President Trump’s superb speech in Poland has been praised by most observers, including Paul. On the Left, however, Trump’s speech has been criticized for its principal virtue, the president’s spirited defense of Western civilization. Here are some of the many such instances.
Amanda Marcotte writes at Salon: “Trump’s alt-right Poland speech: Time to call his white nationalist rhetoric what it is.”
Trump argued that Western (read: white) nations are “the fastest and the greatest community” and the “world has never known anything like our community of nations.” He crowed about how Westerners (read: white people) “write symphonies,” “pursue innovation” and “always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers,” as if these were unique qualities to white-dominated nations, instead of universal truths of the human race across all cultures.
Why, exactly, should we “read white people”? Trump said not a word about race in his speech. While the peoples that developed Western culture were of course predominantly white, Western civilization is not limited to one race. Just ask, say, Thomas Sowell or Yo-Yo Ma. The obsession with race is the Left’s, not Trump’s.
He also portrayed this Western civilization as under assault from forces “from the South or the East” that “threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”
And yet, even though Trump was fairly begging to be labeled a fascist with his speech painting the purity of white civilization as under threat from racialized foreigners….
But wait! Doesn’t the threat from the East come from Russia? And aren’t Russians white? On the Left, facts are always secondary, at best, to the Narrative. Finally, this howler:
Breitbart gushed about how Trump was calling for “protecting our borders” and “preserving Western civilization,” and bizarrely compared the speech to Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech, even though the Berlin Wall is the gold standard in the kind of border security and cultural “preservation” that Trump has made his political career calling for.
Great point, Amanda! Just like Trump’s wall on the southern border, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall to keep out the throngs of West Berliners that were trying to get in illegally.
Next, Sarah Wildman at Vox: “Trump’s speech in Poland sounded like an alt-right manifesto.”
In his address, Trump cast the West, including the United States and Europe, on the side of “civilization.” With an undercurrent of bellicosity, he spoke of protecting borders, casting himself as a defender not just of territory but of Western “values.” And, using the phrase he had avoided on his trip to Saudi Arabia, he insisted that in the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism,” the West “will prevail.”
Is this what is meant by “alt-right”? I am so old, I can remember when 95% of Americans would have thought that such propositions verged on the self-evident.
Common Dreams (“Breaking News & Views For the Progressive Community”): “‘Disturbing’ Undertones Detected in Trump’s Bizarre Poland Speech.”
Honing in on Trump’s repeated emphasis on “the will” and his declaration that “our civilization will triumph,” many made connections between the speech and an infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda film titled “Triumph of the Will,” which was directed by Leni Riefenstahl and based on the 1934 Nuremberg Rally.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:
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 a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.
But Israel is pretty universally regarded as Western, and Western values derive largely from Jewish history and culture.
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. … A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.
Like Trump’s daughter and son-in-law? Beinart’s rant verges on the insane.
Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post: “Trump’s white-nationalist dog whistles in Warsaw.”
This is the same crowd that brays about the superiority of “Western civilization” and its contributions in the history of the world conveniently ignores (or perhaps is just plain ignorant about) what we’ve adopted from Muslims and the Middle East. Those symphonies Trump says “We write” (ahem) would be real lame without the influence of the Middle East and Muslims. According to Salim al-Hassani, chairman of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization and editor of “1001 Inventions,” which chronicles “the enduring legacy of Muslim civilization,” told CNN years ago that the lute, musical scales and the ancestor of the violin are all part of that legacy.
Carlyn Reichel, former speechwriter for Joe Biden, in Foreign Policy: “Trump Has Reshaped Presidential Rhetoric Into an Unrecognizable Grotesque.”
Like staring into a fun-house mirror, the trappings of an American president delivering a landmark speech abroad were there — certainly there were deliberate echoes of President John F. Kennedy’s historic speech in Berlin — but it was all reshaped into an unrecognizable grotesque.
With each paragraph, strong statements about defending freedom and standing against the forces of oppression were replaced by a narrow vision of the world rooted in an even narrower ideology. For Trump, the boundaries of “civilization” only extend to those who share his definition of “God” and “family” — that is, a Judeo-Christian worldview and power structures that continue to be dominated by white men.
So you can’t celebrate or defend Western civilization without being denounced by liberals as a white nationalist, a fascist, and so on. It is good to know where they stand.