How Donald Trump Just Got Everything He Wanted
Last night, as I was watching the protests in Washington DC, watching as thousands of rightfully outraged people surrounded the White House, I realized President Trump finally got his wall. But it wasn’t a wall on the southern border, like he initially rallied for. It was a wall built clear across the heart of American society.
Donald Trump is a man who only understands the world in dichotomies. Winners versus losers. Us versus them. Black versus white. And at every turn, whether calling for the execution of five innocent black children, or claiming the first African American president was born in Kenya, or praising white supremacists during the violent protests in Charlottesville, he has sown divisiveness wherever and whenever possible.
He does this not only because he’s a racist, but because he thrives on conflict. He’s an agent of chaos. An internet troll-made-president who has repeatedly used the cudgel of race to advance his nightmarish vision for an America we thought was long since dead.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” said Donald Trump back in June 2015, as he launched his presidential campaign. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. 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 then came the promise of the wall. A wall, it was claimed, meant to slow the flow of illegal immigration and drugs. A wall, it was claimed, that Mexico would pay for. “A big beautiful wall,” as Trump liked to say.
Throughout history walls have never been effective at keeping people in or out, instead they were constructed as symbols of power meant to convey meaning. When Qin Shi Huang built his Great Wall in China, at the cost of millions of lives, he did it to make tangible the Chinese empire he had just unified. When Hadrian built his long wall across the north of England, it was meant as a signal to both northern barbarian tribes and to his own people that the days of Roman expansion had come to an end. And when Nikita Khrushchev built his wall across the city of Berlin, it was meant to remind the good citizens of the German Democratic Republic, as well as his enemies in the West, that the Soviet Union’s control was absolute.
Trump’s wall, contrary to the president’s claims, was never meant to stop the flow of illegal immigration or drugs. Numerous studies conducted by groups aligned both Left and Right have shown that a southern border wall would do neither. Even Trump himself has let slip on occasion that his wall is not as impenetrable as he’s claimed.
Trump’s wall is a declaration that America is, always has been, and will always remain a white ethno state. It’s why he has never proposed a northern border wall. It’s why he’s discouraged immigration from “shithole countries." It’s why he has devoted his presidency to obsessively undoing everything built by Barack Obama.
Make no mistake, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency was a race-based backlash to the changing composition of American society. It was never about economic anxiety. It was never about ending corruption in Washington. It was never about changing the system.
When Donald Trump says or tweets “Make America Great Again” he means restoring America to what it was in the 1950's and 1960's. A country of space rockets, nationalism, and Jim Crow. A society in which women, and especially people of color, know their place.
Through chaos and division and racist dog whistles, Donald Trump has built his wall. Mexico didn’t pay for it, we did. Ahmaud Arbery paid for it. George Floyd paid for it. How many more of us have to pay for it before we tear the damn thing down?