Wednesday November 7, 2018
Slogan can be frightening or inspiring depending on how it is used.
Before he became the beloved Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel was a political cartoonist. A poster he created in 1940 depicts a fat man joined by a common beard to a thin man. On the fat man's chest is a swastika. On that of his twin is the motto "America First," a political movement that had as its figurehead Charles Lindbergh, a notorious anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer.
The slogan "America First" has been used in various contexts for more than a century. At its best, it can reflect the noblest aspirations of our nation. At its darkest, it denotes xenophobia, racial hatred and white supremacy. It was used in the 1920s by President Warren G. Harding, who created the most corrupt regime in American history. Until now.
Now President Donald Trump's regime mixes corruption with cruelty. His "America First" is one of political tribalism and assault on the rule of law and the free press. He bellows this in a toxic stew of racially charged rhetoric and lies. His authoritarian traits can be found in abundance in the works of William Shakespeare. Read Stephen Greenblatt's book "Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics." With such traits, fascism cannot be far behind.
We must affirm "America First" at its best. It must be America first in benevolence, in embracing the stranger, in welcoming the asylum seeker, in defending the rule of law and the press, in celebrating the rich, multicultural dimensions of American society. Only then can we make America great again.
Thomas B. Souders
Make America first in all the right ways