From Kennedy to Trump the decline of America, interview with Furio Colombo


“White insurrectionism has always been in American history, and has always been anti-Jewish and anti-Jewish, but it had never had a legitimate political leader, capable of appearing in national communications. For four years this boss has been there. He sits in the White House, and his name is Donald Trump». If there is a journalist and writer who knows every facet of the “US planet”, this is it Furio Colombo. In the United States he was a correspondent for The print is The Republic. He wrote for the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. He was president of the Fiat Usa, professor of journalism at the Columbia University, director of the Italian Cultural Institute. The Reformist he interviewed him, in a stimulating political-intellectual journey that links past and present. Summarized in the title of one of his most recent books: Trump Power. From the New Frontier of JFK at Donald’s Wall. What happened to theAmerica (Power First).

“A time for greatness”: this was the electoral slogan of the 1960 presidential campaign by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, one of the great election campaigns in the history of the United States of America. Sixty years later, what’s left of that “time for greatness”?
What is left of the passage of the “Kennedy meteor” is a sense of expectation of great, new, intelligent and truly highly innovative things. The word innovation was born then, with JFK. It is then that younger America begins to glimpse that the sense of self is not the continuous celebration of the glories, true or presumed, of the past but is the invention of the future. It is a change of perspective, of vision, of extraordinary significance in a country in which the continued celebration of itself continues to pulsate, and in this vein that Trump is placed. Kennedy represented a radical break from this self-celebrating narrative, affirming the idea of ​​a recelebration as a construction and imagination of the future. As if to say to ourselves: we have a much greater duty to the world. And this duty is to lead by example and mark the road, instead of blocking and garrisoning it. A break even more significant, because it was not only the candidate Kennedy that determined it, but also the writer Kennedy, who in 1957 received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for the book, which he wrote in 1955 when he was a young senator, Profiles in Courage ( Portraits of Courage). The courage to make unpopular but necessary decisions also at the risk of a political career and even of life. This was, in many ways, the most important legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who besides being more charming, elegant, communicative, was also the most cultured. To achieve the things you believe in, being unpopular must also be taken into account. Really a great lesson.

A lesson that brings us to today. A fiery today for America. The revolt of African Americans unleashed by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis extends and radicalises. The first victims are counted, a curfew has been declared in over 40 American cities. What hatches under the ashes of revolt?
Hatching something that careful American intellectuals, unfortunately not many and not even the most mediatized, have kept an eye on, namely white suprematism. White suprematism is not a Third Millennium phenomenon. In Tales of Anger, John Dyer talked in 1980 of seventy thousand active white supremacists waiting for a signal to begin the hunt for Negroes. It must be remembered that the American balance, on the racial issue, has been maintained because the Republican party throughout the post-war period, from after Nixon onwards, was associated with the Democrats’ commitment to defend and root civil rights. If anything, there is a singular shuffle across the two parties, before and after Kennedy. Scrambling in the sense that many Republicans were anti-racists, unlike many Democrats in the South, who instead espoused markedly racist positions. This is the striking case of the Democratic and white governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who wanted to prevent access to the University of Alabama by the first black student, James Meredith, who, escorted by the army sent by the Minister of Justice Robert Kennedy entered the university. “I was elected for this,” Wallace motivated his behavior. “And I have to answer all American citizens,” replied Robert Kennedy, adding that if Alabama had kept the point, it would have left the Federation, which would have gone from 50 to 49. Subsequently, Wallace was hit by a personal tragedy, victim of an extreme right-wing attack, and he became one of the great liberal governors of Alabama, Already since the seventies, this vein of white suprematism had three enemies to fight against even with terrorist actions.

