Donald Trump wants to create an America that runs directly counter to the “melting pot” principle on which the country has prided itself for generations.
This isn’t an opinion. It is a statement of fact.
How else can we take Trump’s Sunday morning tweets — directed at freshman Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — in which he told the quartet, in essence, to go back where they came from?
“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.”
Trump continued his attacks Monday morning, calling for the “Radical Left Congresswomen,” who he again did not name, to “apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the office of the President” for what he called “their horrible & disgusting actions.”
Let’s start with some facts. Of the four people Trump told to go home to their own country, 3 of the 4 were born in the United States. The 4th — Omar — was born in Somalia, spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, arrived in the US at age 12 and is a naturalized US citizen, according to the New York Times.
So, telling them to go back to their “totally broken and crime infested placed from which they came” makes very, very little factual sense. But Trump isn’t terribly concerned with the facts here. It’s the sentiment that matters to him.
And that sentiment is racist. Again, this is not an opinion. This is a fact.
Trump is telling 4 non-white women that they aren’t from here, their views aren’t welcome here and they need to get out of here. Rather than staying here, they need to go back to the hellhole countries where they are from.
How does that behavior not fit the textbook definition of racism? (That definition, according to Merriam-Webster: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”)
And it’s not only racist. It’s also anti-American. Because America, since at least the early days of the 20th century, has prided itself on notion that this country — more than any other in the world — is a melting pot. It doesn’t matter where you came from, how you got here or what your native language is. We are all Americans — not reduced by the tremendous diversity of those who came to this county but bettered and bolstered by it.
That’s literally the whole point of America. It’s not a homogenous bloc of look-alikes and sound-alikes. It’s a heterogenous mix — a big, at-times messy experiment, in how our different lived experiences (and our variant pasts) can inform a better present and future.
Trump has never really had that vision of or for America. During the campaign, he cast a dark picture of our diverse America — deriding so-called PC culture and suggesting that if he wasn’t elected, it would mark the end of our American experiment.
In his inauguration speech, Trump painted a dystopian version of the America he was to lead:
“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. … This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
And all of it was — and is — summed up in his now infamous 4-word slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
The insidious idea lurking right below the surface of that slogan is this: America was better off before all of this diversity. When everyone knew their place. When people didn’t question what people who looked like Donald Trump said.
Built into that notion is this fallacy: America, at some point in the past, was better for everybody than it is now. Women, Hispanics, African Americans and gay people — to name just a few — know that’s not true. What Trump’s slogan means — and what it has always meant — is that there was a time when white people — and men in particular — ran this country, and those times were better than what we have now.
Again, that is a sentiment that is both racist and deeply anti-American. And a sentiment that has been not only voiced but weaponized, repeatedly, for political gain by the president of the United States. And greeted with silence by the members of his party in Congress.
All of this is abnormal in extremis. It is anathema to the commitment made by generations of past elected officials — from the president to the PTA head — to do something in public life that makes the country a better place to live for all Americans.
Consider this rumination on race — and what makes America truly great — from then-candidate Barack Obama in March 2008:
“This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.”
And now consider how far Donald Trump’s tweets on Sunday missed that mark. It’s startling, scary and sad.