In public school I was taught that what became the United States was settled by people escaping religious persecution in England. I later learned that the founders were really more interested in securing their financial interests than they were in saving the commoner from an oppressive king. They did however, write a pretty damn good sounding Bill of Rights into the Constitution (thanks James Madison!) – well, good for white men anyway – women and people of color still aren’t equal in the eyes of the law, but you know, baby steps or whatever – arc of history – yada yada yada.
The point I’m lurching toward is that in our founding documents we state a handful of rights which we defend to this day in bars, coffee shops, and in online comments across the land. Some of them are pretty universally agreed upon. Freedom of speech is one nobody really argues about the existence of. We may get into the gray areas and argue about how free we are to say certain things – hate speech is a big one; but generally nobody says we shouldn’t have the first amendment. It’s a pillar of our society.
Freedom of and from religion is another that is generally not argued in the sense that people want to do away with it. I personally benefit from this one in a huge way, being a “non-believer” in a majority Christian nation, my life could be a lot different.
So when Trump talks about a religious test for entrance into our country, it’s a little scary to me. I don’t take him seriously enough to think he’s actually the next Hitler, I don’t think he’s smart enough to pull off much of anything. I honestly don’t think he’s paying attention to what he’s saying enough for it to actually be coming from some sort of evil master plan. I think he probably didn’t get a lot of hugs from dad, and now he gets attention any way he can.
The scary part is that people are listening, and taking him seriously. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that they’ll even get him the nomination, much less elect him president. No, I worry that his rhetoric breeds hate, which will lead to hate crimes. I worry that a more feasible candidate will, in subtler ways, carry that rhetoric into elected office, and attempt to actually institute policies that discriminate against people based on their religion. I’m not talking about the presidency here, I’m talking about city and county councils, where the real damage can be done.
We can’t pretend like it wouldn’t happen on a local level; that we’re too liberal and open-minded. We’ve seen for years a number of policies instituted that discriminate based on class. We’ve heard people, including elected officials, rallying for certain folks to be run out of town. They’ve even passed laws banning people from certain public spaces.
This is the real danger of Trump. It’s not Nazi death camps, and I hate that he’s compared to Hitler because it underplays the real danger – which is the propagation of the idea that we should close our hearts and minds to people.
When conservatives and liberals alike talk about the constitution or American values, they say pretty much the same things. It’s about the Way we are as Americans. We all believe in the same things. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Trump’s rhetoric is anathema to those concepts. Daddy bought him those things, therefore he can’t possibly understand or value the sacrifices we all make everyday to keep this American experiment rolling. He’s not of the people, he doesn’t CARE about us, he’s a blowhole that spouts venom once a day so he can feel loved for a fleeting moment.
People I hear from who are reasonable conservative-minded folks aren’t buying Trump’s shtick and think he’s ridiculous. So do the folks I consider my progressive allies. We can use this moment to strike out against hate, to show ourselves who we are and what we can be. There’s a lot that needs fixing and Trump is a derailment of civilized society – and one that we should all unite against.
Let’s prove we are what we say we are.