Almost a year ago, Donald Trump started using the phrase “America First” during his campaign. When he started saying it, he received some pushback… Mostly because of the phrase’s long history as an anti-semitism dating back to the days of World War II, when pro-isolationists and Nazi sympathizers used it as their slogan. But Donald Trump was already well aware of this. In 2000, Pat Buchanan used the slogan “America First” in his run for the Reform Party’s nominee for president (a nomination that Donald Trump was also seeking). He called WWII an “unnecessary war,” and ran against free trade. Because of comments like these and slogans associated with German sympathizers, while Trump was campaigning against Buchanan, he called him a “Hitler lover.” And despite that slogan’s dubious past, Trump embraced it AGAIN in his inaugural speech (making it now associated with a RUSSIAN sympathizer).
And though many people are aware of the anti-semitic past of “America First,” many people DON’T know that way back in 1941, America’s beloved Dr. Seuss made a bunch of cartoons criticizing the slogan and equating “America First” with fascism and naziism. Here are some examples of his work:
Even though Trump claimed to write his own inauguration speech–even releasing a staged photo of himself working on his speech (“writing” with a Sharpie on a brand new pad of paper while sitting at a reception desk at his Mar-A-Lago hotel)–the Wall Street Journal reports that parts of the speech were written by two of his senior advisors, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Bannon–a self-professed white nationalist and former CEO of the Alt-Right platform Breitbart–said of the speech, “I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House… It’s got a deep root of patriotism.” But then, we can see from another of Dr. Seuss’s cartoons the effects that embracing a policy of “America First” has on those “roots.”
But it’s not as simple as “America First” = Fascism. Seuss was working with the government to try to convince a still war-weary public that the U.S. had to get involved in World War II. A few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, support for the isolationist America First Committee basically fell apart. Still, there is reason to be concerned. A few days ago, Trump AGAIN suggested that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil in a sort of “spoils of war” way… A suggestion that is as ridiculously impossible as it is unethical and illegal. This time, when he alluded to regretting stealing Iraq’s oil, it looked like this:
And just in case you felt like you didn’t have the 29 seconds it takes to watch the video, you should know that he ended his statement with the words, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.” To clarify, that is the president of the United States suggesting that perhaps we’ll have another chance to illegally steal Iraq’s oil after a military battle. I wonder what effect this sort of statement will have on the Iraqi people fighting beside U.S. military troops against ISIS… I doubt people will be as eager to work beside foreign forces to take back THEIR country when the leader of those foreign forces is alluding to pillaging your nation’s natural resources. I can imagine the Iraqi military forces we are helping to train are left wondering which direction they should be pointing their guns…
Anyway, all of this “America First” is just more of the dangerous and fear-filled nationalism that helped propel Donald Trump into power. It’s a term that George H. W. Bush decried as being “selfish.” But honestly, it makes sense coming from a party that attempts to turn the selfish “objectivism” of Ayn Rand into some sort of virtue. And the fact that it is being supported by most of the people identifying themselves as “the church” breaks my heart more than just about anything in the world right now. Even the writers of the OLD TESTAMENT knew better than this. Leviticus 23:22 has God saying, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.” And they knew better than to treat aliens and immigrants poorly, because THEY knew how it felt to be strangers in a strange land… Exodus 22:21 says, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” And this heart of God for the ones outside the borders crescendoed until the life of Jesus. And if we are listening to the still-speaking voice of God all around us, we know that it still crescendoes today. Please hear this truth, and understand that it is not any sort of “alternative fact:” When a country’s slogan turns to “Me First,” that country ceases to have any claim to being a “Christian Nation.”
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