An open letter to a Midwestern friend:
I received your letter, in which you said you were planning to vote for Donald Trump. While you are, of course, entirely free to vote for anyone you like, I cannot sit idly by when I think that step by you and millions of other Americans is extremely ill-advised. I hope I can dissuade you.
You are, and have always been, a kind, caring person of good character, values and morals. I admit, therefore, to bafflement over what you and the many millions of others find so compelling about a person so bullying, so rude, so crude, so insensitive, so lacking in virtue, and so singularly devoted to the accumulation of even more wealth than was handed to him on a silver platter by his father. And I haven’t even mentioned his most glaring characteristic: an insatiable urge for over-the-top boasting, a clear indication of a highly insecure individual.
What’s the attraction?
Actually, I can think of a reason for the attraction of Trump. Such wealth, even that made possible through family inheritance, is the envy of all who struggle to meet their financial obligations, much less enjoy life’s luxuries. We want to be in that person’s position, and occupy it vicariously. Thus, we look up to him.
But I suspect there is a bigger reason that such an unadmirable person as Donald Trump wins the admiration of many. It’s because he blurts out the feelings that a lot of people harbor, but are too afraid of social disapproval to express. It’s emotionally satisfying to a lot of people to hear this man bluster on about what terrible shape the country is in, and that he’s damned well going to do something about it when he’s president, by god. He’ll vanquish our adversaries abroad simply by talking tough to them. He’ll use those same, vast negotiating powers that he brandished in his business deal-making to turn this country around. How? Don’t ask him. That upsets him, and he’s liable to burst forth with a vicious ad hominem attack. But, putting emotion aside and summoning reason to assess this man, one must conclude that such defensiveness arises because he in fact doesn’t have a clue how. He’s had zero political experience.
This nation was settled by whites like us from England and the European continent, and Trump followers damned well want to keep it that way. They’ve had enough of people who don’t look like us coming to our country from other parts of the world – like Mexico and the Middle East. Keep ’em out and send ’em back. They don’t belong here. Uh … it’s true we were in the same shoes as these people when we came and took over a country already occupied by American Indians. But that’s a different story. Why? Trump followers don’t have time to get into that.
Muslims are a distinct minority in America. They practice a religion different from the ones we’re used to – Christianity and Judaism. Now, in the case of the Muslims’ faith, Islam, there likely is more to it, and I’m not going to engage in a politically correct denial of that. Many Muslims in the Middle East practice a religion that is, by American standards, appalling. Women are cruelly subjugated and at the mercy of men, who often are allowed to have more than one wife, even as many as at least four. For what we consider moderate offenses, the law calls for barbaric punishments, such as lashings to the point of death, cutting off limbs, and stoning to death.
Look at the Old Testament, and you will find some of these same punishments decreed. But that’s where the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions go separate ways. Over the centuries, Jews and Christians have evolved, and today’s adherents follow a more enlightened, civilized code of conduct. Ah, but that is true of the vast majority of American Muslims, as well. They do not practice the barbarism embraced to a greater or lesser extent in many, if not most, of the Middle Eastern nations.
Political correctness aside …
So, yes, if the United States is going to admit Syrian refugees from places where conditions are barely able to sustain life, they need to know that it is their duty to assimilate into our society. And that means acceptance of the freedom of all to worship as they choose, but restricted to ways that conform to our laws – including those prohibiting inhumane treatment of women.
But Dan, when European countries so much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists than we are admit hundreds of thousands of these refugees, and we won’t even accept 10,000 – what does that say about the kind of people we are? We like to call ourselves a Christian nation, but does that comport with Christian principles? Trump and his followers say we can’t take the risk of terrorists hiding amongst the legitimate refugees. Yet we are much more vulnerable to terrorists already living here, some who claim to be Christians. I refer to Oklahoma bomber Terry McAuliffe, killers of abortion providers, and murderers of gays, among others. What of those who have massacred children in schools and people in movie theaters? Are these not far more dangerous? Yet we don’t even demand many restrictions on gun ownership in a country that has five percent of the world’s population and between 40 and 50 percent of all the world’s guns. We don’t forbid the sale of assault weapons used in war. Heck, we don’t even prohibit persons on the no-fly list from owning guns. Furthermore, we re-elect the politicians who refuse to enact such bans. Donald Trump wants to be one of those politicians. And we think these demented persons who pretend to be following Islam in their commission of terrorist acts are the main radicals to fear? What sense does that make? Besides, these terrorists who commit unspeakable acts of cruelty aren’t religious. They’re not Muslim. They just use the Muslim religion as an excuse for their depravity.
Upfront Trump? No way.
Trump gets by with lying over and over. His followers are so mesmerized by his audacity that they are willing to overlook his propensity for mendacity. But is this characteristic what we want in the president of the United States? What foreign leader is going to trust him? Asked about his plans for solving critical problems, he dismisses the questions by bragging about how capable he has shown himself to be in negotiating and running his businesses. Oh sure, he told us how he was going to set China straight the other night: He’ll slap a tariff on their imports — a position labeled by an expert as “selling snake oil to the voters” because, for various reasons, it’s far more complicated and would cause big problems. But again, he’s never held political office. A business tycoon issues orders, and his or her minions obey them. It doesn’t work that way in political office, where those in the opposing party, and even in the leader’s own party, often refuse to do his/her bidding. And there’s not much the leader can do about it.
Trump’s idolizers say that he tells it like it is, and doesn’t care whether voters like what he says or the way he lives. Really? Think again. He’s as much a politician as any, probably more so. He used to be a Democrat, was pro-choice, and liked the single-payer health system. Always too proud (not too intellectual) to attend church, he now proclaims that the Bible is the greatest book – nudging out The Art of the Deal. He made that declaration upon taking his campaign to Iowa, a state with a lot of evangelicals.
The good sans the bad
Trumpers say they like him because he’s not part of the political establishment that has failed the American people. I say, if you want someone who doesn’t stray from his ideals for political gain, there is a far better choice. As an Independent, Bernie Sanders isn’t a part of that establishment, either. Unlike Trump, he has always been consistent in his positions, doesn’t lie, has led an exemplary life, and doesn’t support the rich, as Trump does. He is strong on such critical issues as climate change, showing common sense in accepting the overwhelming consensus of the world scientific community that it is caused by man and will in the near future make Earth all but uninhabitable unless prompt action is taken. Is such a planet what you want to bequeath to your grandchildren? He wants to massively overhaul our health care system by implementing the single payer system that’s so much less costly and more beneficial in Europe, in effect expanding Medicare to everyone and greatly reducing our dependence on profit-making insurance companies.
In addition, Sanders has the benefit of considerable political experience, including 26 years as a U.S. senator, where he has not been beholden to any party and knows how Washington works. He doesn’t go for big campaign contributions, instead building his war chest with small individual donations, appealing to voters at the grass roots level. His primary goal is to narrow the unconscionably vast wealth gap in this country, calling on mega-millionaires and billionaires to put their money to use in improving the lot of the middle and lower classes. It’s Trump and his ilk who want to maintain, even expand, the immeasurably enormous chasm that separates him and his shamefully greedy compatriots from the rest of humanity.
It boggles my mind to behold a sizable percentage of middle class and lower class American voters allowing themselves to be so easily deluded into thinking that this bombastic buffoon could be good for our country. Actually, they’re not thinking at all. They’re only feeling. That’s the problem.