived a formless kind of existence, days dissolving into the nights. I had no office to go to, no job to keep, and I was 30 years old, an age at which people either choose to grow up or remain stuck in the exploratory, idle phase of late-late youth. Starting all over again in a foreign country making friends, learning a new language, trying to find your way through a city meant almost certainly choosing the latter. I spent many nights out until the wee hours such as the evening I drank beer with a young Turkish man named Emre, who had attended college with a friend of mine from the US.

A friend had told me that Emre was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met. As the evening passed, I was gaining a lot from his analysis of Turkish politics, especially when I asked him whether he voted for Erdoans Justice and Development party (AKP), and he spat back, outraged, Did you vote for George W Bush? Until that point I had not realised the two might be equivalent.

Then, three beers in, Emre mentioned that the US had planned the September 11 attacks. I had heard this before. Conspiracy theories were common in Turkey; for example, when the military claimed that the PKK, the Kurdish militant group, had attacked a police station, some Turks believed the military itself had done it; they believed it even in cases where Turkish civilians had died. In other words, the idea was that rightwing forces, such as the military, bombed neutral targets, or even rightwing targets, so they could then blame it on the leftwing groups, such as the PKK. To Turks, bombing ones own country seemed like a real possibility.

Come on, you dont believe that, I said.

Why not? he snapped. I do.

But its a conspiracy theory.

He laughed. Americans always dismiss these things as conspiracy theories. Its the rest of the world who have had to deal with your conspiracies.

I ignored him. I guess I have faith in American journalism, I said. Someone else would have figured this out if it were true.

He smiled. Im sorry, theres no way they didnt have something to do with it. And now this war? he said, referring to the war in Iraq. Its impossible that the United States couldnt stop such a thing, and impossible that the Muslims could pull it off.

Some weeks later, a bomb went off in the Istanbul neighborhood of Gngren. A second bomb exploded out of a garbage bin nearby after 10pm, killing 17 people and injuring 150. No one knew who did it. All that week, Turks debated: was it al-Qaida? The PKK? The DHKP/C, a radical leftist group? Or maybe: the deep state?

The deep state a system of mafia-like paramilitary organisations operating outside of the law, sometimes at the behest of the official military was a whole other story. Turks explained that the deep state had been formed during the cold war as a way of countering communism, and then mutated into a force for destroying all threats to the Turkish state. The power that some Turks attributed to this entity sometimes strained credulity. But the point was that Turks had been living for years with the idea that some secret force controlled the fate of their nation.

In fact, elements of the deep state were rumoured to have had ties to the CIA during the cold war, and though that too smacked of a conspiracy theory, this was the reality that Turkish people lived in. The sheer number of international interventions the US launched in those decades is astonishing, especially those during years when American power was considered comparatively innocent. There were the successful assassinations: Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1961; General Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, also in 1961; Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam, in 1963. There were the unsuccessful assassinations: Castro, Castro, and Castro. There were the much hoped-for assassinations: Nasser, Nasser, Nasser. And, of course, US-sponsored, -supported or -staged regime changes: Iran, Guatemala, Iraq, Congo, Syria, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina. The Americans trained or supported secret police forces everywhere from Cambodia to Colombia, the Philippines to Peru, Iran to Vietnam. Many Turks believed that the US at least encouraged the 1971 and 1980 military coups in Turkey, though I could find little about these events in any conventional histories anywhere.

But what I could see was that the effects of such meddling were comparable to those of September 11 just as huge, life-changing and disruptive to the country and to peoples lives. Perhaps Emre did not believe that September 11 was a straightforward affair of evidence and proof because his experience his reality taught him that very rarely were any of these surreally monumental events easily explainable. I did not think Emres theory about the attacks was plausible. But I began to wonder whether there was much difference between a foreigners paranoia that the Americans planned September 11 and the Americans paranoia that the whole world should pay for September 11 with an endless global war on terror.


The next time a Turktold me she believed the US had bombed itself on September 11 (I heard this with some regularity; this time it was from a young student at Istanbuls Boazii University), I repeated my claim about believing in the integrity of American journalism. She replied, a bit sheepishly, Well, right, we cant trust our journalism. We cant take that for granted.

The words take that for granted gave me pause. Having lived in Turkey for more than a year, witnessing how nationalistic propaganda had inspired peoples views of the world and of themselves, I wondered from where the belief in our objectivity and rigour in journalism came. Why would Americans be objective and everyone else subjective?

I thought that because Turkey had poorly functioning institutions they didnt have a reliable justice system, as compared to an American system I believed to be functional it often felt as if there was no truth. Turks were always sceptical of official histories, and blithely dismissive of the governments line. But was it rather that the Turks, with their beautiful scepticism, were actually just less nationalistic than me?

American exceptionalism had declared my country unique in the world, the one truly free and modern country, and instead of ever considering that that exceptionalism was no different from any other countrys nationalistic propaganda, I had internalised this belief. Wasnt that indeed what successful propaganda was supposed to do? I had not questioned the institution of American journalism outside of the standards it set for itself which, after all, was the only way I would discern its flaws and prejudices; instead, I accepted those standards as the best standards any country could possibly have.

Red
Red state Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoan attends a rally following a failed coup attempt last year. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

By the end of my first year abroad, I read US newspapers differently. I could see how alienating they were to foreigners, the way articles spoke always from a position of American power, treating foreign countries as if they were Americas misbehaving children. I listened to my compatriots with critical ears: the way our discussion of foreign policy had become infused since September 11 with these officious, official words, bureaucratic corporate military language: collateral damage, imminent threat, freedom, freedom, freedom.

Even so, I was conscious that if I had long ago succumbed to the pathology of American nationalism, I wouldnt know it even if I understood the history of injustice in America, even if I was furious about the invasion of Iraq. I was a white American. I still had this fundamental faith in my country in a way that suddenly, in comparison to the Turks, made me feel immature and naive.

I came to notice that a community of activists and intellectuals in Turkey the liberal ones were indeed questioning what Turkishness meant in new ways. Many of them had been brainwashed in their schools about their own history; about Atatrk, Turkeys first president; about the supposed evil of the Armenians and the Kurds and the Arabs; about the fragility of their borders and the rapaciousness of all outsiders; and about the historic and eternal goodness of the Turkish republic.

It is different in the United States, I once said, not entirely realising what I was saying until the words came out. I had never been called upon to explain this. We are told it is the greatest country on earth. The thing is, we will never reconsider that narrative the way you are doing just now, because to us, that isnt propaganda, that is truth. And to us, that isnt nationalism, its patriotism. And the thing is, we will never question any of it because at the same time, all we are being told is how free-thinking we are, that we are free. So we dont know there is anything wrong in believing our country is the greatest on earth. The whole thing sort of convinces you that a collective consciousness in the world came to that very conclusion.

Wow, a friend once replied. How strange. That is a very quiet kind of fascism, isnt it?

It was a quiet kind of fascism that would mean I would always see Turkey as beneath the country I came from, and also that would mean I believed my uniquely benevolent country to have uniquely benevolent intentions towards the peoples of the world.

During that night of conspiracy theories, Emre had alleged, as foreigners often did, that I was a spy. The information that I was collecting as a journalist, Emre said, was really being used for something else. As an American emissary in the wider world, writing about foreigners, governments, economies partaking in some larger system and scheme of things, I was an agent somehow. Emre lived in the American world as a foreigner, as someone less powerful, as someone for whom one newspaper article could mean war, or one misplaced opinion could mean an intervention by the International Monetary Fund. My attitude, my prejudice, my lack of generosity could be entirely false, inaccurate or damaging, but would be taken for truth by the newspapers and magazines I wrote for, thus shaping perceptions of Turkey for ever.

Years later, an American journalist told me he loved working for a major newspaper because the White House read it, because he could influence policy. Emre had told me how likely it was I would screw this up. He was saying to me: first, spy, do no harm.

Main photograph: Burak Kara/Getty Images for the Guardian

Adapted from Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen, which will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on 15 August

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/08/unlearning-the-myth-of-american-innocence

Bernard MacLaverty: The story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one

Acclaimed Northern Irish author Bernard MacLaverty has actually taken 16 years to complete his newest book. A great deal of things simply obstructed, he states

I n his coat recommendation for Bernard MacLavertys Midwinter Break, the renowned American author Richard Ford explains the brand-new book as much-anticipated. It is a respectful method of stating that MacLavertys 5th book has actually been taken its time in coming. Sixteen years, to be exact, because his last, The Anatomy School, and longer still if you return to the magnificence days of the 1980s and 1990s when this Belfast-born however Glasgow-based author was all over, winning acclaims and rewards in equivalent step for his narrative collections (A Time to Dance, Walking the Dog and The Great Profundo), his books Cal and Lamb, both which he adjusted as well-known movies starring respectively Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson, his tv series and radio plays, and his Booker-shortlisted Grace Notes in 1997.

