Patriotism and Prejudice

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’

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Those are the words with which President Trump redeemed his promise to deliver an inaugural address that was unifying. They are a wonderful formulation. We take it that the president’s aim is to put an end to the libel the left has attached to patriotism as a redoubt of extremists and restore to it its original and more welcoming meaning. Lest there be any doubt of this, Mr. Trump underlines the point with the words from Psalm 133, central to the daily prayer of Jews.

No doubt there will be those who will see in the radicality, the bluntness of Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech a darker message. He certainly did, as the great civil rights hero Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution liked to say, put the hay down where us mules can get to it. Particularly when he spoke of the transfer of power “not merely from one Administration to another, or from one party to another” but from Washington, D.C., and “back to you, the American People.”

Such language is no doubt going to alarm those Democrats, and perhaps some Republicans, who have stood by as the counties adjacent to the Columbia District have emerged as among the richest in the country while Rust Belt was oxidizing. But they will have to deal with the fact that the blunt talk Mr. Trump used in his speech this afternoon was the same kind of language he used to communicate with, among others, the voters of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Trump’s message of protection will worry — horrify, even — many of us who favor free trade. His use of the phrase “America first” will unnerve partisans of an internationalist foreign policy (even while he eschews the anti-Semitic movements that made the phrase so infamous and holds out the ideal of Hine Ma Tov). So far, though, Mr. Trump has not sketched the particulars of either his trade policy or his foreign relations. We will see how he and the Congress work this through.

It is a moment to remember that for all the high-minded talk of the outgoing administration, it and a reluctant congress sat on their hands — shrugged off the “responsibility to protect” — during the catastrophe that engulfed Syria. All the talk about internationalism is nothing without action. If Mr. Trump succeeds in rebuilding the military and restoring growth and jobs to our economy, he will be in a better position to engage with the rest of the world than America has been these last eight years.

The Trump Doctrine, if it’s not to early to use the phrase in what the new president signaled today, is for America to “shine as an example.” His vow to “reinforce old alliances” sounds less like a rejection of our traditional friends than a reform and strengthening of terms. It was an important change to hear an American leader speak of uniting the civilized world against an enemy ideology that, in radical Islamic terrorism, he was prepared to name.

That is the point at which he turned to the rediscovering our loyalty to each other and opening our hearts to a patriotism that leaves no room for prejudice. And a “new national pride” that “will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.” We loved his recollection of “that old wisdom of our soldiers,” which Mr. Trump put as “whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.”

We first heard that wisdom nearly 50 years ago at Fort Benning — from a sergeant at who was every bit as gruff as our new president and who turned out to have a heart of gold. Mr. Trump ended his inaugural by declaring that “whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.” The new president vowed to be guided by the “courage and goodness and love” of his countrymen.

The New York Sun

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