“They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”

She was expressing a sentiment that many Trumpists share: that the US belongs to Donald Trump (who at the time of the Capitol riot was still in the White House) and his overwhelmingly White disciples.

The dangerous messaging here is that they’re the real Americans, not the people who reject Trumpists’ beliefs, who want to improve the country and love it — even though that devotion is rarely reciprocated.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the above quote recently. And, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, I’ve also been wondering about the political machinations that have long been used to define who’s a real American — worthy of political participation — and who isn’t.

A simple logic governs this politics of exclusion: cruelty.

“Most people think of cruelty as an individual problem. And that’s true because all human beings are capable of cruelty,”…

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