A case of authors obstruct? More life obstructing of art, MacLaverty responds, set down nervously on the edge of his armchair in a main London hotel as we talk. I have a journal note from 2001, when Madeline [his spouse] and I went to Amsterdam for a break in January. I presume I was beginning to believe about the task from there, however there were so lots of things that came along to get in the method.

Among the interruptions he notes and this simple and affable 74-year-old has a timely sheet to hand were: an un-turn-downable invite from Scottish Opera to compose a libretto; 2 years as a symphonic music DJ on Radio Scotland; a five-year stint on a film script based upon Robin Jenkinss fantastic 1950s unique, The Cone Gatherers, which lastly concerned nought when the manufacturer behind the task passed away; a collection of narratives; and Bye-Child, a Bafta-nominated brief movie of a poem by his buddy Seamus Heaney, which he directed in 2003.

And, he includes, Ive likewise had 8 grandchildren because time. Or we have. His 4 developed kids, 2 kids, 2 ladies, all reside in the exact same postal code as he does, so he has his hands complete. Its a brand-new twist on Cyril Connollys line about the pram in the hall being the opponent of excellent art.

MacLaverty would be the last one to take himself so seriously, however his short run through those 16 lost years exposes him as a guy of lots of skills to which must be likewise included mentor stints at British, American and european universities. With a lot he readies at, exactly what would he pick if he had only time left for another task? Id paint something excellent, he addresses without a time out.

No tip of any autumnal constricting of horizons here, however Midwinter Break is, by contrast, a tale of peaceful dissatisfaction, about long-married Gerry Gilmore, a retired designer, and his better half Stella, as they avoid on a mini-break. Both are at chances with their lot and with each other. He is pulling away into beverage, she into religious beliefs.

She is believing, MacLaverty states, on a various plain. This is not a story about old individuals. Its the story of 2 youths who got old and they have actually fallen out of action.

A two-hander, it covers the exact same broad area as 45 Years, the 2015 Tom Courtenay/Charlotte Rampling movie, based upon a David Constantine narrative. When it comes to Midwinter Break, however, the previous injury that haunts the couple is bound up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which they relocated to Scotland to leave.

The parallels with MacLavertys life appear. In 1974, he, too, made the very same refugee journey with his young household. The Troubles were bloody and dreadful, he remembers, individuals and bombs being eliminated on their doorsteps.

His homeland, however, has actually continued to loom big in the books he has actually released in exile. You compose from exactly what you understand, and among the important things you understand is that you are not informing your very own story, however little bits of it are your very own story. Its like tessellation of a mosaic. You take a bit that took place to you and you put it next to a bit that you comprise.

It needs a fragile touch, he stresses, and can be a lengthy procedure. We are edging back around to that long area in between books now he is more going to resolve exactly what has actually been keeping me back. Whatever background, or perhaps tone his books might share, he discusses, the story you have actually simply completed is of little assistance to composing the next one. He estimates Thomas Mann in his defence. Didnt he state, an author is somebody for whom composing is harder than it is for other individuals?

There was at least one incorrect start with Midwinter Break, he confesses, with an opening area, embeded in the now run-down modernist Catholic academy at Cardross in Argyll and Bute, that needed to be ditched.

Is he a perfectionist? MacLaverty offers a warm, intimate laugh. Im an author. Theyre the exact same thing.

Religion is one function of his books. He long back turned down the Catholicism of his youth, it continues to sustain his creativity. I stop to think in one element of it, however I continue to think in the features.

Another trademark is the spareness of his writing, not a squandered word or information in between the covers of exactly what ended up being as an outcome little work of arts. Its not like assembling Lego, he concurs. You need to be really mindful that you are weighing the words. As soon as utilized, #peeee

The expression makes him keep in mind something his mom. Shed discovered a wee dead bird. She chose it up and she stated, youd have actually understood by the weight of it that it was dead. He laughes. And its the exact same with a story. You understand whether you can achieve it in 6 pages [as a narrative] or whether it will take 200. And this one he indicates the copy of Midwinter Break on the table in between us is large product. It has to do with love and life and death and religious beliefs and exactly what matters.

And then, naturally, theres his other repeating style, Ireland. All the books nod to exactly what is taking place to Ireland, he concurs. Lamb [1980] was at the worst of the Troubles. Cal [1983] Had a downbeat ending, however then there were the things and ceasefires started to repair. Grace Notes had a positive middle, and a downbeat end, or 2 endings. I was hedging my bets. And this one well, I mustnt state more about the ending, however Im slightly positive about Ireland. I do not believe they are going to return to slaying each other.

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty will be released by Jonathan Cape on 3 August (14.99). To purchase a copy for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 03303336846. Free UK p &p over 10, online orders just. Phone orders minutes p &p of 1.99

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/31/bernard-maclaverty-interview-new-novel-midwinter-break

After Trump and Brexit, is this the end for the Anglo Saxon west? | Timothy Garton Ash

Those who invite the possibility of decrease in Britain and the United States need to beware exactly what they want, argues Guardian writer Timothy Garton Ash

Y ou should be from England, states the store assistant at the CVS pharmacy in Menlo Park, California. When I point out Donald Trump , he states: Well, do not get me begun on how things are going on your side of the Atlantic. Your Mrs May there in Downing Street is being [curse erased] by the bureaucrats in Brussels

I can just concur. Having actually leapt from the Brexit fry pan into the Trump fire, I discover myself comparing the 2 and questioning which is even worse. The transatlantic distinction is, in the very first location, in between Britains insanity of the important things and Americas insanity of the male. Theresa May might be wood, stiff and from her depth, however compared with Trump she appears like Mother Teresa.

It is the important things itself, Brexit, which is an act of cumulative insanity and nationwide self-harm. Every death week brings brand-new proof of simply how destructive it will be to nearly every location of nationwide life, and many of all to the left-behind working-class Brexit citizens. They will be the ones worst hit; by exactly what is currently a decrease in genuine revenues.

Trump is among the couple of popular immigrants to have actually supported Brexit, now he is holding hands with French president Emmanuel Macron instead of British prime minister May, even he has actually gone rather peaceful on Brexits anticipated splendors. That does not suggest he has actually ended up being more accountable or restrained on other topic. The male we saw in the project was a conceited, misogynistic, unrestrained, irregular bully. In his very first 6 months as president he has actually lived down to all those epithets.

As his brand-new director of interactions, Anthony Scaramucci, just recently observed, you shouldnt anticipate a 71-year-old male to alter. He still can not keep his Twitter zipper closed. His Twitter project versus the popular MSNBC tv speaker Mika Brzezinski explained her as low IQ Crazy Mika and stated she pertained to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Years Eve, and demanded joining me. She was bleeding severely from a new look. I stated no! That triggered the neoconservative analyst Bill Kristol into a significant counter-tweet : Dear @realDonaldTrump, You are a pig. Regards, Bill Kristol. (I like Sincerely.)

The records of Trumps current interview with the stopping working New York Times exposes the egocentric, shallow stream-of-consciousness condition of his mind: Leopold Bloom satisfies the National Enquirer. Asked if he will take a trip to Britain he states just, Ah, theyve asked me, then goes back to informing stories about his journey to Paris. Much for the post-Brexit unique relationship. Bouncing off a reference of going to Napoleons burial place, he produces my preferred line in the entire interview: Well, Napoleon ended up a bit bad .

Most just recently, he has actually been knocking on Twitter his own chief law officer, Jeff Sessions, nearly as if among his earliest popular fans were now a Clinton. Every day one awakens and believes, How in the world can this trashy mountebank be president of the United States? It is the character of the male which is the essential issue here, more than his ideology and policies, to the level that a person can discover any coherence in them. Surreally, there is now a major conversation about whether he is entitled to pardon himself.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt="Donald"surpass in the oval workplace of
the white home in washington. trump is most likely to s. “src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/87857a02b4343b44d84eb8229d1d763c2dcb9d80/210_0_2344_1407/master/2344.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=9a1306d855923eac73ef16590795234a”/&gt; Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump is most likely to s. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Be it the insanity of the male on one side of the Atlantic or the insanity of the important things on the other, a few of the signs are comparable as are a few of the causes. The level of spoken vitriolage is nearly unmatched. Both Washington and London, capitals typically understood for effective and fairly steady federal government, are now seeing a remarkable confusion.

Most senior positions in the state department, for instance, are still unfilled. Scaramucci simply successfully implicated Trumps chief of personnel of dripping. British cabinet ministers openly oppose each other. On the Thames as on the Potomac river, there are more leakages, gaffes and unexpected turnarounds than in any theatrical farce.

