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Normally, you get a sense of satisfaction when a person admits who they are – especially when you’ve known all along. You know, like when your obviously racist uncle, finally admits, he hates black people. Except, this time, it’s not your obnoxious uncle – it’s the President of the United States and there is absolutely zero bits of comfort in that.
We are in the crazy season of a midterm election campaign in which Trump and his Republican cronies are appealing to racism and anti-immigrant sentiment and fear in a strategy so explicitly that Trump felt comfortable, if not even proud, calling it out when he boldly announced that he is “a nationalist, OK?”
No. It’s not ok.
Nationalism in its theory might not be a bad thing. However, nationalism doesn’t manifest in a philosophical bubble. At first glance, nationalism might be a more proactive stance on patriotism. However, the unintending profit of all things George Orwell wrote:
Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism…By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
Complicating matters even more, George Orwell was writing in a golden age before the rise of the White Nationalists – the likes of Steve Bannon and tiki torch carrying racists who aren’t ashamed or afraid to spew their angry racist crap for all the cameras to record. White nationalism is a code phrase for white supremacy. A lot of, not all, but many white nationalists subscribe to Nazi philosophies – and they aren’t like your racist uncle – they don’t try to deny it. They are loud and proud. They are also often violent.
Dog whistle politics are a thing. A “dog whistle” is when you say something that only a certain group of people will fully understand the meaning of. There is no dog whistle louder for racists than the word nationalist. It’s so loud, it’s almost not even vailed in its purpose. It’s not a conspiracy theory to say Donald Trump used a political rally to come out of the closet as a flag-waving racist. This not being much of a surprise to anyone because the closet door has been wide open since before his 2016 Presidential campaign. What is surprising and still strangely shocking is hearing the words flow so boldly out of the mouth of a U.S. President.
We’ve known who he is for a long time. However, there is no comfort in hearing him say it so boldly. In fact, it’s alarming because he emboldens an entire segment of our population to behaviors that range from obnoxious to dangerous. On the low end of the scale, our president’s words inspire angry racist white people to verbally abuse black people for just living their lives in public. On the other end of the scale, crazies are putting pipe bombs in the mail to liberal politicians and “liberal” media outlets.
Ask any person of color, racism never died. It’s always been alive and well in the U.S. However, there is something very, very dangerous about elevating racism to the level of this president with a platform and a twitter account. There are people who are following his lead.
The rhetoric works and we know it works. We see these people at rallies and their posts on social media. They are angry. They lash out. They rage. They’ve been given a free pass to be who they are for all the world to see.
That is what’s going on at the rallies when Trump torments a woman who says she was sexually assaulted as a young girl. That’s why the Ralph Steadman figures in attendance have always roared when a protester is removed, however violently. Especially when it’s violent. They cheer and jeer when he endorses violence against journalists and political opponents, too. This is why Charles P. Pierce pointed out, he is now waging war on Americans who identify as transgender. That’s why they’re throwing children, many of whom are seeking asylum—as is their right under international law and treaties to which the United States is a signatory—in cages. – (Esquire)
The irony is, nationalism in its purest form also has an aspect of defending the nation against foreign threats. While Trumpian philosophy likes to point a finger to immigrants as being a dangerous threat to our way of life, Trump has handed the keys to the kingdom and all of our national identity to quite possibly the most dangerous threat on the planet, Vladimir Putin and Russia. Trump will put children and their families in cages while cowering and catering to the former KGB super-star, Russian President who bragged publicly this week that the U.S. as a superpower will soon be ending.
Make no mistake, Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he proudly proclaimed his Nationalist identity. He chose his time with a precise calculation and laid public claim to that title for a purpose. It’s not a dog whistle when you scream it into a mic surrounded by the likes of racists Trump keeps company with.
This is not normal.
In a week when the news cycle is dominated by a President threatening a nuclear arms race and multiple pipe bombs in the mail, the fact that our president publicly declared his racist attitudes might feel like a footnote.
More by Lisa:
Lisa M. Hayes, Senior Editor of Confluence Daily.
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