Trump has taught to fear fel­low Amer­i­cans

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Richard Co­hen

WHAT word comes to mind when you see the name Don­ald Trump? For some peo­ple, it might be “anger,” since he pro­vokes it and stokes it. For oth­ers, it might be “ig­no­rance,” since he knows so lit­tle and, like many un­bur­dened by knowl­edge, is un­trou­bled by facts. Some might say “fear,” since it would take some scary po­lice tac­tics to push 11 mil­lion peo­ple over the bor­der to Mex­ico. For me, none of those words suf­fices. I would say “be­trayal.”

It is the word that comes to mind al­most on a nightly ba­sis when I see some Trump sur­ro­gate de­fend Trump’s po­si­tions on one of the cable news shows. How can you? I want to ask. Do you be­lieve that the govern­ment should ap­ply a re­li­gious test to let peo­ple into this coun­try? Chris­tians? Yes. Jews? Sure. Bud­dhists, Hin­dus and Zoroas­tri­ans, step this way. Mus­lims, not so fast. Do the peo­ple who sup­port Trump re­alise that they are be­tray­ing not merely Mus­lims but the prin­ci­ples that the United States stands for? We don’t ap­ply re­li­gious tests to any­thing. In that way, we are dif­fer­ent than some other coun­tries. In that way, we are bet­ter.

It is the same with what Trump said about Mex­i­cans be­ing “rapists.” It was an ugly, big­oted thing to say — and, of course, wrong as hell. So when some Trump sup­porter breezes right by that state­ment on way to whoopee sup­port of re­stricted trade or al­low­ing Ja­pan and South Korea to get nu­clear weapons, I feel be­trayed. I can abide pol­icy dif­fer­ences but I can­not abide in­dif­fer­ence to big­otry. And nei­ther should any of Trump’s sup­port­ers.

I felt that same, aw­ful feel­ing of be­trayal when Trump mocked a phys­i­cally dis­abled reporter for the New York Times. Did Trump’s peo­ple no­tice? Did they care? Aren’t Amer­i­cans sup­posed to stick up for one an­other? How about the way he in­sulted John McCain? The man was tor­tured, and Trump be­lit­tled it. The man was in soli­tary for two years, and Trump be­lit­tled it. I thought Amer­i­cans would never stand for that. This was John McCain, son of an ad­mi­ral, grand­son of an ad­mi­ral, US se­na­tor. How much red­der can a man’s blood be? Don­ald Trump has taught me to fear my fel­low Amer­i­can.

I don’t mean the oc­ca­sional ya­hoo who turns a Trump rally into a hate fest. I mean the ones who do noth­ing. Who are si­lent. Who look the other way. If you had told me a year ago that a hate­ful brat would be the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee of a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party, I would have scoffed. Some­one who den­i­grated women? Not pos­si­ble. Some­one who in­sulted Mex­i­cans? No way. Some­one who mocked the phys­i­cally dis­abled? Not in Amer­ica. Not in my Amer­ica.

Maybe the talk­ing heads on TV would draw the line at some mild ver­sion of fas­cism, but would the Amer­i­can peo­ple do the same? Here, I must hes­i­tate. The easy yes of yes­ter­year has given way to aw­ful doubt. Trump could win. He could be­come pres­i­dent, com­man­der in chief, ruler of the Jus­tice De­part­ment and head of the IRS. In other words, the Amer­i­can peo­ple could elect some­one who has not the slight­est ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Con­sti­tu­tion or Amer­i­can tra­di­tion. When Trump in­sisted that he could com­pel a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer to obey an il­le­gal order, I heard the echo of jack­boots on cob­ble­stone. In Amer­ica, no one is re­quired to fol­low an il­le­gal order. It does no good to ar­gue that Trump is just do­ing a shtick, that he means lit­tle of what he says, that he is all swag­ger and bluff. Trou­ble is, his sup­port­ers do not see him that way. They take him at his word. His­tory nags. It ad­mon­ishes.

“Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism” is a phrase that refers to the past, not nec­es­sar­ily the fu­ture. Noth­ing is guar­an­teed. I’d like to think that Amer­i­cans re­ally are ex­cep­tional, that we have an ex­cep­tional faith in democ­racy and the rule of law. I now have some doubt. I al­ways knew who Trump was. It’s the Amer­i­can peo­ple who have come as a sur­prise.

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