Small marvel the German chancellor states continental Europeans can not depend on their standard cross-Channel and transatlantic allies. Russia and China were chuckling all the method to the G20 conference in Hamburg, in advance of which China Daily had a front page stating that amidst issues about United States protectionism and Brexit, China and Germany are anticipated to lead the charge for globalisation and open market.

So is this completion of the west? Or a minimum of, of the Anglo-Saxon west? I initially heard the argument that the combination of Trump and Brexit marks a nonreligious decrease of the Anglo-Saxons from a previous Finnish prime minister, and have actually heard it from a number of other observers considering that.

The 19th century came from Britain, the 20th century (a minimum of post-1945) to the United States. The neoliberalism which worked out a sort of international ideological supremacy in between completion of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the monetary crisis of 2008 was a particular Anglo-Saxon item. It is itself the origin of the real, prevalent discontents which populists have actually made use of to acquire power in both Britain and the United States. The argument goes, not without some schadenfreude specifically in France.

But beware, chers amis, exactly what you want. You might imagine a post-Anglo-Saxon 21st-century gloriously lit up by the informed policies of Macron and Justin Trudeau. the Fortinbras who commands the phase after the self-destruction of the Anglo-Saxon Hamlet is more most likely to have the face of a Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdoan.

Anyway, this is a clear case of POI (early overdramatic analysis), informally called experts illness. Another future is still possible. Last summertime, when I asked a prominent American political researcher how he would respond to a Trump presidency, he stated it would be a really fascinating test of the American political system. We concurred that therefore far the constitutional checks and balances appeared to be working when we resumed the discussion on the Stanford University school last week. Courts have actually two times obstructed Trumps take a trip restriction.

It is unimaginable that the self-reliance of the judiciary might be existentially challenged here as it is presently being challenged in Poland. Equipped with the fantastic custom of the very first modification, the totally free press is doing precisely what the starting dads meant it to do. The balances and checks are weaker in regard of diplomacy, however a Republican-dominated Congress has actually simply passed legislation extending sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran and intentionally made harder for the president to raise them.

So long as Trump does not fight with North Korea, or some comparable recklessness, the United States might yet emerge from 4 years of an awful presidency with both its democracy and its worldwide credibility damaged, however not harmed beyond repair work. British democracy too is operating in its amusing old parliamentary method, producing a genuine opportunity that we Brits can recuperate in time from the insanity of the important things, to make either a really soft Brexit or as we need to an exit from Brexit. If those other nations have no issues of their own, and its not as. Yes, the Anglo-Saxons are down, mainly through their own severe recklessness, however its too quickly to count them out.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/28/trump-brexit-end-of-west

What if women ruled the world?

An end to abuse, a law against mansplaining, and reparations for two millennia of injustice as a new sci-fi art show imagines a female-led future, we ask comedians, writers, politicians and CEOs for their vision

Somethings not working at the moment

Bridget Christie, comedian

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are threatening to nuke each other. The UK has had four terror attacks in four months. David Cameron called the EU referendum, lost, resigned, said: Dum de dum de dum, then retreated to his 25,000 sheepskin-insulated manshed at the bottom of his garden to eat artisanal cheese. The man who sold me my bicycle refused to put the basket on it because he thought it was a girls job.

We dont know what the world would look like if women ruled it, but somethings not working at the moment. While we cant say for certain that women would make a better fist of it, or behave any better, what we do know is that when women are in leadership positions, or involved in decision-making, societies work better. There is less violence and instability and more peace.

If women were in charge, I doubt that eight men would have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the worlds population. Eight! Ive had more people on my trampoline at once. When a group of men whose combined wealth equals that of 3.6 billion people can comfortably frolic together on one trampoline, its time for a leadership change.

Women would never be the victim

Marina Abramovi, artist

If women ruled the world, they would stop being fragile, they would stop being dependent, they would never be the victim, they would never be abused. I want women to be warriors. When women are free and happy, they will know how to rule the world.

Reproductive sexual difference remains the villain of the piece

Rachel Holmes, biographer of Sylvia Pankhurst

Supremacy based on gender has never been an attractive idea and patriarchal dystopias are no longer in an imagined future, or long buried past, but part of our present. Patriarchy makes us equal in one way, though: men are as arrested in their development as women. Given the challenges of being in charge, youd think they would be more than happy to hand over the headache and see what difference having women in charge makes.

Tory women prime ministers make no difference, because a system that is fundamentally based on the principle of unequal power relationships cannot, by definition, make us equal. Promoting the F-word without challenging the C-word has never worked: it is not possible to achieve the aims of feminism within the capitalist system. Our feminist foremothers warned us of this. Where weve got to so far is largely based on a limited agenda of establishing so-called womens rights within stunted liberal democracies.

People take hope and even experience some freedom in successfully challenging the pantomime binaries of masculinity and femininity. But reproductive sexual difference remains the villain of the piece. If women are to rule the world and make a difference, we either need to overhaul the social and economic system of reproductive exploitation (on which the system was built), or take control of the re-engineering of human design that is already under way.

We should design a reparations scheme that reorganises parental and family responsibilities in such a way that men have the opportunity to pay women back for the last two millennia the incentive being the universally agreed cultural value that raising families brings joy. The first job of the woman in charge is to liberate the men.

Men kill more people than women

Shazia Mirza, comedian

Thered be less violence, wed get things done quicker and we would solve a lot of problems by chatting instead of bombing. We would think rationally. People think: Oh, women cant make decisions when its the time of the month and all that, but I think were very decisive. We dont waste any time and we would do things a lot cleaner and a lot quicker. There would be fewer people dying if women were in charge. Its a fact: men kill more people than women.

Historically, women in power out-men the men

Louise Doughty, novelist

Im not a fan of biological determinism, even when its working in womens favour so Im not sure I subscribe to the idea that women are innately caring and collegiate and men thrusting and ambitious. Ive lost track of the number of times Ive watched mothers coo over their daughters cuddling baby dolls, praise them for it, then declare that caring skills are instinctive for girls.

Historically, what weve seen is that when women achieve power in a mans world, they often out-men the men. Margaret Thatcher was famous for rarely promoting other women. She got off on being the only woman in the room and didnt want any competition. Nothing is more depressing than a successful woman who wants to score points for being the only one among the boys reinforcing, rather than challenging, their views of other women.

So if you really wanted to see whether there is a difference in the way women would rule the world, you would have to have either all-female rulers or a critical mass. But, ultimately, Im resistant to the idea of lumping us all together on the basis of gender: what about race, class, sexual orientation? Even men I like are fond of saying women this or women that as if we are all one amorphous mass. Im instinctively resistant to binaries. Hooray for ambiguity, nuance and complexity.

Women are taking their rightful place as equals

Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of Green party

Having women in power makes a real difference. As the number of woman MPs has increased in the Commons, weve seen major steps forward in tackling gender discrimination. Women leaders in business make a difference too: helping firms embrace modern ideas like flexible working and job sharing.

Green politics has a history of woman leaders, from the inspirational Petra Kelly in Germany, to Vandata Shiva. Im proud to be part of a movement thats had women at the top table. Of course, having female leaders isnt an end in itself. Its part of a broad movement that sees women taking their rightful place as equals at every level in society.

Unseen female executives mobilise other women

Sarah Sands, editor of Today programme Radio 4

It is often the unseen women, the executives, who have an opportunity to mobilise and encourage other women. Four inspirations from my own career: Clare Hollingworth, the woman who got the scoop of the century about the outbreak of the second world war. I met her when I was deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, and she assumed I was the editors secretary, which amused me. She was a woman of her time, a pioneer rather than a reformer. Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times reporter, was sisterly as well as brave. Genevieve Cooper was deputy editor of the Evening Standard when I joined. I was a 24-year-old single mother and my male boss asked me how I could guarantee that a baby would not interfere with my work. I was so fearful that, when my small son was in hospital, I commuted between his ward and work, inventing excuses to leave the office rather than admit that I had a seriously ill child. Genevieve rescued me. At the Guardian, the late Georgina Henry showed that you could have vision and authority without losing your humanity. She was a top-notch female boss.

Oppression will not cease to exist simply because a woman is in charge

June Eric-Udorie, editor of intersectional feminism anthology to be published by Virago UK and Penguin US in 2018

If you run in feminist circles, youre bound to have heard someone declare: Wouldnt the world just be better if more women were in charge? What runs through my mind when I hear this is: Which women? Are we talking about black women, disabled women, trans women? Are we thinking about the women who lie on the margins and the intersections of the feminist movement, or do we just expect them to continue to have little to no power?

