In “The Atlantic,” Peter Beinart Accuses Trump of “Paranoia” for Invoking “The West”
From The Atlantic (whose name, by the way, needs to be changed because it invokes the hateful, discriminatory white nationalist concept of “the West”):
When the president says being Western is the essence of America’s identity, he’s in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people.
PETER BEINART 5:17 PM ET GLOBAL
In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.
The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.
The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world’s largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.
The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country’s “Westernness,” it’s because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they’re not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.
Steve Bannon, who along with Stephen Miller has shaped much of Trump’s civilizational thinking, has been explicit about this. In a 2014 speech, he celebrated “the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam” and “our forefathers” who “bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.” …
To grasp how different that rhetoric was from Trump’s, look at how the last Republican President, George W. Bush, spoke when he visited Poland. In his first presidential visit, in 2001, Bush never referred to “the West.” He did tell Poles that “We share a civilization.” But in the next sentence he insisted that “Its values are universal.” Because they are, he declared, “our trans-Atlantic community must have priorities beyond the consolidation of European peace. We must bring peace and health to Africa. …
Bush’s vision echoed Francis Fukuyama’s. … By contrast, when Trump warned Poles about forces “from the south or the east, that threaten … to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition,” he was talking not about Christianity but about Christendom: a particular religious civilization that must protect itself from outsiders.
In his 2003 speech, Bush referred to democracy 13 times. Trump mentioned it once. And for good reason. Ideologically, what links the current American and Polish governments is not their commitment to democracy—both are increasingly authoritarian. It is their hostility to Muslim immigration. The European Union is suing Poland’s government for refusing to accept refugees. Among Trump’s biggest applause lines in Warsaw was, “While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.” Given that Trump had linked “our values” to America and Poland’s “tradition,” “faith,” “culture,” and “identity,” it wasn’t hard to imagine whom that leaves out. …
The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” …
Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. …
Poland is largely ethnically homogeneous. So when a Polish president says that being Western is the essence of the nation’s identity, he’s mostly defining Poland in opposition to the nations to its east and south. America is racially, ethnically, and religious diverse. So when Trump says being Western is the essence of America’s identity, he’s in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people. He’s not speaking as the president of the entire United States. He’s speaking as the head of a tribe.
What should the The Atlantic change its bigoted, biased, Westophilic name to? The World-Ocean might sound good to you at first, but it discriminates against inland countries, such as Niger.
As we know, nothing is more morally mandatory than that Niger be facilitated in averaging seven children per woman, grow to 192 million by 2100, and have its teeming masses settle anywhere in the West they want (except, of course, for Israel).