When I was a child I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my dad. I still see it so vividly, the mint green walls, and cabinets, the metal kitchen table, the Naugahyde upholstery on the chairs. I could not have been more than nine or ten. He would have a few beers in him, and would be reminiscing of his time in the Navy during WWII. The story would always come back to him saying, “Our country is not perfect, but we must be doing something right when so many people want to come here.”
Now, I love this country, and its people, all of them, not just the folks who agree with me. I will also say that our country has been far from perfect, our history is riddled with racism, war, genocide, enslavement, and cruelty. But, I do believe in the promise of America, that promise that makes people want to come here.
On July 8, 1947, Harry S. Truman said in a special message to Congress,
… America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.
George Washington, in his farewell address, written in 1796, said we should,
[G]uard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
Since September 11, 2001, we, as a nation, have been living in fear, and have seen well-intended patriotism turn into nationalism before our eyes. I often wonder if what we are seeing is what the German people saw during Hitler’s rise to power. They saw their friends and neighbors support and defend a madman.
I am not one for hyperbole—I believe in researching a topic, and presenting facts, and evidence to back up my claims. I know I have a personal bias that leans left in the political world. I take all of that into consideration when I come to a conclusion about a subject, especially one that touches upon politics.
On Monday, October 22, 2018, Donald Trump said,
“Really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, O.K.? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist! Use that word! Use that word!”
The next day, he doubled down with,
“I never heard that theory about being a nationalist. I’ve heard them all. But I’m somebody who loves our country. I am a nationalist. It’s a word that hasn’t been used too much. Some people use it, but I’m very proud. I think it should be brought back.”
Now Donald Trump, is not a very smart man by any stretch of the imagination. He likely has no idea what nationalism is, and why it is a bad thing. But in his ignorance, he has put himself, and his supporters in the same class as Hitler, Mussolini, Pinchot, Kim Il Sung, Milosevic, Putin, and others. We are Americans! We fight nationalists! We are supposed to be better than that!
Nationalists are not good people. To quote Charles De Gaulle,
Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.
Trump uses fear and hatred to drum up his base. He scares his followers with tall tales of terrorists hiding among desperate refugees, some of whom may be some of the first refugees of climate change.
One factor causing migrants to risk everything—even potentially losing their children—to travel through the heat of summer in the dangerous desert and towards the barbed wire fences and tent cities springing up just south of the United States border: climate change.
Instead of looking at the root cause of the issue, instead of being empathetic to their plight, he threatens to cut aid to their home countries, which will only make problems worse. His words do nothing more than divide our nation. His words, will lead to violence, if they have not already. As I write this bombs have been discovered at the homes of George Soros, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the offices of CNN. White Nationalists view Trump as one of their own, and would love nothing more than to turn the United States into a haven for their twisted world views.
Trump is not a Republican, and he is certainly no conservative. He will say anything he can to get the adulation of a crowd. He will do anything he can to enrich himself, and those in his circle. He has no moral, or philosophical grounding. He does not care about humanity—and that is what makes him so dangerous.
George Orwell wrote, in his Notes on Nationalism,
Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. 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.
Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.
We are on a very dangerous road right now. I fear for the future of this nation that I proudly served. It should be known that we warned our countrymen, we warned them of who Trump was, and is. We warned them that he was not fit to be an American president. We warned them that his presidency would lead to disaster. Our warnings went unheeded.
I still believe in the promise of America, I just hope it is not too late for that promise to be fulfilled.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.