The inevitable reality is that the women most likely to have power in a female-run world will be white, middle class, cis, able-bodied and heterosexual. Power structures and other forms of oppression will not cease to exist simply because a woman is in charge. History will remind us of the ways in which white women have exploited and benefited from the oppression of their non-white female counterparts. Taking a closer look at so called feminist victories such as the birth of the contraceptive pill or the suffrage movement will reveal pandemic racism, classism, and other forms of subjugation and oppression.

We need to do away with romanticising matriarchal power and dominance and instead question the ways we can change the problematic and dangerous power structures that operate within society today.

In the peace movement, women are not interested in power over others

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The peace movement is the place to find powerful women. But theyre not interested in power over others. Instead, they are empowering, inspiring by example, breaking down barriers to thinking, and taking action. Theyre uncompromising, but in a good way. My role models are Pat Arrowsmith, organiser of the first Aldermaston March, who was imprisoned many times for anti-nuclear actions; and Helen John, one of the Greenham Women and an activist at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. The earth shakes when such women move into action!

from
We dont waste time from left, Shazia Mirza, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Marjane Satrapi, Harriet Harman, Jane Goodall and Sarah Sands.

I dont think anything would change

Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis

I dont think anything would change if women had the power. For me, this comes from the idea that men and women are very alike and very equal. I dont think the notion of empathy or being nice depends ongender at all, because if you consider women to be so much nicer, in a way thats to say theyre like nice little animals that cant get angry, and that anger is something for men.

I dont think women write differently from men, or make movies differently. When it comes to physical effort, there is a difference. But when it comes to intellect, people with the same experiences and same sensitivities end up being the same kind of people, regardless of gender.

I am impressed by young womens energy and competence

Penelope Lively, Booker-winning novelist

At 84, I want to celebrate a new generation of women. I have three granddaughters in their 20s, so I meet up with and hear about plenty of young women in that age group. I am constantly impressed by, and rejoice in, their energy and competence. They work their socks off, and assume working life will reward them, but they are flexible and adaptable.

Their assumptions about the role of women, about what women can expect, are very different from those of my generation, from back in the 1950s. We would have been startled to look ahead and see Theresa May and Angela Merkel. The outlook and the performance of todays twentysomething women is heartwarming.

I can think of some vicious, cruel women who have been in power

Dr Jane Goodall, primatologist

I thought about this and the answer is I dont know. It depends which female qualities were talking about, because sometimes one finds that the women who become successful are the ones who develop male-type characteristics. If you could pick women with more compassionate characteristics, then there are men with those characteristics too.

I know its tempting to say that it would be better if more women were doing this and more women were doing that. But I believe power corrupts absolutely. We can think of some extraordinarily vicious, brutal and cruel women who have been in great powerful positions. To me, it just wouldnt make much difference.

All my life experience tells me women make a difference

Frances OGrady, general secretary, Trades Union Congress

Unlike the popular old song, I cant promise that, if women ruled the world, every day would be like the first day of spring. From Margaret Thatcher to Marine Le Pen, womens leadership is no guarantee of kindness or compassion. More women in the boardroom has to be right but, with zero-hours contracts on the up and more real wage cuts in the pipeline, theres scant evidence of benefits trickling down to the shop floor.

And yet. All my life experience tells me that women do make a difference. In the trade union movement, women leaders have exposed the scandal of sexual harassment, campaigned for equal pay, and made caring responsibilities a workplace bargaining issue. As a result, the lives of millions of women and men have changed for the better.

And I like working with other women. Being the only woman in a meeting room full of men, however lovely they are, can feel lonely. Whereas watching other women leaders in action inspires, encourages and strengthens me. As a wise woman once told me, the problem is that women tend to underestimate their abilities whereas too many men overestimate theirs. A false sense of superiority based on gender, race or class is no way to run a cornershop, let alone the country.

There will be no sexual assault, no catcalling, no mansplaining

Sofie Hagen, comedian

First of all, free tampons, legal abortion everywhere, and actual jail sentences given to 100% of rapists instead of the 5% we see today. And hopefully, with the right head-bitch in charge, there would be some kind of limit to how much a man was allowed to interrupt and mansplain.

I imagine we would call it the Law of Sschhh: if a woman says sschhh to a man, he is bound by law to go home and sit down and shut up. Soon, there will be no sexual assault, no catcalling, no mansplaining, no #notallmen.

We would of course have a list of Dudes Who Are All Right, who would get to suggest laws every once in awhile. Justin Trudeau, Jeremy Corbyn, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sadiq Khan, Channing Tatum. But theyd have to work topless. Its just the law.

Women tend to make more holistic decisions

Maria Balshaw, director of Tate

Women ask questions from a different perspective, which may be because weve been mothers, daughters or sisters. Ive never been a separatist. Im an inclusive feminist, but there is really interesting research that shows women tend to make more holistic decisions and I think thats because the burden of feeding and raising children and looking after the domestic environment falls mostly to them.

Women running the world is neither a utopian nor a dystopian scenario. It really depends on the political thinking that is brought to bear. As women age, our power changes very differently to the way male power changes. As the female leader of a national art museum, I am still highly unusual globally.

It would change the presumption theres someone at home to sort out all the problems

Athene Donald, physicist

Women ruling the world might change the structure of work because, currently, certainly in the developed world, it is the presumption that there is someone back at home to sort out all the problems so its OK to have MPs debating at midnight, and people being sent on to far-flung parts of the world. Our way of working might change if people realised there isnt necessarily someone at home to pick up the pieces.

Its about making men and women equally able to succeed

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money

I dont think I would like a world ruled by women, if Im honest, any more than I would like a world ruled by men. For me, it is about equality. I would much prefer a world that is properly balanced, in terms of the contributions men and women make to society. Its not about making women the leaders its about making men and women equally able to succeed as leaders. Only 40% of senior roles in financial services are held by women. We definitely need to get closer to 50% to get financial services to a place where theyre going to thrive in a balanced way.

Women ensure sustainability for future generations

Dr Alaa Murabit, UN High-Level Commissioner

I believe that women make more pragmatic decisions and are forward-thinking. They ensure sustainability for future generations. Women at the table will invest heavily in better education, affordable healthcare and access to clean water. Womens empowerment will produce collateral benefits: LGBTQ rights, indigenous peoples rights, childrens rights, religious freedom. Family-friendly policies will be formulated to enable both parents to enjoy the privileges of parenting. Unfair stereotypes and standards imposed upon men to ensure they fit into an iron scaffold of masculinity will be lifted.

I hope to see a world with greater peace and diplomacy, collaboration and cooperation. Women are less likely engage in wars or violence as the protection of families and communities is central to their decision-making. They propel their countries and the world towards socioeconomic success. And they work to promote social justice and inclusion, climate change management and reduced hunger, poverty and inequality.

There are still so many meetings where women are not even in the room

Harriet Harman MP

Its not about leaders and role models. Its about sisterhood and working together. If we only had women MPs, right now Labour would be in government with a huge majority because weve got 119 and the Tories have only got 67. Thats a good reason to have only women MPs.

But what you really want is a balanced team of women and men. There are still so many meetings where women are not even in the room. Although Donald Trump feels like a threat to turn the clock back, I think there is an irresistible force for further change all around the world.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jul/05/what-if-women-ruled-the-world

How China changed Hong Kong: views from the city

As the 20th anniversary of the handover from the UK to China is marked, the Guardian talks to residents and officials about the shifts since 1997

Hong Kong is preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the territory from the UK to China. The moment will bring thousands on to the streets some to celebrate and others to protest. Here the Guardian asks six Hong Kong residents about their memories of 1997 and their thoughts on the citys future.

Yau Wai-ching, disqualified lawmaker

Hong Kong people have been forced to pay for a deceit.

Yau
Yau Wai-ching in Hong Kongs Sheung Wan district. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

At midnight on 30 June 1997, I remember a heavy rain and my eyes nearly closing, almost falling asleep. But I didnt. I was forced to concentrate on my parents old television screen, watching two flags: one was the flag of United Kingdom, the other was Chinas. I tried to ask my mom about what was happening on that screen, but I could not understand, except for the one phrase that I learned that evening: handover.

Nothing changed the next day. In my world as a six-year-old I was waiting till September when I would become a primary 1 student. My parents said the handover meant nothing to them as they still had to work and pay taxes. Everything seemed to remain unchanged, exactly what the Chinese government promised to the Hong Kong people.

But then year by year, Cantonese began to be replaced by Mandarin, our constitutional laws made in the 1980s have been amended and interpreted by the Chinese government, and values among Hong Kongers changed after an influx of more than a million immigrants from China since 1997. Those mainlanders have come to dominate much of the social atmosphere. Locals are now always blamed as discriminating against those new immigrants if we ever expressed a different viewpoint and sometimes we are even slandered as fascists or racists.

