During a speech at the site of the Warsaw Uprising Monument in Poland on Thursday, President Donald Trump proclaimed in terms some characterized as “disturbing” that “the fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
Speaking before an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party—Trump returned to “the same life-or-death language as his inauguration speech, which promised a war against the ‘American carnage’ of urban crime,” noted Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the New York Times.
“Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?” Trump asked. “Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
Many observed that the speech was noticeably “Bannonesque,” with its stark good-versus-evil imagery and its invocation of a battle of civilizations. The speech, argued Vox‘s Sarah Wildman, “sounded like an alt-right manifesto.”
Others, however, detected a more ominous current running beneath Trump’s words, which were delivered in a nation governed by a fervently nationalistic party that has sparked fierce and widespread protests for what critics view as a sharp drift away from democracy.
Honing in on Trump’s repeated emphasis on “the will” and his declaration that “our civilization will triumph,” many made connections between the speech and an infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda film titled “Triumph of the Will,” which was directed by Leni Riefenstahl and based on the 1934 Nuremberg Rally.
Though the curated crowd responded to Trump’s words with raucous praise and the waving of flags, there were dissenters.
Most notable, The Guardian observed, was a “small left-wing party [that] held a protest with activists dressed as women from The Handmaid’s Tale, an American TV drama series based on a novel about a future totalitarian society, in protest over Trump’s treatment of women.”
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