With COVID-19 dominating the news, the past four years of a failed foreign policy is getting little to no attention. The America First movement, promoted by Donald Trump, is nothing new. Back in the 1930s, a jingoistic, isolationist movement by the same name and supported by such luminaries as Charles Lindberg kept us out of World War II until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The founding premise of the movement was simple. Our white, Christian people should do what is best for us and avoid the conflict of others. We don’t need allies. Other countries can take care of themselves, and if they don’t, that is their problem, not ours.
Many adherents to the America First movement took kindly to Hitler and to his autocratic regime. Had it not been for the attack on Pearl Harbor, we might all be speaking German today. Within three days of the attack, America First disintegrated; that is, until the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Of course, it is natural for leaders to represent the best interests of their respective countries, but when we see ourselves as against the world, when we refuse to recognize the ever growing interdependence of those with whom we share this planet, when we forsake our friends and coddle our enemies, then we are in grave peril.
John Donne, the 16th century poet, wrote a poem “No Man is An Island.” Its most famous lines resonate as never before:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.