Over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself all over the United States (US), for a combination of personal and business reasons. For a place that’s always been--to say the least--“very interesting,” I would say that it just got even more so.
America has always been, or at least has portrayed itself to the world, as the great bastion of democracy. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” and all that. A refuge where strangers could feel welcome, where the oppressed could find freedom, and where the marginalized could live their dreams. After all, very few Americans living in the country today can truly lay claim to being original inhabitants of the place. And that’s why the country had always been described as a “melting pot” of different cultures and peoples, the resulting amalgam from which springs forth this nation called the United States of America.
It was hardly surprising that for a very long time, racism and bigotry were considered “extinct” issues in America. If we think about Germany’s racism issue in the last World War, for instance, there was resentment among the original Aryan inhabitants of the place against Jews and other Ayran people, those who came to their country relatively recently, because they felt the latter were taking away opportunities that should otherwise have gone to them. Morally wrong as the prejudice may have been, there is at least some semblance of a reason why they would feel this way. There is some truth that they were originally in the place before the “others” that they do not like were, and were thus feeling entitled to privileges that they believe the newcomers were taking away from them.
If we think about the case of the US, these grievances, however tenuous the foundations, do not exist. Think about the issue, for example, when whites hold prejudices against Americans of color.
How can a white person from eastern Europe who immigrated to the country in 1950 hold any grievance against an African-American whose ancestors were in the country since the 1700s? Makes no sense, right?
There is no basis, surely, against which such prejudice could exist, except some imagined reality that only dwells in the bigot’s head? And so it was that this sense of reality suppressed, if not completely eradicated, all traces of racism and bigotry in the US. That is, at least, until this tweet came out from no less than the president of the country himself.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” US President Donal Trump wrote on Twitter, “now loudly and viciously telling the people of the US, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
Remember, Trump himself is of immigrant parents, with his father tracing his roots to Germany and his mother hailing from Scotland. And his wife is a naturalized American of eastern European background. As I stated above, he has no ground to stand on in terms of being prejudiced, because he is himself not “native” to America.
So what’s with the “our government” reference here? How is it not more the government of the women he has attacked, any more than it is his? And why the “go back...from which they came” line, when they have as much claim to the US, wherever their ancestry may have been from, as much as Trump whose parents were originally also not native-American?
I suspect that, in the end, this is prejudice far deeper than “who was here first.” It boils down to “I am white and you are not, and therefore I don’t like you very much.” This is a very dangerous sentiment that Trump has awakened because, at its heart, this was the core of the Germans’ hatred against non-Germans during the last World War, and something that continues to haunt that nation’s moral core to this day.
Americans of all stripes should therefore stand up and take notice. Because the bigotry and prejudice that hundreds of thousands of their countrymen died for during the last war, is at once an immediate reality, only this time, it lives and breathes not on foreign shore, but on home ground.