(CNN)On a very different Fourth of July holiday, when many Americans are wrestling with the racist misdeeds of the country’s heroes and confronting an unrelenting pandemic with surging cases, their commander-in-chief is attempting to drag America backward — stirring fear of cultural change while flouting the most basic scientific evidence about disease transmission.
In a jaw-dropping speech that amounted to a culture war bonfire, President Donald Trump used the backdrop of Mount Rushmore Friday night to frame protesters as a nefarious left-wing mob that intends to “end America.” Those opponents, he argued, are engaged in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”
On Saturday in the nation’s capital, the Trump administration has planned July 4 celebrations that ignore Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser’s concerns about public health guidelines, although at least there’ll be some of the social distancing measures at the White House that were ignored in South Dakota, where the President largely acted as if the coronavirus didn’t exist.
Instead, when Trump spoke on Friday night of a “growing danger,” he was talking about an entirely different threat than rising coronavirus cases. He referred to a threat to America’s “heritage” — rhetoric intended to rev up his base at a time when many Americans are attempting to relearn the nation’s history with greater attention to the wrongs inflicted on Black and Native American people.
Repeatedly using vague pronouns like “they” and “them,” Trump sought to play on the fears of a minority — that appears to be shrinking, according to polls — who view the rise of Black Lives Matter as a threat to the historical dominance of White people. He described the goals of protesters who are attempting to right the wrongs of history as “alien to our culture, and to our values.”