The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution condemning President Trump’s racism – a serious condemnation indeed, for racism now sits at the very top of the deadly sins hysterically decried by American opinion-fu… sorry, I mean formers.
This name-dropping document has done little to heighten my admiration for politicians in general and US politicians specifically. Its form resembles a Roget’s Thesaurus of Quotations blended with hagiography of past politicians supposed to have championed racial equality.
However, none of the quotations says a single word about race. They all talk about welcoming immigrants who’ll then contribute to America’s “intoxicating” prosperity.
Now, any president of the past would have had to be retarded to say anything different. In 1790, shortly after the US Constitution was ratified, the country’s population was a meagre 2.5 million. Hence an influx of immigrants was a matter of national survival.
Even in modern times America has done well out of immigration, for example in her space programme. And, as anyone who has ever lived in the border states will testify, Mexican immigration is also vital to the economy of the region.
Trump, whose own blood is a cocktail of ethnic ingredients, knows this as well as anybody. He has employed immigrants, accepted their campaign contributions and even married some of them.
However, he has tried to stem the influx of illegal immigration, mainly though not exclusively from Mexico, and this is a lesson our own politicians should heed. Citizenship and therefore eventually nationhood are meaningless in a country that loses control of its borders.
Hence, the resolution’s statement that “if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost” would only mean something in this context if Trump planned to slam the metaphorical door in the face of all immigrants, not just illegal ones.
Anyway, even supposing for the sake of argument that Trump doesn’t want to admit any more aliens, that doesn’t ipso facto make him a racist.
For example, an Englishman who dislikes the Frogs and the Krauts (I’ve met many such bigots), isn’t on the strength of this fact a racist, for the simple reason that his bogeymen belong to his own race. He’s xenophobic, but a dislike of foreigners may well coexist with amiable acceptance of differently coloured fellow citizens.
When words were used not to signal virtue but to signify meaning, racism meant belief in the superiority of one’s own race over all others. Since Trump has never said anything along those lines (if he had, rest assured that his statement would have been quoted chapter and verse), all those pro-immigration quotations from American secular saints are wide of the mark.
However, I’ve uncovered this excerpt from a presidential speech that clearly brands its author as a virulent racist:
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Awful, isn’t it? The only trouble is that this statement was uttered not by Trump but by the Great Emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln.
Quoting from great presidents of the past is thus a perilous business: it’s easier to find quotations similar to the one above than opposite ones.
This explains the House’s sleight of hand: first, they give a roll call of sainted names, with pro-immigration quotations attached; then they ignore that the quotations were about immigration from Europe only or at least predominantly; then they imply, on flimsy evidence, that Trump disavows such sentiments; and then they incongruously and without any proof whatsoever accuse him of racism.
The first sainted names quoted in the resolution are Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison, which is cosmically dishonest in a document supposed to condemn racism.
Those Enlightenment demagogues didn’t extend their noble principles to blacks, whom they didn’t consider fully human. All three owned (Jefferson also procreated) slaves, and treated them as livestock.
On his Monticello estate Jefferson bred slaves using the same agricultural principles as those applied to breeding farm animals. And any slave attempting escape was bullwhipped within an inch of his life.
The resolution is correct where it confirms my yesterday’s definition of American nationhood: “Whereas American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good…”
That was my point precisely: Americanism is in some ways closer to an ideology than nationhood qua nationhood.
I shan’t repeat what I said yesterday, but one could argue explicitly, as Trump did implicitly, that the fanatically radical ‘ideas’ propagated by the ‘Squad’ contravene that ideology.
Pursuit of economic happiness, for example, would be rendered well-nigh impossible by their proposed socialist policies, such as raising the minimum wage to $30,000 a year.
Also, members of the Squad could more readily than Trump be liable to accusations of racism. Theirs is thinly veiled anti-Semitism, and even that gossamer cover is at times dropped.
None of the four ladies bothers to conceal her clear preference for Hamas and Hezbollah over Israel. Each time Israel retaliates against terrorist acts, it’s a ‘massacre’, and Israel’s very presence in the West Bank is an ‘occupation’.
Lest you might think their problem is only with Israel, not Jews as such, Ilhan Omar has been forced to apologise for using “anti-Semitic tropes” after she suggested that US support for Israel was bought by a pro-Israel lobby. And Rashida Tlaib has admitted that she finds talk of the Holocaust “calming”.
I’m still waiting for a House resolution condemning the Squad’s racism. But then I’m also waiting for a flock of pigs overflying my garden.