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A societal reckoning is required to fulfill our founding promise of liberty and justice for all.
What I am about to share might surprise you. There is a rock formation next to one of my favorite hiking trails that I call “Love Rock.” Hikers like to leave small heart-shaped rocks on it. The sandstone wall is a sight to behold when covered with little stone hearts. More than once since 2016, I have found a heart rock on the ground and placed it on Love Rock for Donald Trump. Why? To quote the character “Socrates” from the film Peaceful Warrior: “The ones that are hardest to love are the ones that need it the most.” I believe, as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that the answer to hate is love. Trump desperately wants us to forget our noble human capacity to care for one another. We must not forget. But I’m not going to pretend that wishing the man peace is an easy thing for me to do, for I am furious at how he has trashed the nation I love.
As someone who believes most people are inherently good, it sickens me to watch President Trump cynically scheme to divide the United States of America. In less than four years, Trump & Co. has routed our 244-year march toward a more perfect Union, putting us on a perilous path toward our possible dissolution. There is nothing remotely subtle about their approach. It’s so in your face, it’s as if they are daring we the people to call them out on it. Well, I’m calling out their divisive tactics as anti-American. Instead of “we’re all in this together,” Trump wants the American people at each other’s throats.
Because the deluge never subsides, it is easy to forget just how much insult and injury Donald Trump has rained down on the United States of America. Like an ill-tempered carnival barker, Trump rants and raves, his game being to dominate the news cycle and distract his adoring fans from his broken promises. But try as he might to make what was once unthinkable the new norm, most Americans would agree there is nothing remotely normal about a United States president who:
• lies 20,000 times;
• kisses up to dictators;
• provokes racist chants;
• encourages voter fraud;
• slurs Native Americans;
• incites people to violence;
• dishonors an American POW;
• disparages a Gold Star family;
• dehumanizes other nationalities;
• politicizes the Justice Department;
• discriminates against LGBTQ people;
• brags about sexually assaulting women;
• imposes xenophobic Muslim travel bans;
• fires multiple independent Inspectors General;
• tears migrant children away from their parents;
• attacks NFL players for opposing police brutality;
• sympathizes with torch-bearing white supremacists;
• praises then mocks Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony;
• urges his supporters to illegally engage in voter intimidation;
• unconstitutionally threatens military force to “dominate” U.S. citizens;
• refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election; • ignores intelligence that Russia paid bounties for dead American soldiers; • causes countless Americans to die from COVID-19 due to his malicious negligence; • cheers the tear gassing of peaceful protesters by federal police outside the White House; and
• mocks a physically disabled journalist, praises the assault of others and shrugs off the brutal murder of another, while undemocratically vilifying news outlets as “enemies of the people” for dutifully reporting on these and countless other outrages.
Given all the above, it is not a stretch to believe that Donald Trump actually did call our war dead “suckers” and “losers.” If he has done nothing else, Trump has at least shown us what we don’t want to be. But why are people still cheering for this? Most Americans know the difference between right and wrong and something is wrong with our president. Beyond it being beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency, one would think basic human decency would preclude such vile and vulgar behavior. That I can find compassion for Donald Trump the man does not make his odious acts as president any less of a stain on America’s honor. That I can feel pity for the person does not make his unhinged attacks on the U.S. Constitution any less of an assault on America. To its eternal shame, the GOP has willingly aided and abetted Trump’s trashing of America. As the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings powerfully reminded the American people during the Michael Cohen hearings: “We are better than this.” Yes, we are. History will damn Trump and his cowardly enablers for betraying the fearless vision of our Founders.
Trump & Co.’s big 2020 reelection strategy is to stoke racial divisions by fanning the flames of hatred. Despite being told by the Great Sioux Nation he was unwelcome in their Black Hills treaty territory, Trump traveled to Mount Rushmore on Independence Day anyway, where he darkly and ironically warned of fascism and overthrowing the American revolution as if he were not the actual agent of both of these very real threats. Then in a desperate ploy to frighten white suburban voters into supporting him, Trump provoked violence in Portland by employing Gestapo tactics to assault and abduct anti-racism protesters off the streets while promising to similarly terrorize other major U.S. cities. But his bullying and intimidation tactics are not working, for most Americans stand united against white supremacy and police brutality. Most Americans believe Black lives matter. The murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many other of our Black brothers and sisters to name here has shaken America awake to systemic racism, racial economic inequality and the horrifying realities of violence inflicted on Black communities.
At a moment in history when most of us seek justice, Donald Trump seeks to divide us, but his dog whistle racism has also exposed the dark underbelly of the beast. By giving voice to blind hatred, Trump has ripped the bandages off of America’s weeping, infected racial wounds. Now we can either slap some gauze back on them like we have done in the past, or we can carefully clean and dress the wounds so they can properly heal. Treating the traumas of our past is the only way we will heal as a nation. We are long overdue for a national conversation on the festering injustices of 400 years of slavery and Native American genocide. Such a societal reckoning is required to fulfill our founding promise of liberty and justice for all.
It all begins with putting Trump’s exhausting psychodrama behind us and getting back to loving and caring for one another as Americans. History is replete with leaders who defied expectations to rise to the challenges of their time. Maybe Joe Biden, who knows what it is to suffer deep personal loss, will rise to the role of America’s healer-in-chief. Maybe the light I see at the end of the dark tunnel that is the long national nightmare of the Trump presidency is America coming together to resume our march toward a more perfect Union. Maybe, just maybe, our greatest days are still ahead of us. The only way to find out is to elect Joe Biden president.
Tom Weis is the president of Climate Crisis Solutions in Boulder, Colorado.
First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.