Are Some Americans Less American Than Others?

On July 14, President Trump tweeted the following message:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

Although they were not named, the progressive congresswomen Trump referred to were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. These legislators had been publicly feuding with Nancy Pelosi and Trump waded into the Democrats’ internal conflict.

There are many problems here. The first is that three of the four congresswomen are from the United States. They can’t go back to any other country. Trump has been accused of racism with these tweets because these are all women of color.

I understand the accusation. Growing up in Southern Ohio in the 1960s, I recall hearing white people saying that black civil rights advocates should ‘go back to Africa.’ That made no sense to me since we were all born in the same country, many of us in the same town. However, I eventually figured out the “go back” phrase was a way to put people of color into an outgroup–not us. Users of the “go back” attack wanted to put minority hearers in their place. The message was like things the way they are or leave. Change is not an option.

This is what Trump did with his tweets. He created false categories of “we” and “they.” Trump put Americans he disliked into a category of “their country” and put him and his supporters into “our country.” As soon as I read those tweets, I associated them with the “love it or leave it” and “go back to Africa” rhetoric I heard in the past. I suspect many people of color did as well. This is false and demeaning because the congresswomen are American citizens and entitled to raise their voices in dissent without having their membership in American society challenged. We’re all Americans, right?

Compounding Trump’s error, he attacked the progressive congresswomen because they expressed dissent. Although he has suffered little public push back from Republicans, he is on the wrong side of history with his message. For those Trump supporters who are having trouble seeing the problem, let me cite two former presidents.

In opposition to the 1918 Sedition Act, Theodore Roosevelt defended free speech and the duty to dissent. In an Kansas City Star op-ed just days before a vote on the bill, Roosevelt wrote:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

Being anti-Trump isn’t being anti-American. According to Roosevelt, citizens have a right to criticize the president. Furthermore, it is our duty to participate to speak up with what we feel is the truth.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower told a Columbia University audience in 1954 that part of being American is to dissent.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Without exhaustive debate – even heated debate – of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual, or party, that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous–then indeed we are approaching the end of freedom’s road. We must unitedly and intelligently support the principles of Americanism.

Judged by the standards of these Republican presidents, those congresswomen are in the mainstream of Americanism and patriotism. You and I may disagree with their dissent or policy positions, but we cannot disagree with their right and duty to represent their constituents and speak freely. Even if you like Trump’s policies, you should reject the proposition that dissent makes some Americans less American than others. I hope a majority of both parties in Congress will do more than express verbal disapproval, but instead formally and strongly condemn Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

P.S. Will any of the #courtevangelicals come out and condemn these tweets?

These tweets and Trump’s response to them (he doesn’t mind that people consider them racist because many people agree with them) should be a gut check for Trump’s evangelical supporters. Will they really be able to absorb this?

Evangelical Christianity has already taken quite a hit with the Trump presidency and took a body blow with photos of Mike Pence at the border coldly reviewing refugees standing around without room to sit in a smelly containment cell. If Trump gets away with these comments and his defense without evangelical protest, the damage will only get worse.

24 thoughts on “Are Some Americans Less American Than Others?”

  1. I have heard a Republican or two decry the racism of Trump’s tweets, but not a word from the “Court Evangelicals.” Apparently, bigotry is more important to them than the Christianity they purport to practice. Then again, they have been Trump supporters from the get-go, so that’s pretty obvious.

  2. Trump channeling George Wallace and Lester Maddox. GOP chooses power over patriotism and plays along. Religious right prefers pro-birth – and has decided the “situational ethics” of “ends justify the means” is desirable to honest advocacy.

    1. At least the current president won’t be threatening anyone with an axe handle – he wouldn’t know what it was.

      1. He could use some of his bankruptcy documents ,(he has plenty of these), rolled up into a club to whack with.

  3. And once-upon-a-time statesman Lindsay Graham piles on further in defending Trump’s racism by pulling out the ancient trope of the Red Scare, declaring AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) is a commie.

    1. It’s amusing to pull up video of the smarmy little git from SC before the current president was nominated, and listen to what he says about Donnie from Queens.

      1. Clearly, Lindsey Graham has decided that the way to power and re-election lies through Donald Trump. Either that, or he has utterly lost his mind, which there is some evidence that he used to have–but those glimpses of sanity have become increasingly rare.

