American First: a dangerous phrase used by Trump in his campaign and his inauguration speech. In the 1920s and 30s, it was used by Lindbergh and American Nazi’s who were hoping to keep the US out of WW II. Charles Lindbergh’s fall from grace — from Aviation Hero who was lauded in parades to the man who admired Hitler and lost the love and respect of the US is a sad one. Lindbergh became the face of isolationism and antisemitism rather than the tragic hero who lost his infant son. America First has not been is much usage since then. Until Trump.
America First has very clear, antisemitic undertones. Whether Trump meant it specifically as antisemitic or anti Muslim or anti Immigrant or anti Women or anti Black or anti Latino — it really doesn’t matter. American First’s history is to move towards a white male and isolationist America.
Trump was aware of that. He knows exactly what he was saying. He is appealing to a base that may not know the relevant history and may not care if they did. It does appeal to some people though.
My family has a history with antisemitism. I am half German/Polish Jewish. The other half is Greek. It is an odd and colorful cultural combination. I like to say that I have good food and hot tempers on both sides of my family.
In 1969, I was 9 years old and our family camped through Europe for the summer. We visited museums, historic sites and Cathedrals in France, Germany, Austria and Italy. In Greece we visited our family and Athens and on the Island of Crete.
I am half German Jewish. Why didn’t we visit family in Germany too? Why just museums and cathedrals? Don’t get me wrong, I love museums and cathedrals. Something did not made sense to my nine year old mind.
So here is the story.
In the late 1920s, as Nazism was rising in Europe, my great grandfather traveled to our family in Germany. He had been successful in the states and was worried about the family still in Germany. The offer he made to them was to come to the US with him, he would support their move. He would help set them up in the states. Europe and Germany was not safe. Please come to a safe nation, be with family.
They all turned him down. It’s not as bad as you think. We will be ok. Don’t worry about us. It will be fine.
None of them survived. I have no family in Europe other than Greeks.
While there, my great grandfather bought a clock. An anniversary clock similar to the one that is pictured. It has traveled down to me, and I think of that story whenever I look at this beautiful clock.
Trump made many Americans recall a story like this when he said America First. Oh sure. He used the word Unity as well. He talked about All Americans. That ended up coming across to me as lip service. Because the picture he painted was filled with very dark historic references.
I felt many things as I listened to the speech today. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, the weight of a long history of antisemitism and populist movements and all flowed through my head and heart.
Regardless of who is president, I will keep my core values in place. My family will as well. We must value equality, fairness, science, facts, community, family, history and our future. Trumps’ core values came across pretty clearly today.
An inauguration speech is not campaigning, it is not done off the cuff. It is history. His core values are not in line with mine, nor that of my country.