We don’t hear much in the news anymore about Steve Bannon,
almost from that moment when Trump said that “I am my own strategist,” implying that he no longer listened to Bannon. But Bannon’s still there, doesn’t seem to have left Trump’s circle of Whisperers. Does he still influence the President?
The consensus opinion of the main stream media is that Bannon is an ethno-nationalist. From Wikipedia: Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethno-nationalism, is a form of nationalism wherein the “nation” is defined in terms of ethnicity. The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that “nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry.”
Perhaps this is what attracted Trump to begin with, to Breibart’s Bannon, who also held the America First argument (“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.”). These were Trump’s own words in the January 20th. inauguration address. In Bannon’s and Trump’s view the American nation comes first, and needs to be protected and defended from the constant stream of “dark people,” coming here in the tens of thousands, now millions from Central and South America and from Asia, and no longer the “light” or white people from Europe.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who had opposed President Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the United States said in Bannon’s presence, “We need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet.” Bannon cut Zinke off and asked, “Why even let ’em in?” Can’t the money and time it would cost to do the vetting be better spent in the United States on its own citizens?
So what’s wrong with defending our country for the people who are here now? What’s wrong with keeping out the immigrants who would take jobs and benefits from our own people? What’s wrong with placing the nation first? Trump’s core supporters think there’s nothing wrong, that this is what the government should be doing.
But there is something wrong with this thinking, and I think I know what it is. The problem comes from the meaning of nation, with how you define it. If you define nation as being the sum total of those who are here today and who are citizens then it does seem reasonable to put their interests “first,” before the interests of those who may be coming here but for whatever reason are not yet citizens, not yet a part of the whole, the whole being the nation.
With this view the world might then be the sum total of the nations of that world, as in the so-called United Nations. And the principal role of each nation would be to protect and defend its own. And there would be no problem with America First, Russia first, China first.
But nations are not wholes. And more important nations are not static, not ever fixed in one place. Nations are fluid, changing structures. Why? Because the people, unlike the walls and other boundaries that we put up between them, between the so-called nations, are not fixed in place. The people who make up this or that nation are never just one people, and as much as the people are constantly changing (think in succession native Americans, Spanish, African Americans, English and French, Germans, Mexicans, Indians, and countless others) so is the nation.
And this is true of, perhaps more than for any other nation, the United States. Also of Brazil, and also although less so, of Japan. The Americans whom Trump would protect and defend are not even the same from day to day, let alone from year to year.
And that is, perhaps, the most striking fact of our history, that we are a nation of immigrants and therefore changing as our people change. (To see this follow this link: America’s immigrants.)
And to say that we need to defend ourselves, as Bannon would have it, from the immigrants who come after us, is absurd. We are now, and have always been a destination of the millions who would improve their lives by coming here. And we should always welcome them. Because we were at an earlier time them. This is the nation, the country of immigrants, this is the nation we should be defending.
And this is why the San Francisco and Seattle judges who have blocked the Trump and Bannon bans and deportation orders are right. They are protecting our nation.