Without a doubt, President Trump’s most electric platform during his bid for candidacy was an appeal to nationalism. We all remember the slogan, the hats, the footage of roaring crowds at rallies across the country. Trump’s nationalism, throughout his campaign, aroused near-hysteria within his constituent base, it seemed — so much so that he eventually became unstoppable.
“Trump appears to be almost totally bulletproof,” cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Bobby Azarian said of the nominee a month before elections.
Even with all the controversy surrounding his character, the idea of making America great again, apparently, was unifying enough to win him the presidency.
But even at his most convincing, for me, the pitch fell flat. His definition of “greatness” was evidently different from mine.
“I will build a great wall,” as he said in June of 2015, felt hyperbolic and uncalled for; and the fact that “I will have Mexico pay for that wall” rung in every rally venue for months left a bad taste in my mouth.
In the same month, he said about America’s economy, “Our country is in serious trouble,” and not many of us could disagree. 2008 was fresh on the mind, after all. But his rhetoric very quickly turned antagonistic: “When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal?” he said in the same speech. “I beat China all the time. All the time.” But here, he lost me again. When has trade ever been about “winning”?
And then, in December of the same year, he said of himself, just days after the Bernardino shooting, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” And finally, I realized what was happening.
Though his advocating for the “wall,” his flouting a track-record of aggressive “business prowess” and his blatant Islamophobia relate to independent political issues, they all reflect the rather overt dark side of his nationalism. His brand of “nationalism” is dehumanizing, even demonizing.
President Trump’s recent proposal to end “birthright citizenship” through an executive order represents the ugliest manifestation of his dehumanization. “It’s ridiculous,” he told Axios in an interview released Tuesday. “And it has to end.”
Trump has long argued that children of undocumented or illegal parents born on US soil should not be recognized as citizens, but to suggest overriding the 14th Amendment does not only undermine the constitution’s fundamental definition of citizenship, it also affronts the basic personhood of countless coworkers, classmates and friends of mine — the basic humanity of so many refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants and immigrants who come to this country, fighting for the same basic opportunities so many Americans take for granted.
His plan does not only offend the Christian conviction that “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Ephesians 2:19, NIV), it also tresspasses the basic truth that “all men are created equal,” and that “all those born in the United States share in that equity,” as argued by Neal Katyal for The Washington Post.
His plan does not only contradict this country’s history and promise “as a nation of immigrants” (as worded by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s original mission statement, which has since been revised by the Trump administration’s appointee to remove this phrasing), it also echoes the very sentiment that the 1868 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted to eradicate: that slaves, and the children of slaves, could not be citizens (q.v. the 1857 “Dred Scott v. Sandford” decision). That slaves and the children of slaves were counted as less than human — as only three-fifths human, in fact.
His plan is unacceptable.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States,” says the 14th Amendment.
If “America First” has come to mean “America Alone,” then I stand with the seven billion, three hundred seventy-four million, three hundred thousand people that live on the other side of Trump’s wall (that’s 96 percent of the population of the earth). We are not “One Nation Under God,” we are “One World.” Period.