Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Normalizing: Trump is just like LBJ

I really want Megyn Kelly to yell, "The Virgin Mary was white!" so I can say, well, not in Poland. Image of the Holy Virgin of Częstochowa from before 1714, in the collection of Radomysl Castle, via Wikipedia.

In 1966, Lyndon Johnson gave a speech about the Polish nation, then celebrating the millennium of the establishment of Christianity in the country:
Time and again she has endured suffering and sacrifice, only to recover and to rebuild. In all of this, her proud and resourceful people left an indelible mark on Western civilization.
According to Rich Lowry in the National Review, that's exactly the same as what Trump said on Wednesday:

You really should read the whole thingAbsent the Cold War context and some policy differences related to it, it easily could have been delivered by President Trump in Warsaw this week—and gotten exactly the same unhinged attacks from the Left.
Right, as when Johnson made his plea for a Europe without borders:
Men and nations must labor long to bring to reality a Europe free of artificial political barriers that block the free movement of people, of ideas, and of commerce; a Europe that is secured by international inspected arms control arrangements that remove the age-old fears of East and West alike; a Europe of interdependent friends in which the strength of each adds to the strength of all; a Europe in which the people of every nation know again the responsibilities and the rewards of free political choices.
And boasted about how much money the US government was spending on the Poles and others in Eastern Europe, 
we have dedicated an American-financed children's research hospital in Krakow, increased support for CARE, Church World Services, and American Relief for Poland in their food and medical programs for hospitals and needy individuals. We have reached an understanding between our National Academy of Science and the Polish Academy of Science on an important exchange program similar to the one that we have reached with Rumania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.
and proposed to boost trade with the region without asking whether it would be a "great deal":
I am today instructing the Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, to send to the Congress legislation making it possible to expand trade between the United States of America and Eastern Europe. The intimate engagement of peaceful trade, over a period of time, can influence Eastern European societies to develop along paths that are favorable to world peace.
That's like word for word the kind of thing Trump says every day.

"Absent the Cold War context" there would have been no speech at all; nobody invited Johnson to Warsaw to deliver it. It was made in the Rose Garden to a Polish-American committee presenting the President with a replica of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, and the Cold War context, the fact that Poland was under a kind of soft occupation by the Soviet Union, was what the speech was about. The reference to "Western civilization" has to be understood in that context if you want to make it mean anything at all: he was talking about Christianity, certainly, as something that had contributed to civilization in Europe and the Americas, alongside the other factors he mentions, democracy (they were also celebrating the anniversary of the 1791 Polish constitution) and capitalism, and he was talking about the civilization as a whole in opposition to the Communism under which Poland was suffering at the time.

You couldn't have suggested, though, that Johnson was talking about a white civilization under attack by immigrants, which is what Trump's speechwriters were plainly doing.
Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty [other nations don't?]. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, 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. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.
That is the language of nativist terror and incipient fascism.

Race and racial identity played no part in Johnson's conception of Western civilization. Just seven months earlier Johnson had signed into law the Hart-Celler Act ending the old national-origin immigrant quotas and enabling the waves of immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa that have made the mosaic of cultures in the US so much richer and lovelier than ever before, and that's exactly the opposite of what Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller (who I assume drafted Trump's Warsaw speech) stand for.

As persons of the so-called left, you and I might want to point fingers at LBJ's passionate defense of capitalism and maybe NATO, though for me it was always just Vietnam that went over the line of what I could accept. But we could never make the same "unhinged attacks" on his speech as on Trump's because there's just no earthly connection between the two speeches.

It is fucking astounding chutzpah on Lowry's part to suggest similarities between Johnson—a bad man in some ways but one who sacrificed partisanship in an attempt to right the great American racial wrongs—and Trump, the beneficiary of Johnson's sacrifice, elected in large part by those same white racists who left the Democratic party over the next decades, from the deep South right up to Michigan and Pennsylvania, because of what Johnson had done.

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