In these past 20 years, Hong Kongers still believe in law and justice, fairness and democracy, but we no longer believe in the system and rules created by the Chinese government. Instead of becoming more like Hong Kong, the Chinese government will use any type of propaganda or immigration policy to make us more like them.

We have started to realise that the United Kingdom and China signed a treaty in 1984 that was supposed to protect Hong Kong, but it has turned out to be a deception and a joke. Since the handover all Hong Kong people have been forced to pay for that deceit.

Holden Chow, pro-establishment lawmaker

Hong Kong is part of China and we are Chinese: this is a fact and never in dispute.

Holden
Holden Chow at his office in Hong Kongs legislative council. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

I was in UK back in 1997 doing my A-levels, and I returned to Hong Kong before 1 July to witness the handover ceremony. As a patriot, I was always happy to see the handover and the establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China. I believe the one country, two systems works well: Hong Kong indeed has been able to sustain prosperity and with the full support from central government, we even have survived global economic crisis.

It is reasonable for us to expect challenges and conflicts to arise in the course of implementing the one country, two systems principle. But what really matters is how do we resolve such conflicts. The opposition or the so-called pan-democrats probably prefer stirring up conflicts, or to simply blow everything out of proportion. Owing to the Occupy movement orchestrated by the opposition, Hong Kong has become heavily divided. The pan-democrats might clock up public support in the course of instigating upheaval in the city, but that is done at the expense of the citys interests.

As a member of the pro-establishment camp, I reckon settling conflicts in an amicable way is a better choice than what the opposition has been doing.

The majority of Hong Kong people have never supported the notorious idea of Hong Kong independence. Hong Kong is part of China and we are Chinese: this is a fact and never in dispute.

The growth and development of China indeed offers opportunities to Hong Kong too. I trust one country, two systems is the best option for Hong Kong and for mainland China too, and the central government fully understands this. The opposition has always been falsely accusing that the city has totally lost our autonomy and rule of law, which is utterly untrue. A robust one country, two systems regime could be upheld only if the opposition stops attempting to ruin the trust between Hong Kong and central government, such as peddling separatism, or condoning the wrongful conduct in oath-taking saga.

Zhang Zhenping, dumpling stall owner

For all of Hong Kongs faults, its still a more free place.

Zhang
Zhang Zhenping, a dumpling stall owner originally from Tianjin, China, in her shop in Hong Kong. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

When I first arrived in Hong Kong from China in the early 90s, there was intense energy. I came here to make money, and even though I do not have a lot of education or culture, I lived well and I could provide for my family making dumplings in a restaurant.

Hong Kong was a far more equal place 20 years ago and there was more economic growth for everyone. People like me at the bottom still got bonuses and although I worked hard, sweating in kitchens making hundreds of dumplings, wontons and buns every day, my money felt like it was worth more. Now Im working even harder for less.

Since the handover life has become much harder for ordinary working people, prices for everything is going up and it has hit people like me the most. These changes dont affect the rich, but I only make food, because I dont have any culture and I can never be rich.

These days all the economic opportunities are in China; Hong Kong cant compete. My old boss from the restaurant closed his business here and went back to Beijing. He said he could make more money there.

I chose to stay, so I opened a dumpling stall three years ago. Its not much, but Im my own boss a little boss, but still a boss.

But despite all the hardship and bitterness, I feel better here. I go back to my hometown in China maybe once a year. People have money, but they have so much life pressures and are miserable.

I dont want to go back to the mainland, I dont like the politics there at least here people can say what they want. For all of Hong Kongs faults, its still a more free place.

Amy Cheung, artist

We seem to march towards unprecedented polarisation at every level of society.

Artist
Artist Amy Cheung at her home in Hong Kong. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

I was studying in London in 1997, a year that marked my identity enlightenment. In Britain, many people asked me once they knew that I came from Hong Kong: How do you feel about Hong Kong being returned to China? Are you scared? Dont you worry about your liberal way of life being crushed by the Communist China? Are they going to control your press, internet, restrict your freedom of speech, religion, travel, currency and the rule of law?

Others speculated: You must be so happy that Hong Kong now returns to the embrace of the Motherland, ending your shame of living as colonised subject. You can now stand tall with pride to acknowledge that you are sons and daughters of the dragon, with 5,000 years of civilisation, part of a great China the Middle Kingdom.

My face went blank. Cold sweat. I opened my mouth but my tongue vanished. My brain scanned through the large quantity of information that had been spoon-fed to me since I was born, all data, facts, names, workbooks, trainings for tests and examsthat I excelled at to get to where I was. But I was so ignorant about the constituencies of my identity, cultural heritage; moral, ethical and national value; belief systems, duties, rights and all collateral issues related.

Was this intentional negligence a colonial education package? I still wonder. Twenty years ago, identity politics had failed to arrest either learners or educators attention, unlike today. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my inability to feel any emotion at that critical juncture of our history. I was not altogether indifferent, although it seems hard now to imagine that my generation grew up apolitical.

However, I did witness the self-determination discourse that took off steadily after 1997. An awareness of our political identity burst into our communal consciousness, from the momentum gathered around the anti-subversion law, anti-national education protest, the annual 1 July rally, umbrella revolution, and the endless paralysing fight between the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camp.

In 2017, I felt breathless to experience Hong Kong at such a high emotional altitude. Blood is easily boiled, grey zones get greyer, reconciliations are almost impossible. I dont know how, but we seem to march self-destructively towards an unprecedented polarisation at every level of society.

Karl Mayer, businessman

Hong Kong people are survivors who stand up quickly after a fall.

Karl
Karl Mayer, a German businessman, in front of Hong Kongs Victoria Harbour. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

For a fast-moving city like Hong Kong, change is inevitable. Still little had changed immediately after the handover to China and for the first years the only obvious change was the knowledge that now the Chinese army was stationed in Prince Edward building hoisting the Chinese flag in the middle of Hong Kong.

In the late 90s, Hong Kong still seemed to remain a free city running its own system and still flourishing from being considered the gateway to China. Even the first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, at least tried to protect the interests of Hong Kong people and negotiate with the Chinese government on eye level. This, however, rapidly changed with the arrival of the new millennium and the gold-rush atmosphere in mainland China.

Hong Kong lost its role as gateway to China and international customers started to deal directly with the mainland. Hong Kongs response was to quickly adapt by trying to establish the city as an entertainment, amusement, shopping and tourism hub and the concept worked out with masses of tourists flowing into Hong Kong every year especially from China.

Becoming part of China will remain the big topic over the next 30 years and the subtle efforts from Beijing to infiltrate Hong Kong with language, education and the election system will become more overt and direct and will affect also other areas such as finance, trade, taxes and politics. To communicate this to the HK people and the world in a positive way will be the most important role of the newly elected chief executive.

The stream of tourists will eventually ebb, especially from China who will start travelling to countries further abroad. Although they enjoy excellent food and views in Hong Kong, the city does not bring home fond memories of being treated respectfully, kind and politely.

Only having old and rich people in a city who only come in the winter to rest and enjoy the warmth and pleasantries of Hong Kong will turn the city into something like Monaco in Europe.

On the other hand I have to say that I experienced Hong Kong people as survivors who stand up quickly after a fall and adapt rapidly to new situations as they have shown after the handover.

Richard Margolis, former UK diplomat

China must keep its promises but Hong Kong has to keep its side of the bargain as well.

Richard
Richard Margolis, a former UK diplomat who negotiated the terms of Hong Kongs handover to China. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

Twenty years after the handover, the key elements which make Hong Kong different from China are still present: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience and an independent judiciary. Will this continue, especially since Hong Kongs importance to China has receded in the past 20 years? Answer: yes but only if both Hong Kong and Beijing keep their sides of the bargain.

Before explaining this, a couple of basic notions which are often overlooked:

  • It is not and never has been a necessary condition for Hong Kongs survival for China to be ruled by people who share the values that underpin Hong Kong.
  • All that is required of Chinas leaders is that they perceive a balance of advantage to them in continuing to accept Hong Kongs separateness.

That balance of advantage is less overwhelmingly obvious than it was 20 years ago, but still exists, in my view. And Chinas leaders have huge challenges excess industrial capacity, excess debt, slowing growth, rapidly ageing population which means that their overwhelming preference is for Hong Kong to get on with its separate existence, do what it needs to do to adapt to a changing world, stay competitive and not bother Beijing.

But Hong Kong has had a tendency since the handover to ask for special deals, such as CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement). And Hong Kong business people acquired the habit of lobbying in Beijing in pursuit of their interests in Hong Kong. All of these activities seem to me against the spirit of the handover arrangements, which were: You leave us alone and we wont bother you.

