Below are excerpts from two chapters:
Come Back to Your First Love and Trump's Vision of America
My concern is that the president’s words often trigger violence. In April, the president tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” as part of his barrage against Governors whose position on opening up their states during COVID-19 didn’t match his. His words helped trigger an armed protest at the capitol building in Michigan. Some of those protesters present were later involved in a plot to kidnap Michigan's Governor:
“In April, President Trump tweeted in support of ‘liberating’ Minnesota, Virginia and Michigan: three states with Democratic governors.
‘I really shuddered and was horrified. I mean, liberate Michigan from who? And by what means?’ said Dana Nessel, Michigan’s top law enforcement official. ‘When you say ‘liberate,’ you know, that is a call to action. It's a rallying cry. And I think it's a call to arms. And that's really, I think, what it turned out to be.’…
Among the protesters, militia groups carried automatic rifles and suited up in body armor to show their support. Some were photographed going into the capitol.
Whitmer reflected on the protests at the state’s capitol.
‘People remember those pictures…where people with weapons were showing up and intimidating legislators and threatening me at that point,’ she said. ‘Now, we have come to find that some other members of this plot were actually at that event. And I think that that kind of tells you how the rhetoric really can have horrible, disastrous, dangerous consequences for others.’
Whitmer said this menacing is absolutely ‘unacceptable’ and ‘a threat to our democracy and the American dream.’ She added that both parties, and the president, have a role to play.
‘I think the hesitancy to even call out white supremacy creates space for groups that are looking for anything to hang their hat on,’ Whitmer said. ‘I do think that the rhetoric has made safe harbor for people that are engaged in these activities.’”
In the excerpt from MGA Vol I below, I shared an incident where the president jokingly remarked that you could get away with shooting Mexicans “in the panhandle.” Nine months later, a man who opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso quoted Trump rhetoric related to stopping the Mexican invasion:
“…Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language…At a Florida rally in May, the president asked the crowd for ideas to block migrants from crossing the border. ‘How do you stop these people?’ he asked. ‘Shoot them!’ one man shouted. The crowd laughed and Mr. Trump smiled. ‘That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff,’ he said. ‘Only in the Panhandle.’
This past summer, Aug 3, 2019, there was a mass shooting in El Paso, TX. The shooter cited white nationalist themes and quoted words used by President Trump:
…President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. ‘You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!’ he declared at one rally. ‘That is an invasion!’…
Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that ‘this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.’” (Thompson, Vol I)
According to the F.B.I, “The president’s rhetoric has been identified in a series of actual attacks,” Mr. Levin added, “but moreover the day-by-day ticks of F.B.I. hate crimes shows there are increases after sustained and fervent remarks by the president that enter into an online feedback loop that also ends up in other discourses, both at the water cooler and on television.” (Arango, 2020) In MGA Vol I, I said, “The President of the United States has a box of matches, and our country is on fire.” (Thompson, Vol I)
Trump’s Vision of America
“Americans are deeply, and for the moment immutably, divided by whether or not they’re nostalgic for what had long been a White-dominated country. Trump’s better-than-expected showing, particularly among White evangelicals, merely shows that he turned out more of the nostalgic.” (Milbank, 2020)
I was watching President Trump’s pre-emptive victory speech on election night, and I saw it again. I have seen it before at many of his rallies and press conferences. What did I see? I saw a room full of white people. It jumped out at me, and it was striking, unsettling. Several days later, I dreamt about that gathering again, and I realized that I was so disturbed because this gathering reflected a Trumpian America. An America where whites were like an elite ruling class in which an occasional token black would flit by like a spec in the background. In this Trumpian vision of America, blacks and other minorities had no significant roles, no leadership responsibility, and certainly no voice. It reminded me of what I envisioned the 1950s to be like. In my vision of the 1950s, white people owned/led mostly everything, and black people had a place out of view on a lower plateau…
The Republican Party had been reshaped by the president. He had bullied, fired, and threatened the party into his own image. His leadership influence had also been unmistakably stamped on the evangelical church. Many in the church were parroting his views on race and even the coronavirus. I, as a life-long Republican voter, felt left out in 2016. The party became a MAGA-love fest in which I was only marginally included. I couldn’t see myself in President Trump’s vision of a great America.
Certainly by 2020, after the president had spoken out in favor of Confederate monuments and the rebel flag, praised Kyle Rittenhouse and invited the Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by,” there was no room for me at the table of a Trumpian America. But why was there still room for my Christian friends and leaders? The Kool-Aid.
President Trump had sold them on a vision of America in which people of color could sit comfortably on a second-tier or go back to the countries that they came from. The President had either succeeded in reshaping the values of many evangelicals or by exposing the values they already had. In either case, his leadership influence on them was clear for all to see.
I know that all Republicans and evangelicals do not share the president’s views. However, very few that disagree with him come forward to challenge him publicly.
“Millions of Republican voters do not agree with white supremacy, but they delude themselves when they ignore this rotting core of their party. One cannot simply brush off Confederate symbolism, race baiting and incitement of White militia as “just Trump talking” any more than one can pretend the post-election shenanigans are anything but an effort to disenfranchise Black voters so that White votes control the outcome. There is no “But Gorsuch” or “But tax cuts” or “But religious liberty” that justifies this behavior — akin to Whites of the 1950s saying they were not for segregation, just “states’ rights.”
Many pundits are pleading for the nearly 80 million people who voted for Biden to try to understand those who did not, but it is time to implore the less than 74 million who voted for Trump to take off their rose-colored glasses, confront what is at the core of the Trump movement and reject White grievance and Black disenfranchisement. Unless they do, there will be no healing, no reconciliation and no multiracial democracy.” (Rubin, 2020)
Being comfortable with this vision of exclusivity is a form of racism. It's a twisted world view that says that people that look like me deserve to dominate the American political, economic, and even spiritual leadership landscapes. Implied is a superiority complex tied to race and national origin. Embedded within, undergirding this exclusionary mindset is the long-enduring lie that one race of people built America.
Its close companion lie is that white people aren't descendants of immigrants or that descendants of white immigrants deserve a higher status amongst other people because white immigrants "founded our democracy."
These enduring lies support the thought that being born white eliminates the concept of meritocracy. It ignores our country's very founding principles that say all men are created equal and have the same unalienable rights bestowed by God. It says that because I was born white, it trumps any education, talents, efforts, or any other possible credential that you have as a minority.
Because I haven’t heard many Republican leaders or evangelical leaders, for that matter, “confronting” or “rejecting,” I cannot believe that they see that America is indeed in need of “healing” and “reconciliation.” Instead of contending for a “multiracial democracy,” they have embraced Trump’s vision of America.
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