You may recognize Donald Trump's campaign slogan, Make America Great Again. But what he really means by reinvigorating xenophobia, racism, classism, and all around hatin' on folks who ain't exactly like the poor white folk who think of themselves as true Americans, is making America what it's always been.
Thousands upon thousands of Trump's opponents compare the Republican Party front-runner to Adolf Hitler because they think he's just that manipulative. They think Trump's heinous enough to stoke fear, rekindle bigotry, and grow hate in order to summon the power of darkness stored inside many disaffected individuals. Once millions of Americans have tapped into their inner ogre and united for one political cause, Trump will build up his own collective power over everyone.
Face it, get enough violent scary people who feel disenfranchised to pick a common enemy or two, and a master manipulator can get them to put him in charge of everyone - including the good guys! Some folks in the U.S. fear that a President Trump would repay this misplaced anger and activated hatred with the ultimate bonus: Once elected, Trump's hateful supporters will get to watch someone else suffer.
An inaugurated Trump will round up Muslims, Mexicans, and Malcontents so that the disaffected bottom of the barrel can watch them lose everything they have. And this use of the notion that "we were great once and we'll be great again as soon as we get rid of those guys" is what's really scaring countless folks so much that they're comparing homeboy Donald to that foreigner Adolf.
Not so fast, America.
It's disheartening that the good guys - basically the Trump critics - would use a Trump way of describing him: basically comparing him to an outsider. Is Trump a bad guy? You bet. Does he brag that he could kill a person in broad daylight and not lose a single vote? Yup. Does he bring out the very worst in people? Does he allow them to vent their thirst for violence, aka mental illness, on others by encouraging them to beat dissenters and then offer to pay their legal bills so they get away with it? Of course he does. Does he threaten the press? All the time. But that's not a foreign trait. Nope, that's one hundred percent American.
When Trump critics look outside the United States to find examples of presidential treachery, they - however inadvertently - support his premise that America is exceptional and has - until Trump - been incapable of the villainy he offers the electorate.
If the U.S. is great, it's only because it tries to get better. What's frightening about the Trump (and several other of the candidates) campaign is that he offers to undo what few improvements the U.S. has made over the years.
Take Mexico for example. Trump would have you believe that Mexicans are horrible people and the reason white people don't have a job. And here his message is impressive because Mexicans are Caucasian like the descendants of Western Europe to whom Trump's message is geared. But because they're a darker shade of white, he exploits an inherent racism that Americans should be trying to overcome not embracing full force.
Hating on Mexicans ain't new. Ever hear of James K. Polk? He was president of the United States during the Mexican-American War. Polk activated a whole bunch of poor American slobs to go fight the Mexicans. The U.S. killed 25,000 Mexicans and liberated her of "California, Utah, and Nevada, as well as parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado." Of course the U.S. government - after killing enough people to make the sale go through - gave Mexico $15 million for her trouble. Which brings up another Trump quality exhibited by Polk: a love for eminent domain. Let's hope Mexico saved the money they earned by losing to Polk, they're going to need it to build Trump's wall.
No wonder the Mexicans view the U.S. with a jaundiced eye. The Canadians might want to start doing the same. Polk wasn't just content with annexing all of Mexico north of the Rio Grande. Drag out your history book. He also wanted to invade Canada. Remember the slogan "54'40" or Fight"? Thank goodness some folks in Congress controlled Polk's wild ambitions. Don't hope for such level headedness from a Congress elected with Trump.
How about hating people who don't share one's ideology? Is that the reason to compare Trump to Hitler. Tut tut, not necessary. No need to remember the infamous Indian killer, President Andrew Jackson, either. He's the best example of Trump's vulgarities, anyway. Instead look to a much loved slave holder president best known for his commentary on liberty whose words Trump would happily use when referring to Muslims in the U.S., "This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate." Shame on you Thomas Jefferson and shame on anyone who compares Trump to Hitler with such stunning examples at play in U.S. history books.
America's greatness lies in America bettering herself. And an argument can be made that America's come a long way since slavery, Native American Genocide, scapegoating and stealing from Mexicans, and silencing the press. But it hasn't. Not if Trump gets elected. But even without his rise to power, the attendance at his rallies proves the U.S. still has an constituency imbued by the most basic urge to blame and punish: everyone but their leaders, that is.
Because yeah, the last accusation against Trump - purposely setting aside sexism because it's still so universally acceptable to objectify women in our paternalistic society that it would be unfair to call Trump alone out for it - his promise to manipulate the press. Trump doesn't mean supporting big money, big advertisers, corporately owned media that controls the message when he threatens reporters. Trump means making it personal, suing the media for saying unflattering things about him, that's his promise. We don't need Goebbels to show us that governments persecute individual reporters and news outlets. No, that's a promise George W. Bush already made good on a few years back. Robert Redford made a movie about it. You can watch the trailer here.
So quit it with the American exceptionalism. Not just Donald Trump: all of you who compare him to an outsider. Only when we realize that Trump threatens to make the United States as bad as it's already been will anyone actually know how easy that task will be.