Dear President Trump,
Rick Atkinson has an Opinions Essay in the WP wherein he summarizes the expansionism and attendant overreach of the British Empire. He is clear that there are myriad differences between Britain’s rise and fall and rise and fall and our own situation, but cautions that the apple (that is America) didn’t fall far from the tree in that we are making some of the same kinds of ruinous decisions with regards to alienating allies and not thinking through likely consequences of our actions as Britain did at different times in her history.
But it was his inclusion of the following that to me points most directly to unflattering parallels between then and now (then being 1775 and now being now):
“Trying to broaden that minority left Maj. Gen. Henry Clinton, who would serve longer during the Revolution than any senior British commander, pondering how “to gain the hearts and subdue the minds of America,” a phrase little altered when invoked in Vietnam almost two centuries later.”
Just in case it isn’t clear from the excerpt, that Clinton was a British military leader who wanted to get more loyalists on board and willing to subvert the colonist insurrection against the Crown. Atkinson focused on the use of the “hearts and minds” tactic in the Vietnam War, which makes some sense, but it’s really the GOP’s use of the tactic, which you have all but perfected, that is salient now.
I had not previously seen the original phrasing, but rather had known the phrase as “winning the hearts and minds of….”. The original is so much more on point because the goal really is to “subdue the minds of America” – as in “ding, ding, ding, the crafty manipulators win and the rest of us gullible louts lose!” Really, how else do you get poor and barely-making-it (mostly white) people to consistently vote against their own interests if you don’t win their hearts with some sort of trumped up patriotic fervor and subdue their minds with hate, fear, and slippery half-truths? Dang. At least that British Clinton had the grace to be upfront about what he was trying to do.
And here you are, right on cue with your over the top militarized, politicized 4th of July spectacle, which promises to serve up a colossal steaming pile of pseudo-patriotic fervor that your base will lap up with nary an iota of critical thought. “Isn’t it grand? Isn’t it awesome? Loved the tanks! What a guy to pull this off! Favorite President ever!” I hope you don’t end up giving a bunch of them food poisoning like Imelda did at her over-the-top selfie party the other day.
Then there’s your choice of venues – right smack in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Could you get any more cynically subversive than that? Probably you could if Bannon or Miller put their minds to it, but this is truly masterful. Here you are, a most disgusting piece of racist, white nationalist work using the Lincoln Memorial as a prop to legitimize you and your regime. It’s gaslighting on steroids and it will no doubt crank up the mind-subduing even further. “Oh no, how could you possibly think President Trump is racist? He wouldn’t have had that incredible 4th of July celebration in front of Lincoln’s Memorial if he were a racist (you dummy).”
Can we get off this ride now? Please?
May we be safe from manipulative monsters.
May we be happy to keep our wits about us.
May we insist that our leaders treat us all with respect.
May we send you the bill for your party so that our real treasures aren’t squandered.