It has been said, “The times change and with them, the people.” Perhaps that is so in the United States today where overt racism, as well as hatred of immigrants, is growing. I pray it is not the case. But as I travel the world, I universally find sadness and dismay from people who are in disbelief that the United States they loved and admired seems to have disappeared into a miasma of ignorance and intolerance.
We are in the midst of a national crisis that has deep roots in American history. I have written before in this space that it is my conviction a nation borne on the backs of slaves on land stolen from its native peoples is by definition a violent and racist land, but there are times when a national crisis is embodied by a particular person. Today, that person is none other than the president of the United States himself, Donald J. Trump.
I lived in New York City in the early and mid-1980s when Donald Trump was a well-established tabloid star. He was a cartoon figure known for his bluster, overweening ego, and naked greed. This turned more sinister when he took out a full-page ad in the New York Times in 1989 calling for a return to the death penalty after five young men of color were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in Central Park.
Mr. Trump famously refused to apologize for that newspaper ad. It is well known that he refuses to apologize for anything because he sees it as a sign of weakness. Typically, after issuing a harsh and unjustified attack on a person, group of people, an organization, a city, or even an entire nation(s) he then demands an apology from those he has attacked! At his best, he is graceless, awkward and unbecoming of high office. At his worst, he is vile and repulsive. He is aided and abetted by court prophets who comprise his so-called “Evangelical Advisory Council.” These false prophets, who claim to be Christian, adore Mr. Trump, spew hatreds of their own, decree days of prayer to defend Mr. Trump against his ‘enemies,’ refuse to challenge his ignorant rants, and bring shame upon themselves. Like Mr. Trump’s, their words and actions are menacing to the health of our society.This is encapsulated by the one-word response Jerry Falwell, Jr. provided to a question posed to him by the Washington Post, “Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?”“No.”
Mr. Trump’s defense of racists, his attacks on women and people of color, his thousands of falsehoods, his cruelty, his pettiness, his crimes and misdemeanors, are too many to recount. Where does one begin? Where will it end?
It is evident a great many of Mr. Trump’s admirers and supporters delight in all, or nearly all, that he says and does. A virtual cult of personality has developed around him. There will come a day when millions will look back on these years and shake their heads in disbelief. They will ask themselves how they came to be swept up in such madness and hatred and how they betrayed their own values and beliefs.
President Lincoln said of Americans from both the North and the South, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Let us embrace those words again.
I write this column in great sadness and out of disbelief for what is taking place. I am comforted by these words from Psalm 147:3-6, “God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. God determines the number of the stars; God gives to all of them their names. Great is our God, and abundant in power; God’s understanding is beyond measure. God lifts up the downtrodden; God casts the wicked to the ground.”