What is so sinister about the un-Christian racism inherent in the right-wing’s current assault on America’s essential founding value—E. pluribus unum (out of many [peoples], one [nation])—is how its proponents purposefully and disingenuously hide their true colors.
What they really want is a majority white, Christian, conservative country, where those reactionary folks hold most economic and political power.
But they say, “America First,” which really means favoring a white, traditionalist Christian America that had stopped being the imagined “real” America in the 1950s if not long before.
Yet, the phrase sounds patriotic and quintessentially American.
‘Blood and soil’
This current culture war was launched by a Christian, white-supremacist, “blood and soil”-type nativist movement, which, of course, fails to note that the real “nativists”—Native Americans—were originally shoved aside, brutally, so white Christian, faux “nativists” could arbitrarily grab absolute power over the continent in the first place.
One of the dark princes of this movement is Stephen Miller, President Trump’s ruthless immigration guru and a virulent opponent of liberal immigration. Thanks in no small part to Miller’s influence on the president, Central American refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. have been forcibly separated from their children, without congressional authorization, and both are generally held in squalid conditions in chain-link cages.
Miller in a recent interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News said the administration’s immigration policies, which aggressively oppose Latino asylum seekers crossing the border, are misrepresented by progressives as “racist.”
“I think the term racist has become too often deployed by the Left, Democrats essentially, simply to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with and speech they don’t want to hear.”
Like Trump’s slur toward four U.S. congresswomen of color who criticized him, telling them that he should “send them back” (to Africa)?
Miller said the president has been “a president for all Americans,” pointing to improved employment figures for black and Latinos, which are at least partly a result of policies put in place by the previous administration, led by a man of color, incidentally, that are now coming to fruition.
“There’s a fundamental distinction between people who think we need to lean into and strengthen America’s core values, whether they be institutional values, rule of law, the principles of Western civilization,” Miller explained to Wallace, “or people who think we need to turn America into Venezuela. … The core element of the president’s philosophy is ‘America First’ … [the congresswomen Trump recently has attacked] want to tear down our country.”
‘Western civilization’ means ‘Christianity’
When you decipher the subtle meaning behind these words, you understand that Miller is saying that “America’s core values” are “institutional” (family), “rule of law” (law and order) and “the principles of Western civilization” (the ideologies of Western religions; white, Eurocentric supremacy).
It’s not about building up the nation as much as keeping out people from, as the president famously once said, “shit-hole countries.”
The four denigrated congresswomen and their ilk, according to Miller, are enemies of the nation because anyone who opposes Trump’s policies “hates America.”
Wallace accurately pointed that during his presidential campaign Trump said in a speech that the country under President Obama was “garbage,” even though that’s one of the things he’s now bitterly accusing one of the congresswomen of saying. Watch the embedded video of the interview—in full (including the panel discussion after)—to get a full sense of the wrongheaded emotional dissembling that often passes for objective reason in this ominous moment in American history.
White nationalism and faith
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, voices similar views on immigration and valid citizenship. As writer Ian Millhiser explains in an excellent article this week in the progressive news site Think Progress:
“If you believe, as Hawley does, that a society must be tied together by common bonds of tradition and culture and faith,” he wrote, “then that necessarily calls for an immigration system that excludes people from cultural and faith backgrounds that are dissimilar to those of most Americans. … The problem with the ‘cosmopolitan’ elite,’ according to Hawley, is that it ‘has lost touch with what binds us together as Americans.’ It places ‘social change over tradition’ and dislikes ‘the common culture left to us by our forebears.’ It cares too little for ‘things like place and national feeling and religious faith.’”
When crafting the nation’s first motto—E. pluribus unum (out of many, one)—clearly the Founding Fathers were envisioning a “common culture” in America, but not a white, Christian one. The common culture they imagined in the future was a melting pot of broad diversity, not a 1950s nation of white, Christian “Leave It To Beaver” neighborhoods where “Father Knows Best.”
And Sen. Hawley’s “traditional” vision for the nation is a kind of subterfuge. He says government should “merely lay the groundwork for ‘the social manifestation of the kingdom,’” Millhiser notes in his Think Progress piece. Hawley means the “kingdom of God,” but he’s quick to unconvincingly insist he’s not talking about a Christian theocracy.
“Hawley’s ‘kingdom politics’ are more Christian nationalist than they are explicitly racist,” Millhiser wrote. “But the vision that animates Hawley is the same vision that animated the 1924 immigration law. It’s a vision which teaches that sameness is strength, that diversity is dangerous, and that E. pluribus unum is an abomination.”
Note that although Congress ill-advisedly adapted “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1953, as the nation trembled against Communism, E. pluribus unum (the original motto) is still inscribed on the official national seal.
Immigration and the KKK
An American precedent exists for the administration’s current immigration policies: in 1924, at the behest of the Ku Klux Klan, Congress passed an immigration law that decreed “quotas for immigrants in proportion to the ethnicity of those already in the United States in 1890.”
By perpetuating non-European immigrant communities as minorities, lawmakers (and the KKK) then, like Hawley now, sought to further ensure a “common cultural identity”—white, Western European, Christian.
It’s a master-race, one-true-religion scenario.
In a compelling article this month in Vox about the National Conservatism Conference, Jack Beauchamp that the viewpoints presented at the confab “necessarily break down into a vile form of bigotry.”
“The conservative sacralization of Western culture and Christian heritage,” he writes, “inevitably results in the denigration and exclusion of those who do not share it.”
Beauchamp quotes one conference speaker, Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax, who “explicitly” argued in favor of a white-dominant society.
“Conservatives need a realistic approach to immigration that … preserves the United States as a Western and First World nation,” Wax said, and that the U.S. is “better off if we are dominated numerically … by people from the First World, from the West, than by people who are from less advanced countries.”
I cannot imagine a more elitist, un-American view.
When was “all men are created equal” written out of our national birthright?
Heaven help us if this dangerous stuff ever becomes the new normal.