Op/Ed By Dr. E. Faye Williams Esq.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) — Although it’s no simple task and difficult to do, most who are keenly observant of or listen closely to Donald Trump will recognize that he is a fan of President Andrew Jackson. If “fan” is over-zealous, it can be said that Jackson is inspirational to his current successor in The Office. After all, Trump is the first President since Ronald Reagan to honor Jackson with a speech on his (Jackson’s 250th) birthday. Trump also boasts about his portrait of Jackson hung in The Oval Office.
Before someone becomes sentimental about Trump honoring Jackson with his 2017 “birthday” visit to Nashville, Tennessee, we need to refresh our collective memory about Jackson. Jackson, known as a frontiersman who sprang to prominence from humble beginnings, is arguably a polar opposite from Trump in background and upbringing. I, and others, would argue that Jackson and Trump are “cut from the same cloth” and are more similar in background and character than commonly acknowledged.
With fame as a soldier, few, except historians, know that Jackson, like Trump, earned much of his wealth from the purchase and sale of property. In a partnership with two other investors, Jackson acquired lands that had been reserved by treaty from the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations. Known as the “Jackson Purchase” (1818), a portion of those lands was used by the investors to found the city of Memphis, Tennessee in 1819.
Jackson’s ascendency to the Presidency marked the beginning of the “spoils system,” a derivation from a quotation attributed to NY Senator William Marcy– “To the victor belongs the spoils.” Under Jackson, political patronage that rewarded relatives, friends and supporters with government jobs and positions flourished. Without consideration for merit, these jobs were used as incentives to inspire continued loyalty and support.
Trump’s positioning of his family (sons, Donald, Jr. and Eric, daughter, Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared), friends (Carl Icahn and Steve Bannon), financial contributors (Betsy DeVos, Linda McMahon and Steve Mnuchin), and political supporters (Jeff Sessions, Reince Prebus and others) reflect Trump’s affinity for Jacksonian politics. Although reforms against this type of cronyism began in 1883, Trump has used every legal consideration available to deflect the scrutiny from his more questionable appointments.
If one were to accurately characterize Jackson, the label “INHUMANE” is easily applied. Other than the “It was the nature of the times!” defense, which is no defense at all, there is no excuse for Jackson’s ownership of slaves and active participation in slave trade. In addition, Jackson’s most infamous crime against humanity was his orchestration of Indian Removal policies. Commonly lumped under the title Trail of Tears, Jackson’s policies of forcibly relocating native nations from traditional settlements included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Muscogee nations.
Contrary to the stereotypical “savage” image constructed to explain away and justify the brutal treatment of Native people, the Cherokee and affiliated nations were just as, if not more, civilized as the Anglo-European oppressors. They had an organized system of government, written language (and a printed newspaper), schools and institutions comparable to their invaders. In violation of ratified treaties, Andrew Jackson orchestrated the removal and forced march of nations from their lands, some as far east as the Carolinas, to the Oklahoma territory. Their journey was notably brutal. They suffered from starvation, exposure and disease. Thousands died.
Although Trump has not yet initiated acts of comparable brutality, his personal anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic xenophobia have infected the national psyche. Travel bans, TRUMPCARE – the elimination of healthcare for 24 million Americans, subliminal appeals to WE against THEM violence, the normalization of intolerance are all hallmarks of the new America by Trump.
Only through our active resistance can we assure that future generations will not read about a 21st Century Trail of Tears.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. 202/678-6788. www.nationalcongressbw.org).