Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Love America. Trumpian Nationalism Scares Me

This was a bad week.

Saudi Arabia

Megyn Kelly

Pipe Bombs

Murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue

The Stock Market

We have these kinds of weeks occasionally and they serve to remind us that we have deep and serious problems both at home and in the world that require our thoughtful, serious, sober attention. The bigger problem, though, is that we do not have a thoughtful, serious, sober president who has the skills to lead us effectively through this rough patch. In fact, the president is in some ways is creating the atmosphere in which these events can flourish.

Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that President Trump is the cause of these terrible events. What I am saying is that he has a hand in setting the tone under which they can develop and grow.

It's time to retire "politically correct" from our lexicon because all it does is give cover to those people who blame it for repressing free speech, when what they want to say are vile, hateful things to anyone they want, and it's usually used by whites who don't quite understand that what they might want to say shows that they have no sense of decorum or justice. Blackface is, and always has been, racist. So has dressing up like a cartoon of someone's ethnic background.

The president has not helped with this because he ran on a firm rejection of respectful speech, using racial, ethnic and sexist slurs against anyone, even military personnel, members of congress, judges and foreign dignitaries who opposed him or questioned his questionable judgement. Is it any wonder that we have people like Megyn Kelly uttering spectacularly racist statements? Or that we have a company such as Google protecting male executives who committed heinous acts of sexism and harassment at work?

Which of course brings us to our latest example of violence and hate, American style. The president has said, repeatedly, that the media is the enemy of the people. It looks like some people have received that message loud and clear. And what's worse is that after a few comforting words, the president went right back on the campaign rally trail and continued to vilify the media after more pipe bombs were discovered. The mainstream media is not the problem; continuing to blame and create scapegoats is the problem.

But what made this week even worse when the president referred to himself as a nationalist, and then taunted those who really understand what his brand of nationalism means.

It's not inclusive.

It's not positive.

It's not helpful.

It creates victims.

And you'll please excuse me for bringing up the past, but as  Jewish American, I cannot ignore what historical nationalism has meant to my people. It's been used to define us as not: not part of the country, not part of the group, not part of the culture, not part of society. That the president apologized for using nationalism as he does says to me that he understands, albeit in a limited way, what nationalism has meant to minorities and those people who have traditionally been excluded from the nation. At the same time, though, he has excused the actions and words of the very right wing hate groups that promote antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.

All you have to do is listen as he and his followers describe the women and children trying to make a better life for themselves in this country as an invasion force worthy of evoking a military response on our southern border to know that this is the language of hatred, fear and loathing. Presidents are role models and they have traditionally been careful about what they say. This president has discarded that, to the detriment of the nation.

At the same time, without investigating, he nurtured the theory that the Saudi government had little to do with the death of Jamil Khashoggi, even going so far as asking the Saudi Crown Prince if his government was involved. Trump took the Prince at his word. That word was a lie.

I have all but given up on the president changing his tone to one that includes all Americans and exhorts us to use our common wisdom, our vitality and our common sense to solve our problems. As long as he sees this country as one in which there are people for him and people against him, then he will continue to divide us.

It's up to us to change that. Make sure you vote on November 6 for candidates that will form a bulwark against policies that will enrich the few, blame the other and venerate the narrow at the expense of the many.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest