If an alien were to land on Earth, and listen only to Donald Trump, the impression the alien would get is that a great, powerful, and cruel nation–Mexico–was dominating its neighbours unfairly, robbing them of their resources, cheating them through trade, and invading them with gangsters. “Mexico is killing us at the border”. “Mexico is killing us with trade”. “It’s a disaster, what’s coming across the border”. “Mexico is smarter than us, they outsmart us at trade”.
This is an inversion of the caricature of a classical anti-imperialist discourse, where now–because history has been erased–Mexico is the victor, and the poor United States plays the part of the vanquished. As a caricature, it brings to mind comics with which Donald Trump must be very familiar, because they likely would have been present in his childhood.
Trump’s major complaint seems to be that Mexico is guilty of the original sin: the sin of production, which is to be denied to all natives whose existence should be frozen in sloth and innocence. Mexicans should just sit on top of rich natural resources, that have no value to them, and be willing to give them up for a few foreign trinkets. By even taking a minimal role in assembly, Mexico threatens to join the Club of Producers. And natives, sorry, are not allowed to enter.
Everything is still unsteady and in the process of formation where Trump’s policies are concerned. On the one hand, we can acknowledge that he apparently disavowed the cultural imperialist program of imposing the “American way of life” on other nations (echoed in his meeting with the UK’s Theresa May, where she proclaimed: “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image, are over“). On the other hand, however unintended it may be, however much unconscious, this relentless desire to put Mexico back in its place sounds awfully familiar, especially if the effect is to deny Mexico all but the most autarkic form of production.
Here is the passage that “inspired” these brief thoughts, though no discredit goes to the authors: