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The great irony of the age is that the most immature president in living memory was elected not by the young but rather the old.
Liberal children of parents who support Trump have struggled with how to respond, as it has often seemed their parents joined a cult that is holding our society hostage.
What follows may not bring resolution to your relationships, but it is what Republican parents who support Trump need to hear:
I want to make clear that I love you and will always care about you, but I am also disappointed in you because of your support for Trump. For he represents everything you taught me not to be, and what most every parent the world over teaches their children not to be. Normal, well-adjusted parents do not want their children to become bullies, nor would they want to see their children subject to their abuses.
So, it is disconcerting to see you supporting such an abusive and hateful bully.
You would never wish for your children to do business with such a cheat or for a member of your family to date someone so sexually exploitative. You would not stand for your own children to be separated from you and placed in densely packed cells, with no bedding, shampoo, or toothpaste; and you would be sickened if they did the same to the members of your family.
So, why is it alright when he does it to others?
Your support for Trump goes against the golden rule, for you would not want the minorities he attacks to do the same to you if they were in the majority, nor your political opponents to govern by his standards. And you would not want to be born into the kind of society he is creating if in doing so you might wind up at the bottom.
Neither would you wish to see his standards universalized, with a world of liars and bullies, each threatening the next, until we were all at each at other’s throats, or else cowed into silence. For it would be a crueler and less compassionate world, and it would quickly descend into war. And if everyone behaved the way he did, there would be no guarantee you would come out on top, for everyone would play by the same dirty rule book.
In making such a bully the most powerful man in the world, you have helped overturn the moral order, where the good prosper and the wicked suffer. Instead of the best, we are now led by worst; instead of raising our standards, you have sent them crashing. You are teaching children that bullies win and liars prosper; crudity is class and narcissism power; and that partisan outcomes trump the process by which they are achieved, thereby threatening the concord that makes democracy possible.
Trump praises dictators and pulls us closer to tyrants. He glorifies Putin, who has interfered in elections in every major Western state, while grabbing up land in Georgia and Ukraine. He befriends Mohammad Bin Salmin, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is starving millions of children in Yemen, offering him more weapons, in spite of congressional rebuke. And the Saudis and Russians snap up his properties like hot cakes.
Trump is a tyrant who has made it clear he hopes to govern for several more terms, in spite of its unconstitutionality. He labels the press the enemy of the people, threatens to jail his rivals, lies about election results, ignores court rulings, attacks judges, and extorts allies for dirt on his rivals. Meanwhile, his party’s judges strike down campaign finance reform laws, flooding the system with cash. Whereas Democrats try to expand the franchise, they try to close it off. Whereas Democrats try to stop Russian interference in our elections, they refuse to do anything about it.
When it comes to the constitution and love of country, Republican enthusiasm is all bad faith.
So, I am not just disappointed but angry with you as well, because you are threatening the freedoms that once made our country great and threatening the concord that helped us all get along—forcing us to choose between fighting like you do or losing our freedom; hiding under the guise of a Christian while praising someone more akin to the Antichrist; and forcing your will on us by destroying the institutions that might otherwise help us work together.
Trump is the man the Bible warned us about. He gloats about his power while mocking the disabled; preys on the weak while bragging of his strength; tears children from their mothers and tells their defenders to leave the country; sexually violates women and mocks them for being too ugly for him to assault. He preens and gloats, bullies and mocks, all the while starving millions of children to no end whatsoever. Haven’t we been warned of his fate, haven’t we been told where his actions will lead?
And yet you follow, expecting others to respect your decision, as if our morality should end where your politics begin. In the words of Jesus, you are straining at gnats while swallowing camels. You speak of some vague threat to democracy from Obama while praising the greatest threat to democracy in American history; you bemoan the state of partisan hatred while praising the most partisan hater in our history.
There is a lot to criticize on the left, whose ideals often ignore realities. And there is a lot to value in conservatism, which wants to know how things will work before enshrining them in law. But Trump lacks the discipline, discretion, decency, and decorum conservatives claim to value. He breaks the norms they struggle to preserve, shatters the institutions they claim to defend. He disparages the constitution, slanders his own office, and talks of dating his daughter. No wonder his advisors speak so ill of him.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “f*cking moron.” His former Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn called him “less a person than a collection of terrible traits.” Chief strategist Steve Bannon accused him of “treason” while comparing him to “an 11-year-old child.” Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said he was “an idiot with the intelligence of a kindergartner.” Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus simply called him “an idiot.” And his personal lawyer John Dowd called him “a f*cking liar.”
Perhaps some of these quotes were concocted, but Trump found quite a few believable. But to those on the receiving end of his abuse, he looks a lot more like Hitler. The race baiting and lies, propaganda and indiscipline, attacks on the press and festivals of hate, starvation of children and concentration camps on the border, are all eerily reminiscent of interwar fascism. But sometimes he just looks like a mad emperor hinting that he is the chosen one and pestering the experts about nuking hurricanes.
Nobody will trust you when you follow such a racist hater, who separates children from their parents and systematically abuses them. Nobody will trust you when you back a bully who insults us all.
So, it should not surprise you that this is hurting your closest relations, for through the bully you support you bully us all. And you are endangering the future of our democracy and the biosphere alike. Perhaps you do not believe that climate change is occurring or that humans are its primary cause. But the experts do, and the younger generations are afraid. And let’s face it, neither you nor the talk show hosts you listen to, nor the politicians who claim it is a hoax, know all that much about it.
Do you really expect us to respect you when you so casually gamble with our futures? Your generation went on a shopping spree, partied hard, and left the rest of us to clean up the mess. But in this case the mess is deadly.
I know you can be a decent person; I have seen your kindness and love. I know that you value honesty and believe in playing by the rules, when the rules make sense and are needed to keep our institutions running. This is why I cannot make sense of the contrast between your personal and political behavior.
For there is no kindness in your support for Trump and nothing decent about it. You are going against the things everyone values, which move us in films and song, and lend meaning to our lives in all times and place. Trump’s behaviors are like those of a tyrant, and nobody likes a tyrant except the crew who profit from his abuses. In supporting Trump, you are going against the things that every society values and which keeps them civilized.
All of us can be hypocritical at times; and few of us ever succeed in matching our highest values to our political ideals. But the movement you have joined seems intent on undermining all values, assaulting all ideals, mocking all meanings, and reveling in irrationality, like adolescents on the prowl. Immanuel Kant once wrote that the only thing that is good in and of itself is goodwill, for every other good is a means to some end. And while few of us possess such purity of intent, we expect our leaders to at least sometimes care.
Perhaps this is what is most disturbing of all: he simply doesn’t seem to care, and insofar as you support him, neither do you. And both of us know that deep down inside, you are so much better than that.