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Friday, January 27, 2017

"Das Volk"

Translating Trump’s Inaugural Speech From the Original German (Video)

Donald Trump’s inaugural speech, like the candidate himself, was a chain of falsehoods, saber-rattling and scary Neofascist uber-nationalism.  But it could be difficult to follow because so much of it seemed stolen from the mass politics of the 1930s in central and southern Europe.  So here is a plain English translation of some key passages.
  Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.
You may be confused, as an English speaker.  Trump, a billionaire real estate developer and serial grifter who founded a phony university that defrauded thousands, has appointed a cabinet of billionaires and multi-millionaires, the wealthiest and most elite cabinet in American history, which even includes the CEO of petroleum giant Exxon-Mobil. 
How, you might ask, can he represent this coup by the super-rich as ‘giving’ power ‘back to’ ‘the people’?  The people wouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the gated communities where Trump’s officials live.
The confusion arises from thinking in English instead of 1930s German.  “Das Volk” or the people was a mystical conception for the German far right.  It comprised the German people as an organic whole, uniting great landlord and lowly peasant.  The great German corporations, too, were said to be expressions of “the people”  (Hence the German automobile company Volkswagen, now led by perfectly nice people but not so much in the 1930s).  The phrase comes into focus if you understand “the people” as “white Protestants and some lately admitted ethnic Catholics” who are united across social class (though of course led by their billionaire betters), and who stand in contrast to the cosmopolitans, the mixed-race people, infiltrating minorities, the socialists and others bent on diluting “the people” and subverting its prosperity and power by kowtowing to foreigners.
Trump also used the typical 1930s diction of the traitor within:
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
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