As results of the U.S. presidential election started coming in last week, the reaction across the country, at least on the left, was incredulity. They could not fathom that the race could be so close after four years of Donald Trump, whose administration – they all agreed – had been aberrant and evil.
They are right that his overt racism, incitement to violence, and explicit misogyny have been more pronounced than that of previous U.S. presidents, who’ve tended to mask their impulses for all the above with social spit shine. It is also without question that Trump lacks minimal compassion for others.
But is he really so different than his predecessors? More brutal? More racist? More egomaniacal? I do not think so.
Donald Trump has been the most honest expression of the United States we’ve ever seen in a president. For those of us who’ve watched or felt the sheer barbarity of the U.S. war and surveillance industry around the world, this is clear.
Of course, the horror and outrage U.S. citizens feel against the Trump administration have been justified. The separation and caging of families seeking refuge at the border under his watch, his denigration of women, his promotion of white supremacy and emboldening of racist paramilitary militias, his in-your-face nepotism, conflicts of interest, use of public office for self-enrichment, and his mismanagement of the pandemic, shady businesses, and tax avoidance are shocking to people in the U.S. and the world.
But the truth is that the only thing that truly separates him from past presidents is that he turned the ethos of supremacy, racism and division inward, whereas his predecessors – in all their polish, at times eloquence, winning smiles and even tempers – unleashed them on the defenseless of the world.
Tell me, how is Trump saying “Stand back and stand by” more egregious than President Bill Clinton carpet bombing Iraq’s water infrastructure to distract from his domestic sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky?
Or more egregious than U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright declaring that 500,000 dead Iraqi children as a result of U.S. sanctions are “worth it” (presumably worth the destruction of an ancient civilization to get its oil and ensure Israeli hegemony in the region)?
Or more egregious than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quipping, “We came, we saw, he died,” about the gruesome murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the utter decimation of yet another previously high-functioning Arab and African nation?
Generational destruction and pain inflicted on Global South
It is true that Trump winning almost half of the votes points to the already well-known sentiment that Black America has been talking about for decades – that this country is racist as hell. But what does the sheer shock, incredulity and outrage of many of the “other half” who are anti-Trump say about the U.S.?
It says they have never seen – or even bothered trying to see – the ongoing ineffable generational destruction and pain the U.S. has inflicted on the Global South and, in particular, Arab nations who have done nothing to the U.S., but who lie in indescribable tatters and anguish as a result of the U.S. war industry.
To this half of the United States, I say: You are wrong, Trump is not an aberration. He is the truest face of this country, all of it, save for the minority who have a sense of history and global human solidarity.
To this half of the U.S. now celebrating Biden’s victory, I ask: What will you do when he launches a new war? Because he will. That is the only thing U.S. presidents know to do when they need to increase their popularity.
And with a country so divided now, it is almost certain Biden will take that route. He has already hinted that Iran needs to be put in its place, and as the U.S. seems to do Israel’s bidding in most things, it may well become the latest target of U.S. imperialism.
This slightly edited article originally appeared in Al Jazeera on Nov. 12 as “Donald Trump is the truest face of the United States.” Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, “Mornings in Jenin” (Bloomsbury, 2010) and her most recent “Against the Loveless World” (Simon and Schuster, 2020).