Trump, White Nationalism, and American Peril

This past week the country has experienced the most racially-inflammatory event since Charlottesville. The sitting President of the United States sent out a tweet, telling four congresswomen of color to go back to their country. Since then, the country has been in an uproar with most of the country rightfully outraged by the overt bigotry and racism promoted by the defunct leader of the free world. 

Over the past few years, it’s been commonplace for Trump to say something that violates our most basic societal norms and values. And saying it as the President of the United States makes it that much more disturbing. While most people weren’t shocked by the tweets –Trump has a long, consistent, and documented history of racism— it nonetheless sparked outrage due to the tweet’s blatant and unabashed racist rhetoric.

The tweets were directed at four charismatic, impassioned, and powerful freshmen members of the House of Representatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). All four women are American citizens and duly-elected members of the House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib were all born in this country. Omar is a naturalized American citizen, immigrating to the United States as a young child.  

Trump’s basis for his racist attack was cited as “all they do is complain,” “in my opinion, they hate this country,” which led to him saying they should go back to their own countries. This is especially hypocritical since Trump, well before becoming president, has been one of the loudest critics of America. The use of the phrase “go back to their own countries” is the crux of the vile racism in these tweets. 

They are all American citizens –this is their country. The logic doesn’t even hold for three of the congresswomen since they were born in this country. And for Representative Omar, she immigrated to this country as a child and became a United States citizen at the age of seventeen, nearly twenty years ago. 

The language used by Trump is not only racist, but it’s also a disinformation tactic. None of the congresswomen ever said they hated America. They, like any well-meaning public servant, joined Congress to serve their country. They joined to make the country a better place for their constituents, as well as all Americans. Trump, and the rest of the GOP, have branded them as radical socialists, which just so happened to be the featured topic for last week’s article. The GOP as a whole has been trying to manipulate uninformed Americans into associating Democrats with Socialists. And, as we’ve seen through history, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it. 

Trump is infamous for attacking any person or organization that is critical of him or his policies. However, part of his alleged cause for attacking the four congresswomen was because they’re “socialists.” Senator Bernie Sanders is the only member of Congress who identifies as a Democratic Socialist. The four congresswomen are Democrats. Sanders has been one of Trump’s fiercest critics, yet Trump has never told him to go back to his country. In fact, Trump has never told any white person to go back to their country. 

This kind of language has been used by racist Americans for decades. In the 1960s, when schools in the south began integrating, those brave and courageous first African-American students had to walk through a gauntlet of bigoted southerners, shouting racist slurs. Among those racist slurs was “go back to your own country” and “go back to Africa.” It was racist then and it’s racist now. 

Trump has since not apologized for his bigoted tweets. In fact, he’s doubled-down on them. When asked by reporters if Trump was concerned by the “go back to your own country” part of his tweets, he replied with “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me. A lot of people love it, by the way.”

For most of the week, GOP lawmakers either rode to Trump’s defense or remained silent. Virtually all of the Trump’s legion of enablers refused to concede that the tweets were even racist. Some even tried spinning the nature of the tweets, like Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, saying “I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism versus freedom.” 

A few days after posting the tweets, House Democrats made a decision to formally reprimand Trump for his racist rhetoric. For the first time in over 100 years, the House voted to condemn the conduct of a sitting president. The vote passed largely along party lines. Out of the 197 Republicans in the House, only four voted to condemn the racist language used by Trump –that’s only 2% of House Republicans. Representative Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party due to the GOP’s unwillingness to check the president’s misconduct described in the Mueller Report, is now an Independent and voted in favor of the reprimand. 

Trump’s iron-clad grip over the Republican Party was once again confirmed when the overwhelming majority of Republicans refused to condemn his tweets. The MAGA movement has finalized their hostile takeover of the Republican Party. The GOP once proudly called themselves the party of values, but they’re now they party of white nationalism. It’s not hyperbolic to characterize them this way. If lawmakers are willing to defend and stand by a president who uses racist language against their own colleagues, then they’re just as guilty of bigotry as Trump. 

A couple of days ago, Trump held a campaign rally in North Carolina. Trump tripled-down, attacking the four congresswomen once again, particularly Representative Omar. This led to a chilling chant from the MAGA crowd: “Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!” Trump didn’t stop the vileness, he stood there with his head raised, embracing the hate-filled energy in the arena. His rallies are infamous for being heinous, but they’ve descended to a much deeper level of depravity and malice. It was effectually a clan rally being held by the President of the United States in 2019. This is trickle-down hatred coming from the most powerful man in the country. It’s not some amoral campaign strategy, it’s dangerous.

White nationalist groups have praised the president’s conduct since he’s been in office. Whether it be the dozens of instances of race-baiting or holding white supremacists in the same esteem as Americans protesting racism (as Trump did after Charlottesville), the white supremacists in this country have their man in the White House. This week’s abhorrent conduct did not disappoint these bigots. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, said, “Man, President Trump’s Twitter account has been pure fire lately. This might be the funniest thing he’s ever tweeted. This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM we elected him for.” 

The country is in a dangerous place. We need to accept the fact that Trump is a white nationalist, playing the racist chords that resonate with like-minded citizens. The four congresswomen are being used as scapegoats for all of Trump’s problems –or as Trump would see it, all of the country’s problems. There’s no limit to the deplorable nature of this president. With over two-dozen investigations taking place throughout the country, many of which are criminal in scope, he’s a wanted man on deferment. Since a sitting president cannot be indicted, his own freedom depends on maintaining power. Therefore, he’ll do anything to maintain it, even if it means burning the country to the ground to save himself.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. For the first time in human history, men walked on the moon. It was an incredible achievement for the United States and for the entire world. For a brief moment, all Americans were united in their pride, joy, and awe. 

While all Americans should pay homage to our greatest achievement as a country, it also needs to be contrasted with where we are fifty years later. The country has never been as divided as it is today. It’s a sad and frightening fact that the president is the one sowing of the seeds of division and discord. And the Republican Party have been complicit in this manufactured disunity. 

This is where America is in the summer of 2019. The proverbial dog whistle for politicians to communicate with racists has been exchanged for a megaphone. This racist conduct cannot go unanswered. It’s never been more important for Americans to express their condemnation against the hateful and racist rhetoric of the president and all those who support him. This is especially true for white Americans. Our friends, families, and neighbors of color need to know we are on their side and are willing to defend them at all costs. Remaining silent or being apathetic is no different than giving consent to the amoral ideology of white nationalism.

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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