Dissent Can Be Patriotic, But Hating Your Own Country Isn’t
Into the third year of his presidency, it still isn’t clear whether Twitter is a blessing or a curse for President Donald Trump. In the latest controversy, it’s been a curse.
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that four far-leftists in Congress — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — should “go back” to the countries from which they came, help fix their problems, and then return and “show us how it is done.”
The controversy, of course, is that of the four individuals at which he directed his comments, only one, Omar, is foreign-born. This immediately led to charges of racism and a predictable uproar across the media landscape, which presented the tweets as proof that Trump is every bit the horrible person he has often been accused of being.
Racism Accusations Run Rampant
Like many of his tweets, the one in question was ill-advised and not well thought out, to put it mildly. No native-born Americans need ever to be told that they should return to the “places from which they came.” For Trump to continue making such statements at a time when achieving “normalcy” should be a priority is self-destructive for himself and the country.
The tweet was also typical Trump: He got things very wrong, but he didn’t say what his worst critics accuse him of saying, either. The insinuation from the left and the media that he told the quartet known as “the squad” to simply “go back” isn’t accurate.He made a mistake in suggesting all four women were foreign-born, but his remarks were more of a challenge to back up their smack talk — if their view of America is that disdainful, perhaps they ought to seek greener pastures and then make an argument about who exactly gets it right more than the UnitedStates does.
In a palpable irony, “the squad” spends a disproportionate amount of time leveling one egregious accusation after another against the country and the administration. While Trump badly botched an attempt to defend the country and his administration from such charges, it’s rather hypocritical to suggest the country and the president must subject themselves to such harsh accusations and are racist for having the temerity to respond.
Even if the president hadn’t tweeted something so ignorant, the left still would have accused him of racism simply because he dared to criticize Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley. Even Democrat Nancy Pelosi learned this lesson the hard way last week when Ocasio-Cortez accused the House speaker of racism for attempting to restrain intraparty criticism and keep it behind closed doors.
Allegiance Is a Choice
But most unfortunate is the emerging notion that “the squad” members are merely doing their duty as patriots in characterizing their country in such flagrantly demonic terms. The fact is that nothing is keeping them in America except their own volition.
Like many of their adherents, “the squad” has decided living in the United States is beneficial. They simply cannot bring themselves to relinquish it. One of those benefits is the ability not only to level such charges against their nation freely, but to be practically rewarded for it. Nobody’s suggesting these congresswomen don’t have the right to say what they say, but that hardly makes it “patriotic” or reasoned in any sense.
Citizenship is, after all, not merely legal status nor the exercise of particular rights. It is also about what’s in someone’s heart and how he feels about the nation to which he’s sworn allegiance. It makes little sense to swear allegiance to a country that’s not only guilty of such horrendous atrocities but continues to perpetuate them.
Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted, “The country I come from, & the country we all swear to, is the United States.” But talk is cheap when much of her platform, along with that of her compatriots, is based on undermining America’s own nationhood. Ocasio-Cortez and company have leveled some outrageous allegations against law enforcement tasked with protecting the U.S. border, the most bizarre being that detainees are being forced to drink out of toilets.
The New York freshman congresswoman insists the Trump administration has “destroyed the border” with its policies, implying that the mere act of attempting to control borders and the flow of immigration is what’s undermining the borders. Never mind that the situation at the border is something any country would find difficult to manage. It’s a preposterous notion but fully consistent with the left’s shift toward embracing an open-borders policy, something they’ve vehemently denied, although the logical conclusion of their policy positions and propositions clearly point in that direction.
Then there’s Omar and Tlaib, who make no mistake of their sympathy for America’s sworn enemies. Omar is a particularly curious case. Unlike Tlaib, she was born in war-torn Somalia and rescued by the United States, where she now sits as a representative in Congress.
Yet, as someone recently observed, “She was taught to despise her country.” Omar has a long history of characterizing the United States in most resentful terms, going so far as to criticize the American troops who, along with other nations’ soldiers, attempted to rescue her native Somalia from chaos, starvation, and war. It’s one thing to criticize policy decisions; it’s another to antagonize, and Omar excels at the latter.
Meanwhile, Tlaib has hosted avowed anti-Semitic, pro-Hezbollah activists and has accused U.S. senators of dual loyalty, making her reaction to Trump’s tweets all the more ironic. It’s hypocritical to level such accusations over a policy difference, only to balk when a similar tactic is used against her. As for Pressley, she went on a bizarre, racially charged rant the same day as Trump’s tweets.
Patriotism Supports the Nation, Not the Government
Mark Twain once said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” But according to the new generation of congressional representatives, the country itself cannot be supported all the time. It was founded in and embedded with racism, sexism, and white supremacy, and only revolution can deliver national salvation.
Drawing such a stark line in the sand creates an us-versus-them mentality, a nation divided between the “woke” and those who perpetuate the injustices that define the country. This mentality is neither becoming nor sustainable and isn’t a formula for patriotism but for hostility and national self-loathing.
Trump attempted to defend America’s honor and laid an egg. Disconcerting as it is that we can’t trust the president with this critical task, this is exactly why it’s important, more than ever before, for all patriotic Americans to engage in the battle of ideas and challenge the cynical and nihilistic narratives that have seemingly assumed a commanding posture.
The grand question of our time may very well be the simple one of whether the United States deserves not only to be defended but preserved. Those who believe the answer to be “yes” must be willing to resolutely and resoundingly defend the nation’s honor. Unless, of course, you want Trump to tweet about it.
Edward Chang is a defense, military, and foreign policy writer. His writing has appeared in The National Interest, The American Conservative, Real Clear Defense, and War Is Boring.