By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, I remember sitting in a country club waiting to have a meeting with a colleague. Close to my table was another table at which sat four obviously well-to-do White women, talking loudly about their delight that Trump had won. They said a lot of things, but there were two things that I have never forgotten. One was that “our country will never be what it was.” And the other was, “I’m so glad he won. He’s so patriotic.”
While I figured that what they were talking about in terms of the country “going back” to what it was had to do with White people “getting back” their sense of political and social privilege, eroded by the deliberate inclusion of minority groups and minority belief systems.
But I was stumped by their proclamation that the president-elect was a patriot.
To me, a patriot is one who is willing to fight, not only for the country in which he or she lives, but also for its principles and values. America was a democracy, or at least we claimed it to be, and there was nothing said that made me believe that this president was the least bit interested in preserving America’s principles and values. In fact, he seemed disappointed with what America was, and intent upon draining the swamp of the “deep state,” which included those people and principles in which he believed.
In the ensuing days of his presidency, this man made it obvious that he believed in himself but not so much in American values. He isolated America from her allies. He opposed DACA. He was not interested in saving the climate, he hired a secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who does not believe in public education. He encouraged police to continue their methods of dealing with suspects of crimes, and encouraged them not to be so nice to them when they put suspects in police cars. He called rabid and murderous racists “very fine people.” He lied about nearly everything as he worked to demonize the Democratic party; everything that was wrong was because of the Democrats, he led us to believe. He continued to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he lifted regulations that had been put in place to protect the environment, as reported in The New York Times.
He attacked the media mercilessly, calling them the “enemy of the people,” and encouraged his followers to treat them poorly, according to an op-ed published by Brookings.edu. He cozied up to Fox News personalities, using them as assistants in getting his message out, a The New York Times article addressed. He also became “best friends” with some of the most hated dictators in the world, The Atlantic reported. And PBS’s News Hour addressed how he has disparaged the military but, according to The Washington Post he has yearned for the military to bow to him as does the military in other autocratic regimes.
He worked on “giving red meat to his base,” a phrase I grew to abhor, but which was continually used to describe the people who followed and believed in him. The going argument was that this group of people was primarily White and non-college educated, but that day in the country club confirmed what I suspected: that his base was far more diverse than the media wanted us to believe.
Little to nothing he did seemed to be in the best interest of the country. As did those women in the country club said when he was elected, plenty of people are saying today that he is an American patriot, but that’s confusing. What is a patriot? Patriots fight for their country, but this president and his followers seem intent on tearing down the country that brought them this far. It feels like we are seeing in real time the situation that was in existence during the Civil War. The confederate men who fought in thee Civil War were born in America, which made them Americans, but they were not fighting for this country. They were fighting against this country because they wanted to preserve the institution of slavery. By the time the first shot of the Civil War was issued from Fort Sumpter, states had seceded from the Union. They were not allied with the Union or its principles. If they were patriotic, they were patriotic to the cause of the Confederacy, not “the United States of America.” They did not want to be a part of the nation; they wanted a nation of their own.
Those who are aligned with the current president seem to be on the same wavelength. In spite of former Vice President elect-Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election, the president and his followers are working hard to undo the results of the election by having legitimately cast ballots thrown out – cast primarily, it must be said, by Black and Brown voters. They are trying to get their “case” first to state legislatures and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court so that the court can make the decision that this man should have a second term.
So when I see his followers gathered in his rallies – not wearing masks, but waving American flags, alongside confederate flags and some flags with swastikas, I stand in awe. They claim to be American which, again, they are if they were born in this country. But they also claim to be patriots, and unfortunately, one cannot be a patriot and fight to bring his or her country down.
The most that person can be is a traitor.
And that is a sobering reality.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.