What were these three battles?
The first was against abortion, to the point of murdering abortion doctors, at least a dozen and others seriously injured, and blowing up about twenty clinics that practiced the termination of pregnancy. And here is Dyer’s documented claim that there are more American deaths at the hands of Americans than those who fell victim to Islamic terrorism, including the 3,000 deaths of the Twin Towers. As soon as the memory of John and Robert Kennedy moved away, white suprematism raised its head, marked even more its racist, anti-Semitic and even anti-Catholic imprinting, against a Church deemed too indulgent. Suprematism became even more dangerous, as evidenced by two events that mark this jumped of danger: February 28, 1993. That day of the agents of the Federal Police who deals with drug trafficking and weapons – U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) – showed up at the Mount Carmel ranch a few miles from Waco, Texas with a search warrant from the judiciary. In front of the agents with a regular search warrant, the inhabitants of the ranch reacted with a shooting. After 50 days, the FBI that had taken over the operations started an assault. 76 people died in the shooting and fire that followed, including the head of the sect, David Koresh. Since then, “the Waco massacre” has become a powerful symbol for the far right: an episode of armed resistance by free citizens against a totalitarian and oppressive central state. The second date is April 19, 1995: a terrorist attack razed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the equivalent of one of our prefectures, in central Oklahoma City. The toll is 168 dead, including 19 children, and 672 injured. To complete this huge massacre was a Gulf War veteran, Timothy McVeigh, (sentenced to death and executed on 11 June 2001, ed.) Who became a hero for white supremacists, not only Americans. A long punctuation of blood that leads us to Trump, who in those days did not yet exist as a political leader. These two attacks are the greatest proof that something big and extremely dangerous existed before the emergence as a politician of Donald Trump.

What did The Donald add to this disturbing phenomenon?
Trump gave a flash of encouragement to anti-black and anti-Hispanic racism, projecting this racist attitude even beyond American borders. You see, I didn’t hide that Trump’s victory found me surprised. But then I realized that it was the response of white America to black America. White insurrectionism has always existed, and has always been anti-Jewish and anti-Jewish, but had never had a legitimate political leader capable of appearing in national communications. There were powerful gang leaders and dangerous clan leaders, but no one had ever made it to the national political stage. Until Donald Trump enters the scene, who makes the preaching of white supremacists his own to the last point, going so far as to tweet, in the midst of an increasingly widespread uprising, that “antifa” (anti-fascist) will be considered a term terrorist – a term he never used for the crimes of supremacists – and that the “radical anarchists” will be sedated “by the most ferocious dogs of the secret services”. Moreover, around Trump there are two great misunderstandings that have never been clarified …

The relationship with Catholics. Steve Bannon, creator of Trump’s presidential campaign and ideological inspiration of his “America first”, openly declares himself a Catholic extremist, and for the first time, with brutality and violence, led a part of the Catholics, to the far right side . The other misunderstanding concerns relations with Israel and part of American Judaism. Israel has never had racist friends nor accepted them, just think of the support of Martin Luther King, on the other hand, however, there is the fact of having at home the husband of his favorite daughter, Ivanka, that Jared Kushner who comes from a wealthy family like Trump and who has taken on an informal role, and if you want it illegal, because it has never been formalized, as presidential adviser for the Middle East and, in particular, for relations with Israel. It is not Israel that Trump cares about, but establishing and strengthening relations with a hard, unprejudiced and, if necessary, extreme right. We are not talking about the relationship between a large democratic country and what represents freedom and democracy in the Middle East, but about the relationship between two leaders, Trump and Netanyahu, who belong to the same type of right. The admixture made by Trump, and his adviser-son-in-law, has torn American Judaism, which at least half is anti-Trump.

In November, America elects the new president. Is Democrat candidate Joe Biden the right man to contend Trump for the White House?
It is as if at the time of the anti-fascist resistance we had wondered if Ferruccio Parri was the right man. It is simply what we had. Strong, honest, consistently anti-fascist. Biden is a sincere Democrat, and has been a great supporter of Obama. We wished for a stronger personality, yes, but if I were an American voter I would long for victory. A respectable person in the White House is already an achievement.

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