So my conclusion is that it is, of course, essential that China keep its promises but Hong Kong has to keep its side of the bargain as well.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/how-china-changed-hong-kong-views-city-handover-1997-uk-residents

Being Donald Trump: the life of an impersonator

The long read: John Di Domenico has been playing Donald Trump longer than anyone else except Trump himself

John Di Domenico looks nothing like Donald Trump: hes 17 years younger, several inches shorter and a natural brunet, though lately he keeps his head shaved to make putting on the coppery wig easier, and his eyebrows bleached to match. Becoming Trump requires a full hour of hair and makeup. He tapes three large photographs of the president, one in profile and two straight-on, to any mirror hes using, and then uses Ben Nye CoCo Tan foundation to turn his skin the requisite shade of atomic tangerine, dabs on wrinkles, lengthens his nose, and so on. Trump has quite a big head, but theres not much anyone can do about that.

Even with the elaborate costume, Di Domenicos physical resemblance to the president requires a little imagination but of the many people who do Trump, his take is the most uncanny. Its the voice. He recreates the uncommon way that Trump, to use Di Domenicos phrase, speaks from his teeth; the wild fluctuations of nasality; the inconsistent New York accent; the sibilant Ss and exaggerated vowels. He has also mastered the neck jerk, the squint, the off-tilt swagger. When Conan OBrien and Chelsea Handler needed a Trump for their late-night talk shows, they called Di Domenico, and he has also become a regular on Fox Newss morning talk show.

Di Domenico enjoys the appearances on Fox and ABC, the cameos on Glenn Becks radio show, the invitations to do adverts and spoof films, but he makes his living at corporate events, trade shows and private parties. Hes the guy executives hire to keep middle management amused at national sales meetings, or to provide a little excitement at the launch party of a flu-reduction medicine. Hes the booth decoration that gets passersby interested in your carpet company. He is the entertainment. He can do Guy Fieri and Jay Leno and Austin Powers and Dr Evil, but for the last decade his trademark impression has been Trump. At the peak of the 2016 campaign, that one impression earned him as much as $40,000 a month.

Whenever Di Domenico appears in public in costume, people turn and gawk. They pull out their phones to take video, or they laugh spontaneously. Oh my god, they say. Or, breathlessly, Donald!

One afternoon in March, exiting a New York hotel, the sight of Di Domenico-as-Trump sent the front desk manager into a fit of giggles that verged on a panic attack. Oh my god, the guy kept saying, trying to catch his breath. No way. Faux Trump squinted, aimed a presidential finger in the mans direction, and agreed to a selfie.

In the photograph, Di Domenico has his chest and gut thrown out, as if hes leading from the widest point of his red sateen tie. The wig crests low over his brow. Hes flashing a presidential thumbs-up with one hand, his head is cocked to one side so his eyes squint unevenly, and his mouth has that protruded, half-open look of an aggravated orangutan. Its all correct.

Di Domenico handed the man his business card, with details of how to find him on social media. Tag me, he said, Youre terrific. And left.

Two college-aged guys hanging around stared after him, vaguely stricken. Its really good, said one. His friend nodded and looked around the lobby, presumably for Secret Service agents, or a hidden camera crew. What the fuck is going on?


As a professional impersonator,Di Domenico makes his living in an America where, as the historian Daniel J Boorstin wrote in 1962, fantasy is more real than reality. We have become, he wrote, the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that [we] can live in them. By the time Trump started to appear on the front pages of New York City tabloids in the late 1980s, politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce had been transformed into congenial adjuncts of showbusiness, as the cultural theorist Neil Postman famously wrote in 1984. Under this new dispensation, celebrities emerged as the unpredictable real-life stars of a never-ending show unfolding in real time. Thirty years later, Americans remain so compelled by the power of celebrity to make life feel entertaining and meaningful that we are thrilled by the mere facsimile of a famous person, so long as he conveys a hint of the same magic.

When Trump declared his candidacy, he turned himself into the most visible celebrity in the world, and Di Domenicos career exploded. By Di Domenicos estimation, peak demand for Trump impressions came during the election cycle, when Trumps political aspirations could still be seen as a joke that hadnt yet arrived at the punchline. Di Domenico worked every day for more than a year. He was soon joined by a cadre of other Donalds: the comedian Anthony Atamanuik, whose work Di Domenico admires (Trump is all id. Anthonys Trump is the id on steroids,); the prolific impressionist Frank Caliendo; Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon; and, of course, Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live. Di Domenico, though, has been doing this for 13 years longer than any other major Trump impersonator which not only lends him a bit of godfatherly cred, but also gives his impression singular nuance.

The relationship between the impersonator and the impersonated is a bizarre form of intimacy. Apart from its lopsidedness, the connection is almost spousal, marked by the closeness that comes from living with someone day after day for years and years, memorising their gestures, assimilating their speech patterns. Theres admiration and irritation, conjecture about the others intentions and inner life, struggles to keep a separate identity, and the sense of ownership that comes from believing you know a person better than anyone else. Its a parasitic homage.

Di Domenico keeps inside him, nested like matryoshka dolls, all the many selves Trump has fashioned in the last 30 years: Trump the businessman on CNN silkily telling Larry King in 1989 that his breath stinks; Trump the reality television star firing Cyndi Lauper on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2010; Trump the candidate declaring that he could stand on 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone without losing a vote. Di Domenico talks about Trump with the same casual authority he displays when talking about himself. Hes gained a lot of weight lately, hell remark offhandedly. Or, Nah, he doesnt have OCD. Or he has selective OCD. Frequently, Trumps cadence will sneak its way into Di Domenicos speech: a nasal vowel, a tremendous.

Every morning, Di Domenico reads the news, scanning for any stories or new behaviours he needs to incorporate. He can list and demonstrate Trumps most common gestures, most of which only appeared when he entered political life. Theres the T-Rex, when he plasters his forearms to his sides and waves his stiff hands back and forth, as if conducting a tiny, mad choir. Theres the OK slightly effete, open-handed, with the thumb and forefinger pinched together and the wrist cocked and loose. And the Hi, where Di Domenico reaches out his right arm and tilts the hand up in greeting. Then theres the Heil Hitler here he straightens his wrist though hes stopped doing that. I think someone told him to stop doing that.

John
John Di Domenico becoming Donald Trump.

Trumps mannerisms have changed over time more dramatically than any other character Di Domenico has attempted. Its a much bigger repertoire now than it used to be, he says. Trump used to speak softly; his expressions were typically phlegmatic, and his gestures were minimal. For the most part he was in controlled situations a hotel opening, or a show where he was the boss. People were deferential and obsequious. No one was openly mocking him to his face, or accusing him of lying about his wealth and success.

Once the Republican primary debates began, Trumps expressions changed. He debuted the get-outta-here hand wave, the sceptical squint any way he could discredit, dissociate, discount somebody, Di Domenico told me. He demonstrated in quick succession the elastic facial exercises indicating exaggerated disgust: eye rolls, shrugs, clicking the tongue off the top of the mouth as if to get rid of a bad taste. These theatrical gestures subtly kept Trump in control of the exchange when it was Jeb Bushs time to speak during the debates, the cameras were still on Trump.

When people meet Di Domenico in his Trump costume, its not always clear that they know the difference between reality and fiction, or that they care. In the months leading up to the election, at corporate events all over the country, men in business casual would lean in and whisper in his ear, I think youre great. My wife hates you but I think youre great. I havent told her Im voting for you. Women would squeeze close to him and murmur, Will you grab my pussy?

Di Domenico knows things about the American electorate that pollsters and pundits cannot. During the campaign, peoples responses to his impression resembled the pure wonderment of children seeing Santa Claus at the mall: they knew it wasnt the real one, but still they felt moved to confess their hopes and griefs as if it were. He had expected this in red states such as Texas and Arkansas, but was startled to encounter the same in San Francisco and Chicago. People he expected to loathe Trump quietly adored him. At a meeting of people working in healthcare in New York City, he polled the crowd to see who was voting to make America great again, and the whole room cheered. (After this year, I will never be surprised by anything. About anybody, he told me.) He grew used to men in HILLARY FOR JAIL T-shirts asking him while posing for selfies, Are you gonna lock that cunt up?

Such questions require delicate answers from Di Domenico, who usually resorts to saying essentially nothing in a perfectly Trumpian way. Im gonna do what I can, Im gonna do what I can, he says in the familiar babbling rhythm. Or, She deserves it, dont you think she deserves it? He never echoes their language. It would be consummately not his manner, which is mild and aims to please and he usually has a contract that forbids obscenities. They can say whatever they want to me, but I wont he trailed off. He told me about one woman who grabbed his balls, though he wasnt sure whether this was retribution for Trumps pussy-grabbing or another sexual advance. I let people choke me, he said calmly. Whatever you wanna do. If its funny, youre not going to hurt me.

