At a Middle Eastern restaurant in south Minneapolis, a young Somali-American man moved to my table, sat down with his plate, started eating and began a conversation in a soft tone:
“Ahmed Tharwat — you are Ahmed Tharwat.”
“Yes … I’m …”
“I read your articles at [the] Star Tribune. I’m your Facebook friend, too.”
“Aha. Thanks. Appreciate it — please keep reading.”
“But I’m a Republican.”
“I don’t trust [the] DFL anymore. They lie to us.”
“Do you trust Republicans?”
“At least they are more honest. They tell you: We don’t like you, we don’t want you — but they leave alone. I can deal with that.”
I’m telling you this lunch story because it may explain the latest filth coming from the potty-mouth of President Donald Trump.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump wrote Sunday morning on Twitter, adding that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” which, in three of the four examples, is the United States.
His comments about the four progressive Democrats — who are women of color! — triggered a knee-jerk avalanche of media reaction. Acting surprised is the way the media and closet racists deal with Trump’s oratory outbursts. But the outspoken racist has taken the mask off us all. He is putting an ugly face on ugly America, millions of whose citizens voted for him despite knowing what kind of person he is. (When asked Monday about reactions to his tweet, he replied: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”)
As the Atlantic reported in June, in an article titled “The Oral History of Trump’s Bigotry,” Trump has assembled a long record of comment on issues involving African-Americans, as well as Mexicans, Hispanics more broadly, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. His statements have been reflected in his behavior — from public acts (placing ads calling for the execution of five young black and Latino men accused of rape, who were later shown to be innocent) to private preferences. (“When Donald and Ivanka came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” a former employee of Trump’s Castle, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, told a writer for the New Yorker.)
The racist never hides his racist DNA. As a news analysis in the New York Times explained: “When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century. While others who occupied the White House at times skirted close to or even over the line, finding ways to appeal to the resentments of white Americans with subtle and not-so-subtle appeals, none of them in modern times fanned the flames as overtly, relentlessly and even eagerly as Mr. Trump.”
America has never come to terms with its ugly past. Its aim is not to face white nationalism head-on but rather to manage it. Trump’s racism is condoned by a Republican Party and supported by millions of Americans. Democratic bosses, from Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to, now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential candidate Joe Biden, like to manage ugly America from the center. While Trump puts an ugly face on the ugly things, they try to put a smiley face on them.
Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, dropped bombs on people of color overseas, deported refugees and shifted wealth to the 1%. Trump took off the mask — no pretense — exposing everyone, politicians and system. If Trump puts refugees in concentration camps, Pelosi wants not to end the practice; she just wants it to be more manageable.
In the 2020 election, we won’t have Russian collusion. I’m afraid this time the collusion will be with American racists.
Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan. He grew up in a small village in Egypt. He blogs at Notes From America (www.ahmediatv.com) and is working on a documentary, “The Coptic Grave.” On Twitter: @ahmediaTV.