At its very core, President Trump’s phrase asks us to believe our common American-ness is more important and real than our common humanity. It asks us to forget the plight of our neighbors and fellow humans so we can do whatever is in our own self-interest as a nation. It asks us to be selfish. When before we at least gave lip service to our commitment to others, now we openly express our hostility toward them.
I love America. It has been my home throughout my life. It has offered me a good education. It is the source of historic breakthroughs in democracy, science, philosophy, technology, and art. I am grateful for the freedoms and opportunities I’ve had here. And I aspire to do what I can to make America a better place for all and believe that it’s best days could yet still be ahead of it.
But for me, it will always be “humanity first.” Whether you’re American, Ethiopian, Fijian; whether you staunchly support Trump or Bernie Sanders; whether you’re an ISIS militant or a Greenpeace sailor, you’re my fellow human. My human-ness will always be more essential to me than my American-ness.
Sure, we can prioritize actions based on where we will have the most impact and influence. But I won’t let myself believe that care, compassion, and support for the rest of humanity are in limited supply.
And this is not just an ethical stance; it is deeply practical. With an increasingly global economy and global effects of climate change, we depend on one another, now and forever. “America first” is as blind and stupid, as it is hateful and selfish.
It must be “humanity together.” We need one another. This is a good thing. Imagine what we could accomplish as a species if we had as much pride and devotion in our humanity as we did for our country or our favorite football team.
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