On election night, Di Domenico worked a party with 800 guests. He walked the grounds of a mansion filled with people wearing Crooked Hillary hats, Make America Great Again ice sculptures, Build a Wall T-shirts. I was just blown away, he said. Later, just as he was about to post a selfie from the party, he noticed a sign behind him in the photograph that made him stop: Trump for President: Make America White Again.

When the results came in, he wasnt surprised.


Di Domenico was raised in an outer suburb of Philadelphia named Ambler, a town whose biggest claim to fame at the time was that it housed the largest asbestos factory in America. He grew up playing on the Moon, which is what kids called the 25-acre lot of asbestos waste in town, and studying two types of people: actors and businessmen. Coming from where I come from my dad was a steel worker with a ninth-grade education I always just wanted to get the fuck out of Ambler and have money! Have a life! he told me. Not have to worry about I can buy this shirt or I can eat.

Power and money, and the people who had both, seemed perpetually elsewhere. As a young man, he felt wistful for the era of Carnegies and Rockefellers, when businessmen were public figures and statesmen, or the era of old Hollywood and its glamour. The first album he bought was by the comedian David Frye, who did impressions of influential men of the mid-century, most famously Richard Nixon. Di Domenico also had a severe speech impediment as a kid, one that vanished for the first time when he mimicked Frye doing Nixon. He started experimenting with other voices, and found that whenever he spoke as other people, he spoke cleanly. He decided to be an actor.

Di Domenico went to Philadelphia to study drama around the same time that Donald Trump started appearing in those New York tabloids with nameless models and showing up in New York Times headlines about his work to refurbish the derelict Wollman Rink in Central Park. (The Wollman Rink deal, at the time, was perceived to be an act of great personal generosity, and the triumph of the private sector over ineffectual government oversight.) Trump was no Carnegie, but he was a new kind of celebrity businessman: he had the success, the glitz and the cosmopolitanism that Di Domenico wanted for his own life. Trumps business was construction, which was reminiscent of working-class Ambler, but he was building towers of glass in Manhattan. Especially after the Wollman Rink deal, he presented himself as a genius at turning trash into gold. Trump understood, as the cultural critic Neal Gabler would later write, that in an entertainment-driven society, celebrity was among the most effective tools of salesmanship, and that consequently a businessmans job was not only the management of assets, but the management of image.

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Di Domenico on TV as Trump

Di Domenico was, if not envious, then watchful. He subscribed to Success magazine. His first wife gave him Trumps ghostwritten memoir The Art of the Deal for Christmas in 1987, the year it came out, inscribed with a note: I dont like this guy, I dont like what he stands for, but I thought you might want this book. Merry Christmas. Theres a story Di Domenico still tells from The Art of the Deal in which Trump, deep in a failing construction deal, holds a meeting with a potential investor in a room overlooking the projects building site. Work had stopped because there was no more money, but Trump hired extra construction workers to drive the trucks around in order to give the illusion of progress. Di Domenico told me that story recently, at a coffee shop in Manhattan, freshly changed out of his costume and bald once more. He grinned and shook his head. At first glance, I think you can admire him. And I think thats something he really wants, is to be admired, he said. Once you go below the surface of him, its not things that are admirable.

But what makes a Trump impersonation so fascinating is that Trumps surface, carefully crafted, is all we have of the man. A superficial rendition of his gestures is as faithful a portrayal as any. Conversely, the challenge of playing Trump is that Trump has always been impersonating Trump. As Gabler observed in Life: The Movie, a history of the rise of entertainment culture in America, Trumps ostentatious displays of wealth his gold-plated apartment, his casinos, his yacht were all what Trump once called props for the show, which he admitted was Trump, and which he crowed had enjoyed sold-out performances everywhere, meaning, presumably, the media.

The one fixed quality of Trump, Di Domenico believes, is his ability to manipulate the media. This relentless performance, this commitment to conjuring the image of success and power, confident in the knowledge that reality will follow the image this is the DNA, as Di Domenico calls it, of the character.

Di Domenico originally dreamed of a traditional acting career, but he couldnt quite get his break in film or theatre, and he worried about money. In 1997, the year Trump published The Art of the Comeback, about his recovery from bankruptcy, divorce and $3.4bn of debt, Di Domenico discovered that there was a good living to be made dressing up as Dr Phil or Ozzy Osbourne or Sean Connery and working corporate gigs. If he hesitated before quitting the off-Off-Broadway circuit, it wasnt for long he was married; they had a house to pay for. Now, when he chooses what roles hell play, he first considers the possible dividends: How much can I sell this character for in a corporate environment, and how much do I want to invest?


The presidential impression has had an uneasy role in American public life. No one even attempted it until 1928, when the famous comedian Will Rogers did a few lines as Calvin Coolidge at the end of a radio performance. Half the audience thought Coolidge had somehow materialised in the studio, and the other half, who caught the joke, found it shocking and disrespectful. Rogers immediately issued a public apology. Ten years later, Rogers tried again with Franklin D Roosevelt, who was so tickled by the impression that he encouraged it, inviting Rogers to appear alongside him and laughing uproariously at the sound of his own voice spoken back to him. The historian Peter Robinson suggests that Rogers and Roosevelt formed an alliance between humour and politics as a way of nourishing democracy at a moment when worldwide cataclysms and the mounting complexity of modern life threatened to smother it.

A century later, we still have the worldwide cataclysm and the mounting complexity, but weve passed through whatever veil was separating the spheres of celebrity and politics. The presidency itself has long had a theatrical element, but by the 1970s the New York Times journalist Russell Baker was arguing that the job of the president and the first family was to provide a manageably small cast for a national sitcom, or soap opera, or docudrama, making it easy for media people to persuade themselves they are covering the news while mostly just entertaining us. Reagan once told a journalist that he couldnt imagine how anyone did the job without being a trained actor.

We no longer need impersonators to turn the president into good television. Presidents deliver comedy routines at the annual White House correspondents dinner (or they used to, before Trump decided to snub it) and make guest appearances on Saturday Night Live. Barack Obama slow-jammed the news on The Tonight Show, allowed Stephen Colbert to submit him to a mock job interview, and appeared on Zach Galifianakiss internet comedy show to promote the new government healthcare plan. These days, presidential impersonators are a special class of critics or, as Di Domenico pointed out to me, court jesters.

If you study successful presidential impressions, three broad categories emerge. The first aims to gently bring the leader of the free world back down to human size. This is Steve Bridges doing George W Bush at the White House correspondents dinner in 2006, desperately trying and failing to pronounce nuclear proliferation, or Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford affably falling over furniture. Second, there is the impression thats sharper and more political a lament, a critique as when David Fryes paranoid, aggressive Nixon growled: I love America, and you always hurt the one you really love. More rarely, youll see presidential impressions that enact a kind of wish fulfilment. The most popular one of Obama was done by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, with Peele as Obama and Key as Obamas anger translator, who exploded with all the righteous anti-Republican rage Democrats often speculated must seethe below Obamas diplomatic public persona.

Di Domenicos take on Trump follows the first model: gentle mockery with an occasional edge. His goal is to avoid both reverence and outright disrespect. Insisting during the act that his hands are actually huge? Fine. Jokes about Trump committing sexual assault? Not fine. This allows him to do the same material with Glenn Beck, Fox News, Conan OBrien and Chelsea Handler, and leave everybody smiling. If you know my politics, Ive failed, he likes to say. He feels no need for an overly negative portrayal of Trump because, in his opinion, Trump is doing that himself. Its too easy. Its much harder to write comedy and keep it inclusive. If I can write for right-leaning people and left-leaning people, then Im doing my job. Like an old-school entertainer.

The decision is partly philosophical, partly practical. Other impressions, like Anthony Atamanuiks aggro Id Trump, are deliciously satisfying in short bursts, but Di Domenicos impression has to entertain (and not grate) sometimes for hours at a time. Thats why it comes back to the middle road. The Buddhist Trump, he joked. The Zen Trump.


This spring, Di Domenico travelled to New York, as he often does for work, to MC the 50th birthday party of an Orthodox Jewish hedge fund manager. The hedge fund managers wife had flown Di Domenico out from his home in Las Vegas, put him up in a hotel, and paid a generous fee (I cant remember exactly, but a minimum of $5,000) for a 20-minute set, general introductions, and some glad-handing among the dinner tables.

