Robert Reich

Trump’s Fourth of July

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

On this coming Fourth of July, it’s worth pondering the true meaning of American patriotism—as opposed to the malignant, distorted view of it propounded by Donald J. Trump.

For Trump, the central challenge of American patriotism is to secure our borders. “Without borders, there can be no nation,” he says.

But excluding foreigners has never been a dominant part of American patriotism. For most of its existence America has been relatively open to people from the rest of the world, especially those fleeing tyranny and violence.

America’s core struggle has been one of inclusion, not exclusion. We have strived to extend equal citizenship to Native Americans, African Americans, women, and LGBTQs. 

The poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie, expressed loving devotion to America while turning that love into a demand for justice. 
“This land is your land, this land is my land” sang Guthrie. “Let America be America again,” pleaded Hughes: “The land that never has been yet—/And yet must be—the land where everyone is free./The land that’s mine – the poor man’s, Indian’s Negro’s, ME—.”

Trump’s patriotism centers on symbolic displays of loyalty like standing for the national anthem and waving the American flag.

But such displays haven’t been at the center of American patriotism. Historically, American patriotism has meant taking a fair share of the burdens of keeping the nation going.

This includes volunteering time and energy to improving the community and country. It has meant paying taxes in full rather than lobbying for lower taxes, seeking tax loopholes, or squirreling away money abroad.

It also means refraining from making political contributions that corrupt our politics, and blowing the whistle on abuses of power even at the risk of losing one’s job.

Real patriotism involves strengthening our democracy—defending the right to vote and ensuring more Americans are heard, not claiming without evidence that millions of people voted fraudulently and pushing for laws that make it harder for blacks and Latinos to vote.

True patriots don’t inundate government with industry lobbyists, attack the freedom of the press, criticize judges who disagree with them, or fill the airwaves with lies. They don’t direct employers to fire employees who exercise their freedom of speech.

True patriots don’t court foreign dictators, and don’t excuse tyranny by denigrating America.

When asked whether Vladimir Putin is a killer, Trump responded “you think our country’s so innocent?” When asked about Turkish strongman Erdogan’s disdain for civil liberties, Trump said “when the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”

True patriots don’t fuel racist, religious or ethnic divisions. They aren’t homophobic or sexist. To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen and celebrate the “we” in “we the people of the United States.”

Trump is the first United States president to use the term “we” to refer only to his supporters. “My supporters are the smartest, strongest, most hard working and most loyal that we have seen in our countries history,” he tweeted recently. “As we get stronger, so does our country.”

A majority of today’s Americans do worry that the nation is losing its national identity. But that identity has never been centered on our support for a particular president or his policies.

Nor, more fundamentally, has our identity depended on the whiteness of our skin or the uniformity of our ethnicity.

Our national identity has been our shared ideals.

If we are losing our national identity it is because we are losing those ideals: a commitment to the rule of law, to our democratic institutions, to truth, to tolerance of our differences, to equal political rights and equal opportunity, to participating in our civic life and making necessary sacrifices for these ideals we hold in common.

We must share these ideals if we are to have a functioning society. Without them, there is no America.

Trump is doing everything he can to destroy these ideals. We must do everything we can to strengthen them.

This is the true test of our patriotism.

Past Columns
America’s Bullies

October 10, 2018

Meltdown Lessons Unlearned

September 19, 2018

The Next Crash

September 5, 2018

Preparing for War

March 28, 2018

A Prescription of Greed

March 14, 2018

The true path to prosperity

December 6, 2017

Dynasty Dystopia

September 20, 2017

Anti-Labor Day

August 30, 2017

Trump’s Big Loss

August 2, 2017

The End of Trump

May 17, 2017

First 100 Days

April 26, 2017

Events
Today
Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Endangered Species Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Prosecutors race is a referendum on reform

6:00pm

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Where the sidewalk ends

7:00pm

Walking to the End of the World

7:00pm|Village Books

Brian Dean Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Climate Change and Forests

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Modified documentary and Panel Discussion

7:30pm|Pickford Film Center

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Camber Exhcange

5:30pm|1820 Scout Place

Falling Out of the Box Jewelry Challenge

6:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Squash Celebration

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Whatcom Community College

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Nooksack River Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Siro Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Friday
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Cider Days

11:00am|Camber

Fall Family Weekend

12:00pm|Western Washington University

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Spaghetti Feed

5:00pm|Ferndale Senior Center

Bread and Puppet Theater

5:00pm|Laurel Park

Paper mache and politics

5:00pm

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

7:00pm|Blaine High School

Friday Night Flicks

7:00pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Pride and Prejudice

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

A Night with Miguel de Hoyos

7:00pm|Kennelly Keys

Laura Read and Friends

7:00pm|Village Books

Daily Dying

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Locarno

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Hellingham

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Teton Gravity Research

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Siro Trove Web