By Jordan Jardine
President Trump inadvertently caused quite a stir on Monday while honoring three Native American veterans that served as “code talkers” in World War II who sent clandestine messages using obscure languages to lessen the possibility of decipherment. During a speech in which he referred to these veterans as “very, very special people,” Trump also used his speech as a platform to take an understandable and well-deserved jab at Massachusetts Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren.
Warren is well-documented as having exploited (nonexistent) Native American ancestry in order to obtain a job and tenure as a professor at Harvard Law School prior to her political career. As it turns out, Warren’s claim of Native roots was just as phony and pretentious as her policy rhetoric has been at various points throughout her time in Washington. Donald Trump sarcastically referred to Senator Warren as “Pocahontas” in the past, but this instance was particularly notable for a few reasons. First, as I stated earlier, Trump was surrounded by three Native American war veterans. Unfortunately, Trump’s podium was placed directly under Andrew Jackson’s portrait hanging in the White House. Jackson, of course, infamously signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, leading to the equally controversial and tragic Trail of Tears. Senator Warren’s response was exactly what one who follows news and politics with even a modicum of consistency would expect. All too predictably, Warren pulled the race card and claimed Trump was using a “racial slur” at what was intended to be a nice and special ceremony honoring war veterans. Trump has been in office for 10 months now and has barely behaved in any “presidential” way whatsoever. Why are people expecting anything different? If he hasn’t been willing to change his behavior by now, I don’t think it is reasonable or realistic to assume that he will abruptly change course and begin acting more professional, prim and proper. It’s not going to happen, especially when you consider that President Trump is the type of person who will act even less “presidential” the more the media and a majority of Congressmen on both sides of the aisle criticize him for doing so. All that aside, allow me to offer some perspective into this conversation.
On one hand, there is Elizabeth Warren, who exploited a stereotype of Native American cheekbones to claim Native American ancestry in order to advance her academic career. On the other hand, there is Donald Trump, who is AGREEING with several members of the Native American community who do find it offensive that Elizabeth Warren stereotyped Native American facial features to obtain employment and tenure as a “minority” at an esteemed educational institution. In all honesty, the reaction to Trump’s faux pas from the general Native American community has been mixed, but at least some Natives actually support Trump’s comments and understand where he is coming from. My opinion on this is also mixed. One part of me understands what Trump was trying to say and I completely agree with his sentiment, which is that Elizabeth Warren is a fraud and used racism to her advantage as she has made an entire political career out of crying crocodile tears at every so-called “racist” remark made by Republicans. To be fair, Warren’s outrage has been merited in some cases of legitimate Republican racism, but oftentimes, her tearful theatrics come across as little more than a narcissistic, bitter old woman taking advantage of the American cultural trend of victimhood for political and personal gain. The other part of me acknowledges that Trump’s behavior and remarks were in poor taste, but there was at least a grain of truth and accuracy in what the president was saying. Yes, it was not the appropriate avenue for Trump to express his contempt for Warren’s past exploits, but Donald Trump is not Barack Obama. In other words, even when taking a jab at a political adversary, Obama managed to do so in a fairly eloquent and professional manner. Trump simply is not capable of demonstrating professionalism, which, for a majority of his base, is part of his overall appeal.
On this specific issue, I don’t think Trump was intentionally trying to offend any Native Americans at all. I think, in his own way, he was trying to voice his disdain for Elizabeth Warren’s reckless, vile and ridiculous actions. In my humble opinion, what Senator Warren did was just as bad if not worse than the president’s comments. My reasoning is simple: I care more about actions than words, and I care about intent. Elizabeth Warren intentionally gamed the system, masquerading as a minority in order to gain employment and reap the benefits thereof at Harvard. Trump thought that Warren’s actions were disgusting, so he was trying to express his sympathy for the Native American community for being stereotyped and taken advantage of by a sitting Democratic senator. Actions speak louder than words, and Warren’s egregious and fraudulent actions are a giant scream compared to the relatively calm whisper of Trump’s ill-timed, yet unintentionally, “offensive” words.