Before diving into the actual topic of the article, it is imperative to explain the concept of national identity, what meaning it has to a country, and specifically to USA. The term “identity” has a meaning of “the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another” . That is, in a sense of nationality, all traits that most of the people in a country share and all characteristics of a country`s society from older, but still important: culture, religion, mentality, ethics, morality etc. to modern ones: “racial, cultural, religious diversity”, the concepts studied by M.W. Lustig , general attitude towards women, LGBT community and people of color in a country. Aspects of society that are always even slightly different from those of other nations make the unique group of people, who live in a specific country, a nation.
National identity is an important aspect of cross-cultural investigations because it makes country`s people feel closer to each other, more open to cooperation with each other and, crucially for a newborn country, rallies people to defend their motherland in need. A national identity brings a feeling of uniqueness and value for the lifestyle of a country`s people, and that makes those people appreciate, improve and defend their country. That makes national identity one of the most important pillars of any state and, naturally, a newborn country found in a New World that is striving for recognition and power on the global arena, would seek to build that pillar as quickly as possible. Luckily, for American people, they accumulated more than enough means to do that. Their religion – Protestantism, based on never-ending labor, strict and ascetic lifestyle, their will to escape the Old World`s grip and build a new home, and their struggle to adapt to new unexplored lands made the new American people different from their former historical compatriots from Europe.
Historically, the term “American” was first used in reference to all former colonists from Europe and their descendants that resided in Thirteen States in 1801 by the president Thomas Jefferson. This case became a formal birth of the American identity, 35 years after signing of the Declaration of Independence.
To go further, we can track another feature of national identity besides importance – its variability. Through decades, Americans have perceived themselves differently, depending on current and recent events of great importance, their government`s policy, technical progress and new social tendencies. Before the War for Independence, American people identified themselves as brave, pious, hard-working pioneers of the New World, after – as revolutionaries, as fighters for freedom, liberty and justice. Curiously, those principals became permanent traits of American identity. Even now, they are written on the stamps along with one other that came later: equality .
Equality became a “true” national trait of America many, many years later and that fact is connected to another of national identity`s features – subjectivity and a tendency for self-glorification. As you could notice earlier, no social problems were covered in American self-identification in mentioned times. Subjectively, from American perspective, they were great people, but in reality XIX century Americans were mostly puritans, sexists, racists, slavers before president Lincoln`s time, aggressors towards neighboring colonies and oppressors towards the Native Americans. The Indians were brought to near extinction by Americans, but that episode of their history is not a topic they talk about much nowadays, along with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is a consequence of a human psyche`s work. People don`t want themselves to look bad in their own eyes, that makes them feel unsafe, and basic instinct of survival makes people overlook, or rationalize their flaws and faults, even the most horrific ones. Although, in XIX century, Americans weren`t ashamed of their deeds. Only a century after America would ponder about racial and gender problems. Or rather, acknowledge them as problems.
The United States of America came a long way to achieve equality as their national trait, though it is still debated whether it actually achieved that. From slaves` liberation by the president Lincoln to Feminism and Nineteenth Amendment to Martin Luther King to the president Obama. It took 89 years to abolish slavery from the moment of signing of the Declaration of Independence, 95 years to allow people of color to vote, 144 years to allow women to vote, 232 years for first black president to be elected in the USA. The presidency of Barack Hussein Obama is the peak of equality as a national trait of America and during that time was formed a new “American Identity” after the G.W. Bush time of presidency. From war to peace (unfortunately, only in American mentality, not reality), from conservatism to new opportunities, from hostility to hospitality. President Obama brought many changes to American minds, but most importantly, he fought for racial and gender equality in American society. The sole fact of his election as president was a gigantic achievement for black population in the USA and his actions during presidency only strengthened the positions of people of color in American society. But all that was a retrospective as the US has now approached a new age and is forming a new national identity. I am talking, of course, about the recently started presidency of Donald J. Trump.
A billionaire, a businessman, a celebrity, a very scandalous person, and now the 45th president of the United States Donald J. Trump has a drastically different perspective on the future of America, than the president Obama had. His attitude and actions towards POCs, women, immigrants, welfare systems and healthcare are forming a completely new mentality and culture, a completely new “American Identity”. And unfortunately for the US, it is not a good change. The precedent has started to set from the very beginning and I am going to analyze it. Donald Trump kicked off his election company with radical statements towards Mexican, South American and Middle Eastern immigrants: “When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best…They`re sending people, that have lots of problems and they`re bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists and some, I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we`re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They're sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America, and it's coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don't know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don't know what's happening. And it's got to stop and it's got to stop fast.” .
