Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Blood of Our Ancestors



The 45th and possible 47th President of the United States of America:

You know, when they let, I think the real number is like 15, 16 million people into our country, when they do that, we got a lot of work to do.  They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done. They’ve poisoned ... mental institutions and prisons all over the world. Not just in South America. Not just in the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world they’re coming into our country. From Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They’re pouring into our country. Nobody’s even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.



Mehdi Hasan asks the conventional rhetorical question.

Trump contends there are "like 15, 16 million people into our country, when they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They're poisoning the blood of our country." Representative Malliotakis said "He didn't say the word 'immigrants.' I think he was talking about the Democratic policies." 

Unless the ex-President meant that there are approximately 14 or 16 million Democrats "pouring into our country "from Africa, from Asia, all over the world," he was talking about immigrants.

Nonetheless, I'd ask a different question than would Hasan. We have to accept the possibility that these folks sleep well at night, either because they lack a conscience or because they actually agree with Mr. Trump. Perhaps the better question, asked rhetorically or not, would beg an explanation as to the reason such Republicans are unable or unwilling to defend the remarks they prefer to pretend the former President did not make.

They would not have to defend the racial aspect- "blood"- of the comment. If they want to restrict dramatically the flow of migrants to the USA, they could make the argument. But they won't. Karen Finney, of whom I'm no fan, has an interesting theory which might explain their reticence when in response to Hasan, she maintains "Trump's comments are as much about interracial/bi-racial Americans as they are about immigrants. The 'poisoning the blood' rhetoric akin to 'one drop' laws in the US. This is about a much bigger version of who is American."

Technically, she is wrong, but only technically. Trump was talking about immigrants, and only immigrants and reflects the perspective of many voters. While his words and meaning are hateful and bigoted, they make sense to a lot of people. 

Nonetheless (as Finney recognizes), when Trump speaks of "blood," he is not speaking of the "blood" of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Americans of Latin descent. Were he doing so, there would be no "blood" to be poisoned- it already be "poisoned," the result of sexual relations among people of different national and racial backgrounds.

Thus, when Donald Trump was speaking of "the blood of our country," he was referring to the blood of white Americans. Finney's critique is insightful insofar as she was foreseeing a slippery slop, unconsciously harkening back to Reverend Martin Niemoller. The Lutheran minister, at first a right-winger, then a critic of Adolph Hitler, after the Second World War eloquently powerfully admitted

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Actor Ronald Reagan was a fake and bad President with soaring rhetoric. So he understood what even Republicans once did, that "you can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American." Here, it has been not who our parents or grandparents were, but who we are, or striving to become.

But Donald Trump's acolytes, including supposed rivals Ramaswamy, DeSantis, and Haley, are in too deep. Intimidated by, or in support of, the Republican Party's leading presidential candidate, they are unable to make an argument in favor of democratic principles, institutional mores, or American values. Their silence speaks loudly. Commitment to what has made America America has given way to accepting someone who wants to decide who gets to stay and who gets shut out based upon the supposed blood of their ancestors.



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