Let’s say you’re one of the Navajo veterans of WW II who used your native language to create coded messages that the Japanese military couldn’t possibly figure out. You survived battles in the South Pacific, where Japanese soldiers usually fought to the death rather than surrender. You’re 90-some years old now and at a White House ceremony in which the President of the U.S. is supposed to be commending you for your military service.
But this is no ordinary president; this is Donald Trump, a thin-skinned blowhard who turns every speech he makes into an opportunity to promote himself while defaming real and imagined foes. This time the target is Elizabeth Warren, who years ago invented the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and has criticized Trump recently for trying to appoint Mick Mulvaney as interim head of that agency. Mulvaney, a Trump toady, is on record as wanting to close down the CFPB.
But you don’t know any of this, so you listen to Trump’s speech and are amazed to hear him turn his tribute to you into an attack on someone he refers to as “Pocahontas.” You look at this bloated old white man with the orange skin and freaky yellowish hair, your president, and you wonder what the fuck he is talking about.
Afterwards, if you’re still lucid at your advanced age, you’ll find out Trump was ridiculing your heritage as part of a crude attempt to ridicule Warren, who asserted long ago that she is part Native American. You’ll find out he has a long history of putting down minorities, because that’s the sort of talk that appeals to his base.
You might hear of a press release from Debra Haaland, a Native American candidate for Congress in New Mexico: “I can’t begin to express how angered I am by the display of ignorance in our White House today. The president’s actions disgrace the history of Pocahontas, Native Americans, Navajo code talkers and all Native American veterans who served and died for this country.”
She got it half-right. Trump is as ignorant as a fence post, but his defining trait is malice toward anyone who ever criticized him or resisted his power grabs. He can’t disgrace you or any other Native American. He can only disgrace himself and all the white people who voted for him despite ample evidence he was a buffoon and a would-be dictator.
In the end you might ask yourself, hey, how did a sack of garbage like Trump make it all the way to the White House? Is this the country I fought for?