Friday, February 24, 2017
Tu Madre! Trump’s Crueler and Coarser America
President George H. W. Bush was once mocked for envisioning a “kinder and gentler” America and then failing to do anything to realize it or produce the “thousand points of light” that he wanted for the United States. If only we could have such rhetoric again from a president we would be much better off than we are.
Trump’s America is a mean and petty country. We learned that during the election with his demeaning of almost everyone under the sun, ranging from immigrants and Muslims to military personnel who were prisoners of war. He denigrated and vilified women by reducing them to their sexual organs, and he mocked the physically handicapped. It took him days to acknowledge that anti-Semitism is wrong. And now, with his reversal of a Obama legal interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he displays insensitivity and cruelty to transgender children. And his base cheers.
Why is Trump so cruel, why is his base so hateful? Why do they think it is okay to be mean to those who are weak, to those with whom they disagree, to those who are the less fortunate. The quality of mercy should not be strained; it should be the mark of real strength and leadership to reach out to those with whom we disagree and embrace them. As Abraham Lincoln beautifully said in his Second Inaugural speech regarding the South:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Trump does nothing to appeal to the better angels in all of us. His is not a JFK speech of asking “not what this country can do for us but what we can do for our country.” It is even worse than asking if you are better off now than four years ago. Instead, his “America first” is me first and the rest of you can “F–k off.” I want to believe that the United States and most of its people are better than that. But the real danger of Trump is the lack of leadership when it comes to respect for human dignity, embolding instead hateful rhetoric and behavior.