Tabloid reporter Jake Tapper called it one the most radical inaugural speeches in American history. Whether it was so much to prompt him to make Aliyah as a result is not known. Though within context of the pablum of modern politics, the incoming president’s remarks yesterday were radical indeed. But just what it is that made them so radical is the most radical element of all.
Trump’s speech was quite brief, and jarringly devoid of his predecessor’s customary self-reverence. We replaced me so frequently that one almost got the sense of listening to a Hellenic citizen commander rather than another His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal, Al Hadji, Doctor, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.
My impressions of various passages are below.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
The Western political right is comprised of vast and varied interest groups, all focused on their own discrete issues. Constitutional conservatives, ethno and civic nationalists, reactionaries, and liberty advocates are broad examples. If it is possible to capture any overlap among these factions it is probably done in the statement above. Because no matter their specific perspective, Trump is describing the right’s fundamental critique: the Western decoupling of state from nation. When critics rail against the establishment this is their complaint, whether conscious of it or not.
However rare in practice, the state exists to advance the interests and welfare of the nation, not the other way around. Members of the state apparatus have confused this relationship throughout history, and been frequently replaced as a result. America’s process of peaceful replacement has not been history’s norm. But that is what occurred yesterday, and Trump’s first words were its acknowledgement.
As an aside, precedent suggests (insistently) that Trump’s expansive sense of nation won’t offer a sustainable foundation. Though what he misses in conception of nation he understands fully in conception of state. He tapped into the innate and eternal dissatisfaction with leaders pursuing ends indifferent or inimical to their people. No one elevates another to piss down his back. This election was no more complicated than that. Trump reiterated the point from the outset, and didn’t stop there.
That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.
This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
Again the state exists to serve the nation. Whether Trump actually believes in the paradigm I don’t know. But I do know he’s the only politician in years to so conspicuously acknowledge it.
For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.
We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And we’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
Trump proceeds to offshore the same theme. The state not only exists to serve the nation, but one nation specifically. America is not a global ATM, a corporate market segment, or a flophouse for foreigners. It is actually a people’s home. A home they have meticulously constructed from blood, sweat, and inspiration for themselves and their posterity.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
But what about free markets and indigenous peoples? Doesn’t he even care? No. Foreigners have their own governments and representation. Our President is hired to work for us. And economic abstractions will never repay any man’s allegiance.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
Even Russians? What if a nation doesn’t allow transgendered BLTs to masturbate in its church pews? Is Trump actually saying they shouldn’t be bombed?
It’s interesting how a prominent American mindset (highly concentrated in a certain quadrant) evolved to view deviations from its exquisite moral boundaries as intolerable events, even when they occur beyond its own geographical boundaries. Killing the offenders being generally seen as less of an ethical transgression. Thus first by force, then by legislative acts and the fiat of courts (bearing the threat of additional force), the vast constitutionally-intended latitude of 50 sovereign states was whittled down to the freedom to choose designs on license plates. Everything else to be standardized according to the sensibilities of a liberal Boston suburbanite.
Foreign policy has traced the same arc. America has come to view itself as Earth’s Acela Corridor and other countries as Mississippi. How can they do what’s so wrong when we’re plainly telling them what’s right? Though there are some real strategic advantages in focusing less on the presumed moral infirmities of distant others and more on making sure your grandchildren don’t grow up in San Pedro Sula. But at least being America’s Mississippi does have advantages for foreigners: they’re all Americans and can all move to New York.
We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
Well, that’s a bit of contradiction with his prior point on foreign restraint. Though give me a single instance of misery and foolishness resulting from a grandiose rhetorical flourish.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
Any example at all. I’ll just be right here waiting.
Though just how Trump plans to utterly eliminate a significant component of a billion plus geographically dispersed practitioners is beyond my reckoning. A more manageable and philosophically consistent approach would be to simply deny them entry to America and let the rest ululate to the heavens in their sand hovels. But if nothing else Trump is to be given credit for explicitly articulating the JQ: the jihadi question. And that’s more than most politicians could manage.
The third act of his speech was a homage to the colorblind national unity that is most visibly on display in conversations on Black Twitter. This was where Trump was most conventional. We can all wish the bitter friction of disparate tribes would abate, just as men on a doomed airplane would wish for release from gravity’s grasp. They are completely understandable yearnings. And completely frivolous as matters of transportation or public policy. With only some 10,000 years as evidence, we can make a preliminary conclusion that diversity equals conflict and no amount of well-crafted wordsmanship will change that.
Though it will probably take a longer epoch than man’s present time on Earth for something so obvious to settle into the liberal psyche. Which brings me back to Jake Tapper’s thoughts on the inaugural address: one of the most radical in history.
That common reaction strikes me as what was actually most radical. That breath is taken away by a President pledging to prioritize his own country and its people over others who are not. A statement which would be considered bland boilerplate by a society of even tenuous mental health is the stuff of shirt-rending to charlatans and the psychotic.
So I enjoyed the inaugural address. In much the same manner of quiet appreciation as for a man who tells you his Toyota is a car and not a troop of orangutans. Stating the obvious is pleasantly radical when custom has come to demand otherwise. Let’s hope there are many more radically fundamental acts to follow.