        1. At bottom, he’s the same pandering ninny he was when he went after Clinton.

  4. He also objected to them telling us how to run the government, either ignoring or ignorant of the fact, that they *are* the government. He has been an obvious racist since the 1970s when he (and his family) directed employees to put a (c) next to the names of rental applicants that weren’t bright white. Nothing has changed. He is what he has been his entire adult life. His own mother came to this country with fewer practical and language skills, and with less money, than he now says is what should be required. Most of us know about his current wife. Perhaps some day he will travel the Damascus Road, but I am not optimistic.

  5. Nationalism and racism are really pretty much the same kind of sin, so its not surprising there would be lots of synergy between them.
    But of course disappointing that so many of my fellow Christians embrace one or both.

    EDITED TO ADD: To the question “Will any of the #courtevangelicals come out and condemn these tweets?” — almost certainly both their silence and anything they might say will translate simply into “We have no God but Caesar.” Same as everything they have been saying and not saying for 2 or 3 years.

  6. “Will any of the #courtevangelicals come out and condemn these tweets?”

    Highly unlikely I would suggest. Much more likely to be a case of “touch not god’s anointed”… and all that crap.

    1. After all, he is the new messiah who can save us all.
      s/ for anyone who might wonder.

  7. I really fear that unless the GOP comes up with a better choice than Trump, that we will be subjected to four more years of mindless government. He really does not know what he is doing, and what he is doing is not helpful. I’m not a great fan of the politics of the ladies in question, but they are American citizens worthy of mutual respect as participants in our society.

    1. Party before country. If they believe Trump will win (as you appear to do) then why would they run someone against him in the primaries?

  8. Two quite good articles from The Atlantic:

    Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is — In a series of tweets attacking four Democratic congresswomen, the president reiterated his belief that only white people can truly be American.

    Trump Goes All In on Racism — The president’s tweets are an invitation to a racial conflict that pits citizen against citizen, under the calculation that racism itself is a winning political strategy.

  9. The defense against Trump is that his comment wasn’t racist because he didn’t mention race.

    Ok, then what where his comments? He only told people of non-European ancestry, 3 of 4 of whom are native born Americans to “Go back to where they came from.”. Nativist or xenophobic doesn’t quite capture it. Is there a better word? I’m not sure what label to put.

    This is also an incredibly hypocritical statement. Trump’s mother was born in Scotland. His grandparents on his father’s side were born in Germany. So, couldn’t one argue that if Trump doesn’t like being criticized, he should go back to where he came from?

    1. “then what where his comments?”


      Frankly, people should start using that term instead of “racist” because it does avoid the whole “he didn’t say anything about race” issue. Trump’s bigotry isn’t just limited to racism.

  10. In answer to your p.s.: No.

    Trump’s own grandfather (who was not, as Trump has tried to maintain, Swedish) “went back” to his country, specifically Germany, and tried to remain, but was ousted for being a draft dodger. (One might think there was a lesson in there for Trump, but as we know, Trump doesn’t learn anything.) Of course, Germany had a heck of an opportunity for Grandpa Trump to perform his military obligation coming up just a few years later, but, well, he was a Trump. For Trumps, civic duty is for the little people.

    Of course, Trump doesn’t want white people to go back to their ancestral lands, just those “wrong” sort of people.

    I’ll tell ya, it is getting even more exhausting to watch the news every day and learn what ignorant, bigoted malice Trump is inflicting today. But he couldn’t do any of it unless there was a seemingly bottomless pit of horrible people to vote for him, as well as a coordinated flood of lies endlessly spewing on the internet and Fox News.

    This has to stop. We have to stop it. We have already lost far too much.

    1. Your last three points make me fear for my nation:
      1. Trump is Trump; corrupt, amoral, greedy, immature, racist, anti-intellectual, anti-science.
      2. Our good “neighbors” have turned out to be ignorant and scared little bigots in their support of this malignant cretin.
      3. And the state propaganda machine known as Faux “News” must be exposed and held accountable for their outright lies and sins of omission.

      1. Fox “News” defines itself as entertainment, not news, which apparently means that it can lie with impunity, broadcast anything that comes into one of its commentators’ heads, and take next to nothing back, no matter how wrong it is proved to be. In this, they are very like the principal member of their audience–Donald Trump, who frequently quotes the lies they spout. No wonder Fox is known as “State TV.”

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