So good ol’ Andy Jackson is now Donald Trump’s new best historical friend (although it’s hard to be sure if Mr. Trump knows most, if not all, his historical friends are long dead and gone — drop by the White House anytime, Fred Douglass). And, hey, how about that Civil War thing? Who knew? According to Trump, in an interview with the Washington Examiner, Andy knew:
I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War — if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?
Why was there a Civil War? What? Can you imagine being one of Trump’s history teachers, an educator who would otherwise be proud to know that one of his or her students attained the Oval Office — the 45th president of these United States, the leader of the free world — and who is now staring at the words, “Why was there a Civil War?” coming from that one-time student’s mouth? Pour another martini, Ethel, we’re gonna need a pitcher of them.
Who knew slavery was a bad thing? as Mr. Trump noted during his tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mr. Trump was heard to say, “Boy, that is just not good. That is not good.”
If only folks had listened to big-hearted Andy J. way back when (16 years before the Civil War), well, we might not have had that pesky war at all. Who knew? Well, I’m pretty sure the thousands of starved and slaughtered Native Americans who fell along The Trail of Tears — a corridor of death built by Jackson — knew.
I’m pretty sure the slaves Jackson owned knew, too.
And Abraham Lincoln, he knew. Boy, did he know. While Trump was up there in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last Saturday night, the ghosts of Mr. Lincoln and the tens of thousands of Union and Confederate dead from Gettysburg — just down the road from Trump’s anti-media rally — wept, because they knew.
I’m pretty sure every Freedom Marcher, every Civil Rights worker, every beaten, cheated, unjustly-jailed, and red-lined African American knew. Even I knew — as a teenager living in northern Louisiana, and hearing the stories of lynchings not all that far from my home, and seeing how the local whites shrugged off the killings with words I cannot use here. Oh… they knew, too, and they reveled in the knowledge. Their children and grandchildren are among Trump’s most ardent troopers, I’m sure.
Trump’s ignorance of history — or his weird twists on historical events and characters — is his escape hatch from the real world into his supporters’ anti-history, anti-science, anti-rational realm of White, male, America-First fantasies. To Trump, knowledge about the real world is an inconvenience to be dealt with by denial, anger, name-calling, blame-gaming, and, when all else fails, lying.
I heard a Trump apologist talking on CNN today, trying hard to justify Trump’s Civil War comments. The gist of his defense was that we must study on the Civil War to prevent its ever happening again. Really? As if the conditions that existed leading up to 1861 — entrenched slavery, plantation economics, and a deeply-held sense of regional entitlement, just for starters — were mirrored in today’s multicultural, globally economic, and electronically wired society, where the slightest hint of racial discrimination goes viral within hours, if not minutes.
Yes, we still have quite a way to go before we can claim victory over hatred, but are we on the verge of Civil War as it loomed over America in the 1860s? No. And Trump should be ashamed for his lame attempts at fomenting such discord. But, then, shame is something else of which Trump knows nothing. Trump was speaking to his base — a tribe of haters and ignoramuses proud of its intolerance and shameless in its support of one of its own.
And it matters not one whit to that base that Trump’s embrace of Turkey’s Erdogan, the Philippines’ Duterte, China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, and, now, North Korea’s Kim (“I’d be honored to meet him”) is so morally reprehensible and diplomatically anathematic as to disqualify him from office. What does it matter to the Republican base that the president chooses to align himself — and, by default, the nation — with thugs, murderers, and madmen? Not one iota does it matter.
To the history-challenged America-Firsters, for whom manifest destiny is still a shining goal, it matters not that Trump has thrown the country into the insatiable meat-grinder of political insanity. They don’t care that what squirms out of the Trump grinder is a rancid sausage of conceit, lies, and unattainable promises, seasoned with a soupçon of gibberish. They are quick to forgive him, because, after all, who knew being president was so hard?