Discover more from Robert Reich
True patriotism is the opposite of Trump’s White Christian Nationalism
Thoughts on July 4th
On Saturday, Donald Trump conducted the second formal rally of his campaign — in Pickens, South Carolina, where an estimated 50,000 turned up under the scorching sun to hear him.
There, he advanced his version of patriotism based on White Christian Nationalism.
He began by celebrating the town’s namesake, Francis Pickens, who was governor of South Carolina when it was the first to secede from the Union on the eve of the Civil War. Trump assured the crowd he wouldn’t let “them” change the town’s name.
He commended the Supreme Court for rejecting affirmative action “so someone who has not worked as hard will not take your place.”
He saluted the court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade so “radical left Democrats will not kill babies.”
He promised to stop “men competing in women’s sports” and prevent classroom teachers from teaching the “wrong” lessons about sexuality or history.
He condemned foreign governments that “send” over the border “people in jails and insane asylums” and promised to deny entry to “all communists and Marxists.”
And he declared America’s most dangerous opponents not to be Russia, China, or North Korea but “enemies within” America.
The true meaning of patriotism is the opposite of Trump’s exclusionary White Christian Nationalism.
America's moral mission has been toward greater inclusion — providing equal rights to women, Black people, immigrants, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, and agnostic.
True patriots don't fuel racist, religious, or ethnic divisions. Patriots aren't homophobic or sexist.
Nor are patriots blind to social injustices — whether ongoing or embedded in American history. They don’t ban books or prevent teaching about the sins of the nation’s past.
True patriots are not uncritically devoted to America. They are devoted instead to the ideals of America — the rule of law, equal justice, voting rights and civil rights, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom from fear, and democracy.
True patriots don’t have to express patriotism in symbolic displays of loyalty like standing for the national anthem and waving the American flag.
They express patriotism in taking a fair share of the burdens of keeping the nation going — sacrificing for the common good.
This means paying taxes in full rather than lobbying for lower taxes or seeking tax loopholes or squirreling away money abroad.
It means refraining from making large political contributions that corrupt American democracy.
It means blowing the whistle on abuses of power even at the risk of losing one's job.
And volunteering time and energy to improving one’s community and country.
Nor is patriotism found in baseless claims that millions of people vote fraudulently. Or in pushing for laws that make it harder for people to vote based on the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
Patriotism lies instead in strengthening democracy — defending the right to vote and ensuring more Americans are heard.
Patriots understand that when they serve the public, their responsibility is to maintain and build public trust in the institutions of democracy.
They don’t put loyalty to their political party above their love of America. They don’t support an attempted coup.
They don’t try to hold onto power after voters have chosen not to reelect them. They don’t make money off their offices.
When serving on the Supreme Court, they recuse themselves from cases where they may appear to have a conflict of interest. They don’t disregard precedent to impose their own ideology.
America’s problem is not as described by Trump and his White Christian Nationalism — that the nation is losing its whiteness or dominant religion, that too many foreigners are crossing its borders, that men are competing in women’s sports or teachers are not celebrating the nation’s history.
America’s problem is that too many Americans — including its lawmakers — are failing to understand what patriotism requires.