What is the meaning of America First?
“From this day forward,” Trump said at one point, “it’s going to be only America first. America first.”
We hear a lot today about the term America First; always attached by politicians, pundits and professors to Donald Trump, and in a derogatory manner. America First is a racist term they say. It was. There is a show on TV now called; The Plot Against America, based on a novel by Philip Roth, that takes place around the time of the Second World War. At that time there was a group of people calling themselves America First which had its roots in the America First Committee (AFC), founded in 1940. These people opposed any U.S. involvement in World War II, and were harshly critical of the Roosevelt administration, which it accused of pressing the U.S. toward war. At its peak, it had 800,000 members across the country, included socialists, conservatives, and some of the most prominent Americans from some of the most prominent families. There was future President Ford; Sargent Shriver, who’d go on to lead the Peace Corps; and Potter Stewart, the future U.S. Supreme Court justice. It was funded by the families who owned Sears-Roebuck and the Chicago Tribune and of course had its share of antisemites.
These people walking around calling for America First tended to be white Christians who wanted America to remain white and Christian. Echoes of their German compatriots who called for Germany to be an Aryan nation, nice, white, blond people. No one else. I don’t know if it is hypocritical or ironic that the man behind the plan was dark haired and looked nothing like his idealized Aryan German.
America First. That was white nationalism, white racism and antisemitism.
That was then.
I scratch my head in shock that so many self-righteous, sanctimonious politicians, pundits and professors have no clue that words change meaning through time, diachronic, and in time, synchronic.
Let me give you two examples. Faggot or fag. In Britain those words refer to cigarettes. Now that may have changed recently, but that was the meaning right into the 21st century. These words in America are derogatory for homosexual. Same word. Two different meanings at the same time.
Now there is the word gay. In the 1890’s it meant happy, as in the Gay Nineties. It was a word describing happy times, for a long time. Now, gay means homosexual. Words change meaning through time.
As did America First.
Had Barack Obama said it or Hillary Clinton, the pundits would have waxed poetic. Finally, a President who cares about the “deplorables;” the heartland, the Rustbelt, the people who had lost hope in America, and lost jobs, particularly manufacturing, gone. A country with poverty rising, despair in the air; after all America lost five million manufacturing jobs and closed 70,000 factories under Bill Clinton. But it was Donald Trump who said: “I’m not isolationist, but I am ‘America First,’” so he must be a racist, white nationalist, antisemite, like the original America Firsters.
And then I wondered, how many people in America even know the history of America First? Looking at the education in America, the failure to learn history, or the Constitution, how many people knew the history of the America First agenda? Those who lived through it would be at least in their late 80’s. Not to worry, the pundits reminded us of the agenda because Donald Trump had used the expression in March of 2016 and then his inauguration in January. Here was a way to transfer the terms white nationalist, racist and anti-Semite to him from the original meaning.
It never occurred to these people, any of them, that this man cared about all Americans and that he wanted jobs brought home. Remember when Obama laughed at him, how will you do that, with a magic wand? But he did. He went after China to bring home the supply chain network. And was attacked. After all, we are global now. Well it was terrific for the CEOs but not the American worker; a small sacrifice to make for Globalism. And then came the Chinese Virus that shut down America. Today, Ted Cruz says, “I’ve long said that China poses the most significant, long-term geopolitical threat to the United States. Our dependence on China for life-saving medications and treatments is deeply problematic.”
Trump brought supply chains back home, and jobs, and hope and dignity to millions of the disaffected; Black, Latino, white; men and women. He makes decisions based on what is best to help the most who need that help; Americans. All Americans, not just the white Christians. And those jobs brought prosperity so small businesses took off. America First; but not last. At the same time, America has stayed open to the world. Trump has gone after Iran after Obama appeased that nation. Seems Obama didn’t know that appeasement breeds contempt. Countries around the world have tested Trump, a man who rebuilt the military. Do you really think any country from North Korea to Iran and Russia will attack America?
Wish I had a leader who cared more about our citizens than everyone else.
America First is not the antisemitic, racist term it once was. But those who want to return to globalism, and elect politicians were prefer the old ways will do nothing to stop others from associating the negative meaning from 80 years ago with Donald Trump.
From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”