He spent the day of the party in a gloomy hotel room scattered with granola bars, coffee cups and empty bottles of Diet Snapple. Di Domenico writes all his own material, and his performance has to evolve daily to keep up with Trumps volatility and to meet the demands of the client. For this evening, he was going to have to write a bit about a piece of legislation called the Taylor Force Act, which would deny US federal funds to the Palestinian Authority, which from my perspective is a total boner-killer. He thought about it for a while, and then decided to just bring up the legislation without making it funny, and then slide sideways into a joke by making fun of a co-signer, the moderate Republican senator Lindsey Graham (Lindsey: what is that, a girls name?). He speculated that Trump would probably make this dig himself. He then spent some time figuring out how to poke fun at the birthday boys enthusiasm for sport. Which word sounds funnier: slalom or dressage?

After putting the finishing touches to the nights routine and phoning in a quick voiceover, he began his hour-long hair-and-makeup process, which he sometimes has to undertake three or four times a day. To pass the time, he turned on one of the Trump YouTube compilations he mimics to warm up. While the screen played a Game of Thrones parody that spliced Trumps head and voice into various scenes, in the mirror, Di Domenicos face, now half his and half not, spoke along with the dubs taken from one of Trumps rallies: We Cant! Be! The stupid country! Any more. He looked at me in the mirror, and smirked.

The party occupied the thickly carpeted second-floor banquet room of what a waiter described to me as a kosher Persian grill slash sushi restaurant in midtown Manhattan. A hundred people sat in rented chairs eating platters of rice and kebabs, dressed in suits and yarmulkes, wigs and colourful dresses with high necklines. There were pink tea roses and blue mood lighting, and at the front of the room was a teetering screen with a picture of the honoree at age 12 superimposed with the words HAPPY BIRHDAY [sic]. Spirits were high: the children had been allowed as many Shirley Temples as they could manage, and Di Domenico made his way around the dining room, comparing hand sizes with the men and telling all the pretty women that he was going to make them the fourth first lady the fourth lady!

Di Domenicos Trump is genuinely softer than the president himself his language is less brutal and his manner more genial. Fielding a question about how you show a woman you love her, hell suggest putting a hand on the womans shoulder, or eating a Tic Tac to freshen your breath. A fan handed him a phone and asked him to say hello to a co-worker who was, the man said, Lebanese. I love that youre Lebanese, Di Domenico crooned into the phone. I love Lebanese people and Ive known them all my life. Theyre great. And say hello to your girlfriend for me.

The more I listened to Di Domenico-as-Trump, the more likely I was to laugh than to wince a defanging effect that was unsettling. Laughing at the presidents expense also felt a lot like laughing with relief at the opportunity to not take him seriously to find him, if only for a moment, funny rather than frightening. I asked Di Domenico if he ever worried about the ethical implications of this work whether he might be seen as normalising Trumps behaviour. He answered immediately: No. Im not going change anyones mind in a 10-second interaction.

Later in the evening, as waiters cleared dirty plates, Di Domenico delivered the birthday speech, hitting the normal talking points (Horrible people, the press, horrible) and crowing that he was confident of re-election in 2020. The crowd cheered; the two bartenders in the corner booed quietly.

Part of Di Domenicos talent is mimicking the circuitous way Trump speaks: hell begin a story (I was visiting a coal mine in Tennessee ), and then digress once (fantastic people, coal people); go back to the beginning after a while (Anyway, I was in Tennessee ); digress again (No one loves the South more than me, by the way ); start over (So, in Tennessee ) and so on. His strategy is to create this effect without digressing nearly as far or frequently as Trump himself truly accurate mimicry would require a scale of incoherence that would lose the audience.

Di Domenico was well received, but the gig still didnt feel great. A few of his jokes had fallen flat, and he was grouchy about the conditions: no podium (which helps him appear presidential) and no backstage, nowhere for him to fall out of character and rest. He had to smile through two hours and 45 minutes of speeches. By 11 oclock, he was famished and tired, irritated that he hadnt negotiated to leave immediately after his 20-minute set. Eventually, some time between the second and third rabbi, a member of the staff brought out a plate of leftover rice and meat and set it on a banquet table in the far back corner that some exhausted partygoers had abandoned. Still dressed as Trump, Di Domenico sank into the chair and began eating. He suddenly looked like no more than a tired performer, a man in a ridiculous costume. His wig drooped. But when it came time to cut the cake, he popped back up, jolly and irascible, Trump once more, and bounded to the front of the room to lead a round of Happy Birthday.

The next morning, Di Domenico would be up early to do a photoshoot with one of my Melanias, and then run to a meeting with an agent who might help him better capitalise on the wave of Trump attention. Then, hed rush into costume and take a car to the Fox News studios in the evening to shoot two segments with their late-night talk show RedEye (which has since been cancelled), sleep for a few hours, and then get up at 4.30am to get into costume one more time for a segment with Fox & Friends and a quick Facebook Live Q&A at Huffington Post.

This is the pace Di Domenico has been working at since Trump got the nomination. Despite his success, he retains the anxiety of the performer who isnt sure when the laughter will die or the calls will stop coming. In the time I spent with him, he was constantly on the phone or writing an email angling for a new appearance, negotiating a new contract, pushing and pushing to establish himself as The #1 Trump Impersonator and to turn that distinction into bigger, better gigs. I love what I do and I feel like this is my last shot, he told me. Thats why I want to leverage this right now and ride the Trump train as long as I can.


Playing Trump has not been as rewarding for John Di Domenico as it has for Donald Trump, but it has given him a sliver of the recognition he always wanted as an actor. Di Domenico is in movies and on television all the time now as Trump, but still. In May, he even received an Emmy nomination for acting in a commercial. Hes finally the real deal. Or, sort of real.

When the cab driver taking Di Domenico to the birthday party in Manhattan asked him if hed met Alec Baldwin, Di Domenico, who was in full costume, replied as Trump rather than himself: Hes terrible, terrible. Hes very mean to me. Very mean. Im so nice to him! Ive given him many compliments. His career was in the toilet until he started doing me. But when the cabbie asked if hed ever been on Saturday Night Live, he broke character and replied as himself. The switch was immediate, and Di Domenicos voice, lighter and less nasal, sounded full of good humour and earnest longing. Oh, I wish. I wish. We were very close there for a minute.

While in character, Di Domenico is never asked if he has ever met the man hes portraying; the very question would break the mood. But they have met, only once while Di Domenico, suitably enough, was pretending to be someone else.

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Di Domenico at a mock presidential debate held by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in October last year. Photograph: Russ DeSantis

Trumps birthday parties, particularly the ones held at his casinos in Atlantic City say, Trumps Castle or the Taj Mahal are aggressively themed and involve elaborate entertainment, with cameos from the ultra-famous. The Beach Boys played his 50th birthday. At his 60th, guests were showered with $200,000 in cash and prizes for a James Bond heist theme, during which Bond girl lookalikes danced among the tables and then swooned at The Donalds feet after he, dressed as 007, arrived just in time to save the day and give away a new BMW Z4.

At Trumps 55th, Di Domenico was hired to impersonate Austin Powers to pop out of the cake in the style of a 1950s stag party girl, and then banter with Trump before declaring an end to the multi-million dollar pageant with a hearty Yeah, baby. He burst out of the fake cake in a spray of cardboard icing (Bet you werent expecting me, baby!) and, flanked by a few dozen chorus girls, joined Trump on stage for a kick line and some light repartee. The two men stood together facing the cheering crowd: a man impersonating himself standing beside his future impersonator, in a casino masquerading as a castle.

This hall of mirrors is where Trump thrives. He may understand, better than anyone else, why an impersonator can acquire the power of the person hes impersonating: if you have the aura of fame, it doesnt matter any more if youre real. Even his early publicity stunts were designed to convince the world he was a statesman. In 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev visited the US on a trip to improve Soviet-American relations, Trump offered him an invite to Trump Tower, where he could act as a representative of the American people. When Gorbachev accepted this preposterous invitation, Trump was triumphant only for the Soviet leaders staff to cancel days later.

Hearing of Trumps disappointment, a reporter for New Yorks Channel 5 called up a Gorbachev lookalike named Ronald Knapp, hired a black stretch limousine and four Russian models, and headed to Fifth Avenue. Upon arrival, a crowd quickly gathered around the faux-Gorbachev, who was greeting onlookers outside Trump Tower. Trump, thinking that Gorbachev had changed his plans, ran down from his office to the street with his bodyguards to meet the statesman. He elbowed his way through the crowd and arrived flushed and beaming.

Later, Trump claimed that he was never fooled. But there is news footage from the afternoon, and on it you can see a young Trumps eagerness as he moves through the crowd with an embarrassed, pleased smile on his face. It is a great honour, he says to the man pretending to be Gorbachev, and proudly shakes his hand. Gordon Elliott, the reporter who staged the whole thing, said later that Trump was starstruck. As he told the New York Times, There was absolutely no question that he bought it.

Main photograph by Stephen J Edgar

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/23/being-donald-trump-the-life-of-an-impersonator-john-di-domenico