Starting from the first sentence it is already a borderline attack on Mexico. Donald Trump basically implies that Mexico sends their unwanted people to US to sabotage the neighboring country and relief themselves of the burden of dealing with those people`s problems. This implication, with his earlier statement from the same conference becomes even clearer: “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems.” Secondly, Trump states as if it was a fact, that most of the immigrants from Mexico, South America and Middle East are drug addicts and dealers, criminals and rapists, but he assumes that some, only some, are good people. In addition, he says “it only makes common sense” and if that isn`t a most racist statement a person can say in context of crime rate among an ethnic group, than I don`t know what is. Thirdly, in regards to stating that problematic immigrants come from the Middle East Trump says “probably”, which makes his assumptions completely nonsensical, because they are not backed up by proof. Same could be said about previous statements, but he “spoke to border guards”. Overall, in his first speech during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had already stated that in his vision of America, immigrants from Mexico, SA and Middle East are unwanted and should be prohibited from entering the US, because they are, according to Trump, criminals, drug dealers and rapists. And, according to Donald Trump`s statements from, again, the same conference, they took all the jobs from Americans, and not only them: “That's right. A lot of people up there can't get jobs. They can't get jobs, because there are no jobs, because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have jobs… I'll bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I'll bring back our jobs, and I'll bring back our money.” . Now this is another dangerous and racist portrayal of other nations and races. Donald Trump accuses mainly Chinese, Mexican and Japanese immigrants of “taking” the jobs from American people, and therefore, of greatly raising the unemployment rate of America, bringing harm, strangling the American people, but really, Trump accuses every other nation that is not American nation of making the American population suffer. What effect does it have on “The American Identity”? It builds xenophobia and racism among the American people – two contagions that America had to spend more than two centuries to almost get rid of. And now Trump is bringing them back, strengthening them in the minds of Americans and makes them the main features of the new American Identity.
But speaking of racism, what is Trump`s attitude towards African-Americans, the second largest ethnic group in America? The same as his attitude towards other races. Discriminative, dismissive and demonstrative. While Donald Trump claims that he cares about African Americans, that he would be “Great for African Americans” , although that phrase alone sounds really weird, in reality, Donald Trump has shown that he doesn`t care about African Americans multiple times during his campaign and even before that. Trump has a long history of racism towards African Americans, starting with accusations towards his company of denying employment to POCs. Then his statement about racial inborn laziness of black people that he addressed to one of his own employees. Then reported case of Trump replacing all black and woman card dealers in two of his casinos for bribes by a local mobster. Also, his multiple accusations of president Obama`s birth certificate being fake and the case of a black protestant getting beaten up by Trump`s supporters during president`s-to-be campaign and later Trump saying, that the victim may have deserved it. And, of course, the recent scandals with the fact, that Trump has been officially aligned with the former KKK leader David Duke before distancing himself from his support last year and also the fact that the Alt-Right movement, i.e. white supremacy neo-Nazi movement, with its leader Richard Spencer are Trump`s official supporters. Again, neo-Nazis are the official supporters of the president of the United States! .
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has been multiple times using his speeches about African Americans to talk about attacks on him on social media and about his family .What`s more, when talking about African Americans, Trump mostly talks about how poor, unemployed and uneducated they are. Especially glaring case is his speech on Black History Month. You can just compare it to Obama`s speech on the same matter and see a million differences. Where Trump takes his time talking about “fake news” and you can see all his caring about African American community in one sentence – during the most important event for Black Americans, the president of the United States is attacking the social media that opposes him and thanks other SM that supports him. During the same event, Obama talks about how important Black History Month is for African Americans and why it is important. Where Trump`s way of talking is stilted and robotic, Obama`s is very passionate and eloquent. At this event, Trump actually talks about African Americans, but he talks not about their history, not about their importance or value to the US, not about their achievements. No, he talks about how poor, uneducated and unemployed they are. Doesn`t trampling a racial group into the ground sounds inspiring? Makes you want to change something?
While Trump mostly talks about what`s important for him, barely touching Black American history and culture, and actually barely talks at all, Obama actually intends to connect with his audience, giving them a spiritual, deep and long speech that is required in the situation .
Trump had expressed his way to appeal to black people even before that. During his campaign Trump tried to appeal to the Black community with asking this question: “What the hell do you have to lose?” and by. Again, saying that the African Americans are poor, that they have bad schools and that they are unemployed . By saying that the group of people, that he appeals to is poor, uneducated and jobless, while adding that they have nothing to lose i.e. have no choice, Donald Trump tried to make this group of people vote for him. Shows how high he thinks about them.
All in all, Trump has the same racist approach to black people, as he has to people of all other colors. And that approach is creating a new rupture between white people and people of color, it is making old wounds of America bleed again. President Donald Trump makes the old mentality of the periods of segregation, of white supremacy gain a foothold in the American identity. His every speech strengthens the white supremacy in the USA and gives the white supremacists more and more power in the society. Donald Trump is not making America Great Again; he is making America degrade into its former racist, unjust, xenophobic self and that is going to bring the US` people more and more harm that will be harder and harder to heal. American identity from a multiracial, multicultural progressive society is transforming into a society of conservative, uneducated white males.
Научный руководитель: Вербицкая Ольга Юрьевна, кандидат филологических наук, доцент кафедры востоковедения и регионоведения АТР Института филологии, иностранных языков и медиакоммуникации ФГБОУ ВО «Иркутский государственный университет», г. Иркутск.