Trump Doesn't Know "God Bless America." A Body Language Expert Tells Us What That Really Means.

Photo: Susan Walsh/AP Photo.
Donald Trump bounced and nodded his way through the military choir's rendition of "God Bless America" during Tuesday's hastily put-together "Celebration of America" event at the White House, which lasted under 10 minutes.
Here's a transcript of Trump "singing" the patriotic tune (which was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish songwriter who immigrated from the Russian Empire and was imprisoned in a pen at Ellis Island until immigration officials let him go):
"God bless America..." [uncertain, half-hearted mouth movements, nodding and bouncing] [slight smile and nod] "God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home...home!"
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Watch it for yourself here:
Of course, there are more words in "God Bless America." Words that many people learn in second-grade choir. Words that Trump, even if he doesn't know them, could have theoretically looked up before the event. But no. During a patriotism pageant that was his idea, he failed to do the very least and remember this great country's mountains, prairies, and oceans. (Maybe this makes sense given that he's on a roll to gut seemingly every environmental regulation there is.)
Back when he botched "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a football game in January, body language expert Patti Wood said that he seemed nervous and uncomfortable, like he was just trying to get through to the other side of an anxious situation.
This time around, he seemed less nervous, but the episode did reveal something else about him. Notice, said Wood, that he was onstage alone in front of the choir — no Melania (which is a whole other story) or anybody else. Why did he make that choice? "Was he trying to make it about himself?"
Trump didn't even attempt to sing the words he didn't know by looking around at the crowd, reading lips and making logical connections, which Wood said really stood out to her. People typically do those things when they're fully present, and singing together tends to unify people and bring them into the moment together, she said. "He's not able to join in and unify and be connected to the other people there," she told Refinery29.
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"It shows his solitariness to me, how solitary he is," Wood said, adding that this suggests he spends a lot of time alone. This is in line with reports that he tends to retreat, placing a lock on his White House bedroom and getting two TVs installed there as soon as he got into office. "He's not unified with the crowd. Even energetically, he's kind of bouncing and nobody else is."
She added that he sings the few words he does know overly dramatically to compensate, making his lips "sort of fishlike." "I get the sense that by over-delivering, he is trying to tell us he knows some of the words."
Her point about Trump flying solo speaks to his stubbornness in decision-making, like when he disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House because only a few players had planned to come, and invited the team's "fans" to his eight-minute singalong instead.
Only, as observers noted, the people in the crowd looked a lot more "like Republican staffers and lobbyists who were hastily summoned to the White House to fill out the audience" than green-jerseyed Eagles fans.
This faux-patriotism is the White House's latest attempt to capitalize on a cultural issue to draw even more of a wedge between voters. Ever since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against Black men, Trump has railed against football players who choose to kneel, calling them "sons of bitches" who should leave the country.
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The Associated Press reported that the president told a "confidant" he plans to revive this conversation in the months leading up to the midterm elections because he thinks it will help Republicans win votes.
But although several Eagles players had criticized the NFL's new policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem or remain in their locker rooms, not one has mentioned it as their reason to skip the event.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins told the AP that he missed the ceremony "to avoid being used as any kind of pawn," and that with the staging of the ersatz event, a "decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag, and anti-military."
It didn't quite work, though. Here's a tip: If you're going to lambast other people for their lack of a show of patriotism, please at least know the words to "God Bless America."
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