Trump, Patriots, Spies, and Civil War

Donald’s dangerous mangling of historical rhetoric

For a week now, Donald Trump has been carelessly tossing around charged phrases like “patriot,” “spy,” “treason,” and “civil war.”

The whole week has sounded like a crazy history of this country’s first four score and seven years. (Someone tell him that means 87 years.)

Trump Sees Spies

By now you know that in July 2019, Trump called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to lever information against Joe Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 election.

You also know that a whistleblower exposed that phone call as an abuse of office, setting off a presidential impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

And no doubt you’ve heard about Trump, slipping into rage mode, saying:

I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

He’s talking about hanging somebody, right?

Kind of like Major John André in the illustration above. André was the British officer to helped American general Benedict Arnold in his plot to hand over West Point to the British army. Americans caught him with plans to the fort in his sock. He was a spy.

But a government whistleblower is not a spy. There are federal protections that make whistleblowing possible. Check out this info from the National Whistleblower Center.

And Patriots

Lost in all that was the rambling address Trump gave at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25. He said in part:

The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.

But even if the future did belong to only patriots, Trump doesn’t like them either.

A patriot is someone who loves his country and its ideals enough to support and or even fight for. Here’s another definition from the tutorial site,; it’s about as basic as it gets.

The term patriotic refers to believing strongly in one’s country and defending its honor. A person who possesses this patriotic spirit or patriotism is called a patriot. Naturally, a patriot is bound to feelings of national loyalty because of an intense and passionate love of country.

If that’s the case, isn’t someone who is passionate enough about his country to blow the whistle on governmental wrongdoing — even when it includes the president — a patriot?

Yeah, I think so.

Then Versus Now

Of course, the term patriot can be subjective. An American patriot in 1776 was also a traitor to the British. And an American patriot today is something subtly different from during the revolution.

Patriots in 1776 sought a country based on the idea of natural rights as defined by John Locke — the right to Life, Liberty, and Property.

Today, however, the American subtext for the word patriot too often means “America: Love It or Leave It.”

Patriotism versus Globalism?

There is nothing in the original definition that says a patriot decries other countries, or would refuse to work with them to mutual benefit.

Trump, however, sees patriotism and globalism as mutually exclusive.

Someone can be proud of their country, their national heritage, and their culture and still understand that cooperative efforts at trade, environmental protection, and alternative energy sources will benefit everyone.

A Trump patriot, no doubt, can only sanction American nationalism. You know, a “My Country, Right or Wrong!” attitude.

It Gets Worse

Attorneys for the whistleblower, unidentified as of this writing, reacted to Trump’s spy comment with fear for their client’s safety. This from CNN, September 30:

The lawyers noted that Trump was not referring directly to the whistleblower, but said that fact did not assuage their concerns and alleged that several unnamed parties had offered a $50,000 bounty for information on their client’s identity.

“Unfortunately, we expect this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter,” the lawyers wrote in a letter obtained by CNN’s Pamela Brown.

So those attorneys fear Trump’s ill-considered language has inspired Make-America-Great-Again “patriots” in the form of bounty hunters.

Then Trump retweeted a Twitter post from Fox contributor Robert Jeffress that suggested the removal of Trump from office would start a second Civil War. CBS reported:

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Mr. Trump tweeted, attributing the quote to Jeffress.

Trump knows nothing about the American Civil War, nor civil wars in general. They are devastating. The US Civil War cost 630,000 people dead, more than any other single war the United States has fought in. Trump doesn’t want another one of those. He doesn’t know about what he retweets.

If you’ve read any of my other stories on Medium, you know that Trump’s language and his historical ignorance drive me nuts. This week that ignorance has been front and center.

It’s painful to watch and sorrowful to hear.

We’ve got to do better than this, folks.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store