During his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump stated that “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

My first thought was: are you fucking kidding me? The entirety of Trump’s border policy seemed founded on building upon patriotic prejudice in order to secure votes. I was fairly close to throwing a shoe at the television when I was reminded of another self-appointed “great” patriot: Bill “The Butcher” Cutting as portrayed with magnetic malice by Daniel Day-Lewis.

In Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Bill The Butcher is a Nativist gang leader who controls the Five Points and exploits its citizens; all while waging a personal war against the influx of Irish immigrants arriving in New York City. Bill’s hatred of immigrants, the Irish in particular, stems from the idea that they are not, and can not, be a true American like himself. For Bill, to be a true patriot means to have ancestral roots in the country and to have shed blood for one’s country in warfare. Bill’s rule over Five Points is held by fear and oppression, and the immigrants under his control have to bend under his will.

Their only alternative is corrupt politician Boss Tweed [played by a fantastic Jim Broadbent] who is there to greet them at the docks with food and voter registration forms. Bill is there for a different reason: to spew hatred and threats against the newly arrived immigrants. As Bill explains to Tweed as they look over the arrival of immigrants, he doesn’t see Americans, but trespassers. Tweed has a different perspective: he sees votes.

Eventually, the Union will see another contribution gained from these new Americans—as bodies to use in the Civil War. One of the strongest visuals in the film comes when we see immigrants arrive, become citizens, then get right back in line to be drafted into the Union army. As they enter the ships in their fresh Union uniforms, hoping they’ll be fed, we also see coffins bearing the dead soldiers come off the ship and over the heads of the new immigrants. In one scene, we see the unfortunate journey taking place for such immigrants.

But isn’t this what The Butcher wants? If immigrants do contribute in such a fatal fashion to their new country, are they not “true Americans” as Bill considers himself to be?

We also see that Bill has no qualms about accepting Irish immigrants—as long as they have assimilated fully into his culture. Scorsese shows us how the members of the Priest’s former Dead Rabbit gang have all done so, whether it be as a police officer, a politician, or a member of Bill’s own gang. In this way, the former immigrant gang members all work to assimilate into “native” America, and this is generally accepted.

What is not accepted is when the immigrants refuse to assimilate; namely, this means retaining their Catholic faith and not adopting the Protestant religion. Scorsese focuses on this at length throughout the film: through Liam Neeson’s too-short appearance as “Priest,” to the prayers shown throughout the film, the mention of saints, the appearance of crosses at key moments, Amsterdam’s tossing of the Holy Bible off a bridge, and the constant depiction of attempts at assimilating immigrant Catholics into Protestantism. For Irish immigrants coming to America, their Catholic faith was seen as threatening, strange, and against the norm of native American identity; in short, it was not culturally viable and became a source of open prejudice against them.

Trump’s line about “opening up your heart to patriotism” and leaving “no room for prejudice” makes a lot more sense to me in considering this. Saying that Trump’s populist followers simply agree with him on anti-immigration based on job loss is not only too simple—it also may not be the truth.

According to recent research from MIT, those that think America should have less low-skilled immigrants entering the country also believe that we should have more higher-skilled immigrants instead. As it turns out, what matters more to most current Americans is how new immigrants assimilate and develop “social, cultural, and linguistic cohesion.”

Once immigrants assimilate into American culture, especially if they are “contributing,” they are seen as much less threatening to “native” citizens. Bill the Butcher showcases this when he comments on their cultural worth, asking Tweed what immigrants have even contributed. Once they assimilate into Bill’s culture, he has much less of a problem; about a former member of the Dead Rabbits that has joined his own gang, he comments, “Don’t mind him. He used to be an Irishman.”

There is only one unassimilated immigrant that stands out for Bill, and that is Priest, the leader of the Dead Rabbits that he killed and still keeps a portrait of out of respect. As Bill says, “He was the only man I ever killed worth remembering.” Why is this? Because as Bill explains, “the Priest and me, we lived by the same principles—it was only faith that divided us."

Bill respects the Priest because he identifies with him at a very basic level. Once identification is made on a personal level, the notion of Priest as a simple immigrant is ignored; he is a highly-skilled [ie: murderous] man of principle, a man worth respecting even if he was a devout Catholic.

Even his son, “Amsterdam,” adopts this attitude toward Irish immigrants for a time. When an immigrant approaches him for spare change, Amsterdam seems ready to beat the man—until he asks where he’s from. Once the man tells Amsterdam the region he came from, he is given change and spared because Amsterdam identifies with this region. In fact, Amsterdam is constantly attempting to assimilate into the culture, even if it is only to plan his revenge. He kills an Irish assassin to protect Bill and weeps about it, clearly at war with his own motivations in a turn of Hamlet-esque conflict.

This actually makes sense when comparing it to another recent study reported by NPR that found that many assimilated immigrants voted for Trump and even shared his anti-immigration stance. There is an odd psychological motivation for this: once assimilated, part of maintaining such assimilation is to join the culture in not accepting those outside of it.

Amsterdam, along with Bill’s right-hand man and the police officer played by John C. Reilly, all do this in different ways. To become a true American means becoming completely indoctrinated with its values and rejecting those that have yet to join the culture.

When Amsterdam rebuilds the Dead Rabbits with Irish immigrants, he is still attempting assimilation: he joins forces with Boss Tweed in order to secure votes for an Irish sheriff. Bill does not accept this form of assimilation, murdering the man and declaring it to be “the minority vote.” But Bill is more accepting of Amsterdam, especially once he finds himself at the end of Amsterdam’s knife. Fatally wounded and bleeding profusely during the insanity of the Draft Riots, Bill thanks God that he will “die a true American.”

Trump echoed that basic sentiment in his inauguration speech when he said, “It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.” Blood is not just a symbol in the film, but in our nation as well. As long as someone shows their devotion to the culture, whether it be by the natural assimilation of ancestry or the “contribution” of bloodshed, they can then be seen as patriots—true Americans.

Rewatching Gangs of New York with such sentiments in the forefront of my mind actually helped me stop something I am far too often guilty of doing, which is simplifying viewpoints that are different from mine. Anti-immigration fervor may actually have much deeper psychological roots than simple racism.  As the film shows [and new research helps confirm], anti-immigration stances, whether it be against Catholicism in the 19th century or the tenets of Islam in the 21st, are more about maintaining the majority culture of a nation than about hating any and all immigrants based on race or economic concerns.

In this sense, Trump’s statement about patriotism may be an unfortunate truth—once nativists understand that an immigrant has assimilated into their national culture, there is no longer any reason to be prejudiced. The interesting thing Scorsese illustrates is the dark side of that assimilation and idea of national identity. He does not do it perfectly, but the intention is there.

What does it mean to be a “True American?” Is it about accepting a president? Adopting a religion? Going to war? In our current divisive political state, it is hard to have a concrete answer. The stories and “contributions” of immigrants have always had a major hand toward shaping America, but its requirement of a readjustment of personal identity [and a bit of spilled blood] is something that, as Amsterdam’s character indicates during the film’s final scene, is important to remember.