Trump is America
Donald Trump is as American as any president we’ve ever had. He’s a despicable, hideous, racist, bullying, misogynist, predatory, petty, selfish, evil, hateful, ignorant, stupid, violent, and cowardly piece of shit. He could hardly be more American. Like it or not, that is America. We can argue that he is emblematic of the absolute worst and most detestable examples of Americanism. He is. But those objectionable aspects are foundational pillars of this nation. This country was built by selfishness, racism, evil, every trait written over with the fairytale of the American Dream, the fantasy of American exceptionalism.
Every time someone declares, “This is not who we are.” ; “This is not America.” ; “This is not what America is.” or any such similar platitudes, it is a cringe inducing display of (often willfully feigned) ignorance.
When was America actually a kind, welcoming land of equality and goodness?
Not at the time of its founding. For all the self-congratulatory talk of liberty, justice, freedom, equality, and democracy, the United States’ formation and rebellion from English control was done largely because England was restricting the amount of land that colonizers could settle. Doubtless, the “founding fathers” and other wealthy landed gentry also took issue with taxation and the restraints of mercantile economics. But the freedom and liberty they were after came down to their rights to expand their control over the continent, to slaughter indigenous peoples along the way to steal their land and resources, and to force African slaves to build their new nation atop the ones they conquered.
The idea that America was a free and untouched wilderness prior to European colonialism is a myth. As much as is the idea that the natives willingly stepped aside, agreeing to give, trade away, or share their land with settlers. There were approximately one-hundred-million people in the Americas, comprising many nations, cities, and distinct cultures, prior to the arrival of European colonialists. Perpetual settler warfare reduced the native population by about ninety percent.
Then, of course, there’s slavery, the other of this nation’s two greatest acts of evil, without which it would not exist. The idea of brave and industrious European settlers building this nation through hard work and grit is another myth. They forced enslaved people to do that for them. Homes, infrastructure, monuments, industries, all built with slave labor.
The great wealth and power of this nation came from genocide and slavery, evil actions founded in greed and racism. Whatever notions the US has about itself, that can’t be ignored. You can’t say we’re a great nation built on freedom and just laws, when freedom was a luxury enjoyed only by the white and affluent, who wrote the laws to serve their self interest.
The extermination of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Black people are often spoken of as things regrettable and long in the past. We can’t as a nation acknowledge, let alone apologize for, them without also acknowledging that they are the faux-heroic principles on which the nation was built. We also can’t do so honestly without acknowledging that slavery and violations against native sovereignty and personhood are ongoing, that there has never been an end to American racism. The prison industry is slavery by a new name, and while Native Americans haven’t been full-scale massacred by US military lately, they endure continued abuses and marginalizations..
There was never a point at which injustice was stamped out and goodness prevailed, so when was it that America became a bastion of freedom and liberty, a sanctuary for the oppressed, a global leader of justice and champion of human rights?
It wasn’t when we were treating people as subhumans. It wasn’t when we conquered and killed without remorse. Not when we terrorized, brutalized, lynched, hanged, and burned the people who built this country. It wasn’t when we turned Jewish refugees away from our shores during the holocaust. Nor was it during that same era when we imprisoned Japanese American citizens without cause. It wasn’t and hasn’t been when we’ve waged war after lopsided war in countries around the world, destroying homes and killing people who’ve done nothing to us. It wasn’t when Black citizens were denied their civil rights, beaten, bitten, shot, and burned for daring to seek these rights, and it isn’t today, when Black people are still regularly murdered by police. This country has never been the shining utopia it purports to be, except primarily to a handful of wealthy white males who’ve benefited from the injustices committed against others, whether at home or abroad.
Nothing is one-sided. There have been many good people in this nation, and many good things have been done. But it would take a lot more good to wash away the excess of evil. Go through and actually read American history, you’ll see that not a year has gone by in this country in which some horrific violation of human rights has been committed, if not by our government then with its approval.
People speak as though Trump is an aberration, like everything was great before he bumbled into politics. Rather, Trump is representative of what was long the prevalent expression of Americanism, which has only been unpopular among most of us for a relatively short time. While his attitudes and behaviors are repugnant and should be rejected, it is disingenuous to act as though they go against American principles when they are in line with those that were dominant throughout the majority of American history. We need to reject these abhorrent principles, not deny their history. To do so, to insist that “this is not the American way” is a lie which does a disservice to those who suffered and died at the expense of the American way.
Trump isn’t the first American politician or the first president to promote racism. Nor is he the first to support the brutal actions of law enforcement at the expense of the citizenry or order the law enforcement and the military to attack those protesting injustice. He may be more brazenly corrupt, self-serving, and nepotistic, as well as more fascistic, more inclined to enforcing authoritarianism than his predecessors were, but there are few individual things he has done that can be cited as original and unique to him. He’s far from the first president to violate the Constitution and human rights. Virtually every one of his evil and/or criminal actions and statements has precedent in our country’s history.
I do not hate this country. Not at all. Don’t let that be the impression you take away from this, or any of the other shit I go on about. This is my home, and there’s a lot about it I love. But I do hate the unjust and straight up evil things we’ve done, and I hate hypocrisy. As deserved as all animosity and criticism against Trump is, hearing the virtues of our history and the praise for our past leaders exaggerated, the way the crimes and incivility that brought us here are distorted, omitted, or lied about pisses me off. I hate that some people choose to make the place I love hell for others. I hate the crimes done in its name. And I hate the willing audacity with which some people “defend” this country with lies, denials, and fairytales. I hate that we could be great, but aren’t, and never have been. We must acknowledge our past and seek to be better, not persist in denying it and thus ensuring either stagnation or regression.
Our history is lousy with repugnant, hateful, and callous crackers who revelled in corruption and got fat off the spoils of inequity. Trump is a lot blunter, more obnoxious and loud. He is the worst. But not that much worse than his predecessors, and he is nothing if not representative of what this country has always been.