Columnist John Sheirer: Nationalism, Trumpism and patriotism

  • President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he visits the El Paso Regional Communications Center after meeting with people affected by the El Paso mass shooting, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in El Paso, Texas.   AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI  

Published: 8/12/2019 10:37:41 AM

Imagine hearing this during the Red Sox’s recent skid out of playoff contention:

“The Red Sox right now are the greatest team in baseball history. You haters are just too blind to see it. You’ve been brainwashed by the evil media making up stuff about them and not reporting their great accomplishments. Their pitching, hitting and fielding are the best ever, but all you see are side issues that don’t matter. The truth is that you don’t just hate the Red Sox. You hate baseball! I feel sorry for you.”

That sounds silly, doesn’t it? I’m a Red Sox fan, but I recognize that this year’s team can’t seem to pull it together. If I claimed that they’re on the verge of repeating as champions, I’d be laughed out of every local sports bar. But here’s a verbatim message someone actually sent to me during a recent political discussion:

“Trump right now is the greatest president in American history. You haters are just too blind to see it. You’ve been brainwashed by the evil media making up stuff about him and not reporting his great accomplishments. The economy, America’s respect in the world, our unity as a nation are the best ever, but all you see are side issues that don’t matter. The truth is that you don’t just hate Trump. You hate America! I feel sorry for you.”

This message is just as silly, considering how divisive and incompetent Trump has been. No major political figure in recent history has been as offensive as Trump, and most of the economic gains that Trump likes to brag about can be traced back to trends stemming from the Obama administration. Yet Trump supporters persist in claiming that Trump is making America great again, and anyone who criticizes him hates America.

Trump’s recent tweetstorm urging four first-year members of Congress to “go back” to their original countries instead of “viciously telling the people of the United States … how our government is to be run” is a clear example of the view that anyone criticizing Trump hates America. Trump ignores the fact that three of these representatives were born in the United States and the fourth has been a citizen longer than Trump’s own wife. These four actually are “the people of the United States” and an integral part of “our government.”

When Trump says “go back,” what does he mean — to where? Of course, he wants us to think that these representatives are foreign, but they’re not. In reality, they go back to their districts in America, specifically Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts. They won their districts with vote percentages ranging from 78-98 percent. Does Trump hate the Americans in these districts? According to his thinking, yes. By contrast, Trump got barely 46 percent and needed the antiquated and biased Electoral College to bail him out.

Trump, of course, has frequently criticized America, both during his campaign and while in office. His presidential campaign book was called “Crippled America.” He has called America “a laughingstock,” “foolish,” “dumb,” “stupid,” “weak,” “not respected,” “going to hell,” “a third-world country” and “an embarrassment.” How would he respond if the representatives he told to “go back” had attacked America like that?

In fact, he blatantly lies about these representatives, saying one called America “garbage” while claiming that another said she loves al Qaeda. Trump loves to criticize what he calls “fake news” from “the enemy of the people,” but two minutes of fact-checking shows that Trump is lying. Does someone who lies about Americans hate America?

The shallow idea that criticizing America should be forbidden is called nationalism. The even shallower idea that criticizing Trump should be forbidden is called Trumpism. These “isms” aren’t patriotic. Patriotism is loving American enough to embrace what’s great about America while working to ensure safety, opportunity  and justice for all Americans.

The nationalism-Trumpism combination is dangerous, whether it involves last year’s “MAGA bomber” or the recent El Paso shooter. In fact, the El Paso shooter’s written rant includes phrasing remarkably similar to Trump’s, especially the term “invasion.” Trump often uses that incendiary term on Twitter, in public and in thousands of Facebook ads. Combining the myth of a flawless president, the scare tactic of our nation being invaded, and easy access to deadly weapons has led to tragic results. Trump’s vacant-eyed teleprompter reading of “hate has no place in America” can’t wipe away his countless toxic attacks.

Politics and government are life-and-death issues. In comparison, sports are inconsequential. I wish I could help the Red Sox by stepping to the mound and starting a few games during the stretch run. But I’m 58 years old with a fastball that tops out in the high 30s. Instead, I’ll keep rooting for them anyway, and, with classic Sox fan hope, wait ’til next year.

And I’m a patriotic American, so I’ll keep working to make this country a better place for everyone while looking forward to 2020. A big part of that work will be holding Trump and his Republican enablers accountable when their actions, policies and values frequently undermine the best qualities of the nation I love.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” Find him at

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