Trump’s brand of racism is noth­ing new. But it’s still ugly.

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - GENE LYONS Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­[email protected]­

Long ago and far away, I some­times joked that I only look white: Ac­tu­ally, I’m

Ir­ish. These days, peo­ple have no idea what you’re talk­ing about. Cour­tesy of An­ces­, I’ve since learned that all the fam­ily sto­ries are true: All eight of my great-grand­par­ents were born in Ireland. Mayo and Cork for the most part, coun­ties where re­bel­lion against cen­turies of English op­pres­sion ran strong.

As a lad, I was taught that be­ing Ir­ish took prece­dence over be­ing Amer­i­can. There was a manda­tory “Ir­ish” view on damn near ev­ery­thing -- although fam­ily mem­bers ar­gued fiercely about what it was.

Of­ten it was the women against the men. My fa­ther had friends of ev­ery eth­nic­ity that he’d made in the Army and play­ing ball. “You’re no bet­ter than any­body else,” he’d of­ten say. “And no­body’s bet­ter than you.”

My mother mis­trusted any­body who wasn’t blood kin.

I thought that was nuts by third grade.

Any­way, what with Ir­ish-sur­named lunkheads help­ing Trump spread his big­otry far and wide, it seems ap­pro­pri­ate to re­mind peo­ple that from the 17th cen­tury on­ward, ev­ery racial slur that was ever used to de­scribe black slaves was first ap­plied to the na­tive Ir­ish.

Micks were rou­tinely de­scribed as don­key strong, but stupid. They were good at mu­sic, danc­ing and prize­fight­ing, but con­gen­i­tally lazy and un­re­li­able. The Ir­ish were sex­u­ally pro­mis­cu­ous, dirty, foul-smelling drunks.

Ir­ish satirist Jonathan Swift’s 1729 pam­phlet “A Mod­est Pro­posal” re­mains a sear­ing in­dict­ment of the colo­nial­ist men­tal­ity -- as shock­ing now as then. Might im­pov­er­ished asy­lum-seek­ers whose chil­dren are caged along the U.s.-mex­i­can bor­der, for ex­am­ple, not turn a nice profit by of­fer­ing them as a del­i­cacy for rich men’s ta­bles? “I rather rec­om­mend buy­ing the chil­dren alive,” Swift wrote with sav­age irony, “and dress­ing them hot from the knife, as we do roast­ing pigs.”

Dur­ing the Ir­ish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1850, more than a mil­lion of the na­tive Ir­ish died of star­va­tion even as the is­land ex­ported food to Eng­land. A mil­lion more em­i­grated, many on the aptly named “cof­fin ships” vividly de­scribed in Joseph O’connor’s bril­liant novel “Star of the Sea.” (The au­thor is singer Sinead O’connor’s older brother.) Not long ago, Canadian au­thor­i­ties re­cov­ered the bones of half-starved Ir­ish chil­dren who died in an 1847 ship­wreck on the Gaspe Penin­sula.

And how did Amer­i­cans re­act to the Ir­ish di­as­pora? Pretty much the same way Trump sup­port­ers are re­act­ing to Span­ish-speaking asy­lumseek­ers on our south­ern bor­der. The

anti-im­mi­grant party of the 1850s called it­self the “Know-noth­ings.” In 1855, Abra­ham Lin­coln wrote a friend about them:

“I am not a Know-noth­ing. That is cer­tain. How could I be? How can any­one who ab­hors the op­pres­sion of Ne­groes, be in fa­vor of de­grad­ing classes of white peo­ple? Our progress in de­gen­er­acy ap­pears to me to be pretty rapid. As a na­tion, we be­gin by declar­ing that ‘all men are cre­ated equal.’ We now prac­ti­cally read it ‘all men are cre­ated equal, ex­cept Ne­groes.’ When the Know-noth­ings get con­trol, it will read ‘all men are cre­ated equal, ex­cept Ne­groes, and for­eign­ers, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should pre­fer em­i­grat­ing to some coun­try where they make no pre­tense of lov­ing liberty -- to Rus­sia, for in­stance, where despo­tism can be taken pure, and with­out the base al­loy of hypocrisy.”

He could have writ­ten it last week. Alas, we can’t urge Trump to go back where his fam­ily came from, be­cause his big flap­ping mouth might land him in prison. Hav­ing had their fill of it un­der Adolf Hitler, the Ger­mans have crim­i­nal­ized what they call “Volksver­het­zung,” or “in­cite­ment of the peo­ple.”

In Ger­many, it’s il­le­gal to urge “ha­tred against a na­tional, racial, re­li­gious group or a group de­fined by their eth­nic ori­gins, against seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion or in­di­vid­u­als be­cause of their be­long­ing to one of the afore­men­tioned groups ... or calls for vi­o­lent or ar­bi­trary mea­sures against them.”

The penalty is three months to five years.

I much pre­fer First Amend­ment free speech pro­tec­tions, but you can’t say the Ger­mans don’t know where these things can lead. The law has mainly been used to pros­e­cute Holo­caust de­niers. Sev­eral European countries (Ireland in­cluded) have sim­i­lar laws, although they are rarely in­voked.

So any­way, that’s where I’m com­ing from as a di­rect de­scen­dant of refugees. What we have here is a per­fect storm of Trump­ism: equal parts ig­no­rance and big­otry. Only Trump (born in Queens) could tell Alexan­dria Oca­sio-cortez (born in the Bronx) to go back where she came from.

Sure, Oca­sio-cortez asked for trou­ble with her child­ish “women of color” gibe at Nancy Pelosi, of all peo­ple.

But if he has no idea what he’s talk­ing about, Trump ab­so­lutely knows what he’s doing. No more pussy-foot­ing. The 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign is go­ing to be the ugli­est race-based free-for-all any of us has ever seen.

And if it works, you can bend over and kiss Amer­ica good­bye.

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