October 17, 2019

The Moment of Truth—No More Excuses

While pundits debate whether the president is truly unhinged or playing a wily game of diversion, there is one realm in which the jury of rational thought has returned its verdict— Trump is a manifest threat to our norms of civil conduct and the values that safeguard minorities.

In his unrelenting sanitizing and elevating of bigots and extremists and his racially and ethnically stereotypic comments he has shown that he simply doesn’t understand or care that what he often says and does provide aid and comfort to hate and haters.
Those deplorable traits were on shocking display this week.
As one who has monitored and countered extremists and hate organizations for over forty years (from Gerald L. K. Smith in the 70s, to David Duke and the Klan to Louis Farrakhan) I can assert from personal knowledge that there has been no one in the White House in recent history that has been so willfully blind to or purposefully encouraging of haters and the causes that bigots pursue.
Unlike any president in recent history, he has blurred what has been a clear demarcation between political flamethrowers/ bigots and those who are within the accepted political lexicon of what was, pre-Trump, an increasingly more tolerant America.
Over the past fifty years, in almost every instance of political extremism, rank lies, and the targeting of minorities the purveyors of prejudice have been ostracized and made pariahs by our political and societal leadership. From Klan Grand Dragon Duke running for the Senate in Louisiana (as a Republican) to Klansman Tom Metzger running for the Assembly (as a Democrat) in California to Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz opining on African Americans to countless others in the public eye (e.g. Michael Richards and Mel Gibson) those who made comments that even hinted at racial, religious or ethnic animus were shunted aside swiftly, and as a matter of course, by leaders and opinion molders at every level.
But with Donald Trump all bets are off.
He is tone deaf to bigotry, how else to explain using a racist term ABOUT Native Americans while ostensibly honoring World War II Native American heroes-–in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson no less. He didn’t get it, or he didn’t care, or he was dog-whistling to his base. Either explanation is unacceptable and deplorable.
He cares not one wit about whether he legitimizes haters and promotes messages that are not so subtle calls for violence and bigotry. How else to explain his tweeting crazy, incendiary anti-Muslim videos this week that originated with foreign neo-fascist groups. Outfits that crave the “legitimacy” and attention that come from being cited by the president of the United States? When called out by British PM Teresa May for his bizarre tweet (“wrong,” she wrote) he doubled down and admonished her (“don’t focus on me”) for daring to criticize his conduct. He can’t be shamed, not even by our closest ally.
This week his pathological need for praise led him to tweet about a website (magapill.com) that had lauded his record as president but is also the home to bizarre conspiracy theories that include “Luciferian rituals”, the Knights Templar and Jesuits. According to the website, the conspiracies are run by “Overlords” from “Bloodline Families” including the aristocracy and royalty, the papacy, and the banking families, etc. —dog whistles that are manifestly crazy and potentially incendiary.
There was a brief period of time in which one might have made excuses for Trump—he wasn’t a politician, he didn’t quite get what being a candidate for president (much less president) was all about, he was hooked on Twitter and got (gets) carried away. But the time of accepting rationalizations for the abnormal and the inflammatory is over.
There simply is no legitimate explanation for his bigotry, for his invoking and publicizing haters or for his inability to perceive or care about the impact of his words.
There are debates to be had about taxes, Obamacare, policies towards North Korea, etc. There is no legitimate debate to be entered into about sanctioning and tacitly endorsing bigots and bigotry—that ship sailed decades ago.
Decent people—Republicans, Democrats and independents—have an obligation to distance themselves from this bigot and make clear that this conduct must end.
He is a dangerous, unhinged man with awesome power who can do serious damage to civility, tolerance, acceptance and diversity in our society. His conduct is insidious and corrosive of the accomplishments of generations of well-intentioned leaders and civil rights advocates—it is, simply put, intolerable.