At a recent campaign rally in Texas, President Donald Trump used a word to describe himself that has long been held in disregard by sitting presidents (and much of the general public). He called himself a “nationalist’. Trump had a lot to say about it, including,
“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist… Nationalist. Nothing — use that word. Use that word.”
And now some people aren’t having it.
One of the more eloquent rebuttals comes from the Rev. William J. Barber II, a notable progressive Christian pastor originally form North Carolina who is a long-serving civil rights activist and now a senior fellow at New York’s Auburn Seminary. Barber released a statement through Auburn, pointing out the problem,
“Nationalism suggests a commitment to one country to a fault. Patriotism is a love for country that is willing to call it to question and challenge its flaws.”
The very next day Trump used the word again. He was questioned about it at the White House during a press conference and he not only confirmed that he used the word, he denied knowing it had racial connotations, AND he stood by his usage of the word saying, “I’m proud of our country. And I am a nationalist. It’s a word that hasn’t been used too much. Some people use it, but I’m very proud. I think it should be brought back.”
Other leaders of faith are also taking issue with his use of the word. Rabbi Sharon Brous, a leader in the Los Angeles Jewish community believes this word to hold ties to something far worse and says, “He is tacitly endorsing white nationalism, signaling his support of a violent, white supremacist agenda.”
Like Barber and Brous, many Americans have taken offense with the label because of its natural connection to long standing racially and religiously motivated movements like white nationalism and Christian nationalism, both of these suggesting superiority of one race and religion.