Published August 20, 2017
Even in terms of the Trump Presidency, last week was a doozy. Even coming off the week prior, when President Trump threatened, on Twitter nonetheless, the citizens of North Korea with nuclear annihilation, last week was a doozy. Even for a President who campaigned to the alt-right, hired a few of them as his advisers, and filled a majority of his cabinet with spineless white, land-owning yes-men, last week was a doozy.
After a horrific Saturday, which saw the murder of a female counter-protester at a rally of white nationalists and white supremacists waving Confederate and Nazi flags, President Trump refused, on Sunday, to call out these vile and explicit public displays of racism and hatred. Instead, he merely condemned violence, and ultimately cast blame on “all sides.” But those were not the most egregious words spoken by President Trump last week.On Tuesday, President Trump began his day early by passive-aggressively using Twitter to lash out at his opponents, re-tweeting, among other things, an image of a news reporter from CNN seemingly being hit by a Trump train. An eerie, childlike and reckless re-tweet coming just 3 days after a white terrorists ruthlessly murdered Heather Heyer, a female counter-protester, by running her over with a vehicle. This was a tweet (later deleted) which caused myself and probably many others to wonder exactly where did President Trump fantasize he could have been on Saturday had he not had to worry about the secret service and other confining restraints of the office of POTUS. But that was not the most egregious thing President Trump said last week.
Later that same Tuesday, during a news conference that was supposed to be about infrastructure, President Trump, in response to questions about Charlottesville and racism, lost his composure. He went very far off script and once again blamed the violence on both sides, which he now termed the alt-right and the alt-left. But even these unscripted and from-the-heart words, which left the nation and the world flabbergasted, were not the most egregious words President Trump spoke last week.
Even when he was ‘good’ and simply read the script given to him by his advisors, President Trump’s words missed the mark. After being raked over the coals by US citizens, social media, the regular media, other politicians (including those from his own party), and the global community for his tepid response over the weekend, President Trump came out on Monday like a chastened child being forced by his parents to apologize for an act he clearly felt deserved no condemnation. He carefully read the statement crafted for him by his staff and advisors and took no questions. In his remarks, President Trump called out racism and hatred. That was good. He labeled as repugnant the KKK and white supremacists. That was also good. Two for two. President Trump was on a roll. If only he had stopped there. If only he had ended his remarks with those two condemnations. But he didn’t. He over-reached. President Trump tried to be a political healer and as a result he repeated the destructive and damaging rhetoric that all politicians, from both parties, use when they want to unite this nation. He repeated the lie of American exceptionalism.
Photo by Athony Crider
“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution.”
This lie is smooth because it repeats a sentiment that Americans want to believe about ourselves. We want to think that we are a nation founded on the “truth that all of us are created equal.” We want to believe that we are all equal under the law and under our Constitution. But that is not even close to what the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution intended to communicate. Many of the founding fathers were white supremacists, and nearly all of them were white nationalists. They largely envisioned a racially homogeneous country where white men ruled over subservient women and people of color. Many of them owned slaves, they participated in the ethnic cleansing of natives, they broke treaties, they stole land. They were quickly becoming enamored with talk of Manifest Destiny. In their Declaration of Independence, they labeled natives as savages. And in their Constitution, they never mentioned women, they specifically excluded natives and they all agreed to count Africans as 3/5th of a person. Even when they tried to fix it, they didn’t. The 13th Amendment doesn’t actually abolish slavery. And the 14th Amendment still specifically excluded women and natives. Even today, the legal precedent for land titles is based on the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery and the Constitution is still peppered with 51 gender-specific, male pronouns in regard to who can be President, run for (or hold) office and, is a citizen.
But his appeals to the mythology of American exceptionalism were still not the most egregious words President Trump spoke last week. That prize is reserved for this statement: “Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
How dare President Trump state such an egregious lie! He campaigned to that bigotry. He exacerbated violence. It was the alt-right, white nationalists, and white supremacists who got him elected. And President Trump knows that. He rose to political prominence riding the racist waves of the birther movement. He boasted that he was the only one able to publicly humiliate the first African American President of the United States by forcing him to show his birth certificate on the global stage. At his first campaign event, Donald Trump labeled immigrants from Mexico as rapists and murders. Throughout his campaign he continually demeaned and objectified women. He rallied his base by promising a Muslim ban. Before a conservative Christian audience at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, he boasted that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue (NYC) and shoot somebody and still not lose voters. He was even caught on a hot mike mentoring a younger, white land-owning male, that celebrity and status gives the right to sexually assault women.
President Trump is so dependent upon the support of the alt-right that in 2016, after he was endorsed by David Duke, the former grand marshal of the KKK, he stumbled and took his time to condemn such groups and their racism. And David Duke remembers that, because, last week, after President Trump tweeted “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!” David Duke (whose Twitter account has since been suspended) rebuked him by tweeting, “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the Presidency, not radical leftists.”
Donald Trump fanned the flames of bigotry, intolerance, violence, hatred and racism. He knows our country is conflicted. He sees our racial, gender and religious divides. And as a businessman, turned reality TV celebrity, he made a calculated bet that he could use those divides to further elevate his brand and financially line his pockets. But his calculations were off. All Donald Trump wanted to do was feed his ego and enrich himself. He never wanted to become President. But he egregiously underestimated how alive and well racism, hatred and intolerance is in our country. And I believe he resents the fact that every morning he is reminded of his miscalculation, when he wakes up still confined to the Office of President of the United States of America. Because embracing bigoty, racism, sexism, hatred, and intolerance did something that Donald J. Trump never expected. It propelled him all that way to the White House.
Mark Charles (Navajo) serves as the Washington DC correspondent for Native News Online and is the author of the popular blog “Reflections from the Hogan.” His writings are regularly published by Native News Online in a column titled “A Native Perspective” which addresses news directly affecting Indian Country as well as offering a Native perspective on national and global news stories. Mark is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram .
CORRECTION: In a previous version, Dordt College was mistakenly located in Sioux City, Iowa; the college is in Sioux Center, Iowa.