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*Warning: salty language ahead!
This is about what you leave behind after you are gone.
Perhaps you support Trump more than you have let on, perhaps you have kept your criticisms to yourself. But I am deeply concerned that after all we have witnessed over the past four years, he might still get your vote.
Trump 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.
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 you cannot definitively dismiss him as unfit for office? I will always love you and recognize that you are entitled to your own views, but supporting his abuses of office is indefensible.
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. No one would want this because he shows no concern for the least well-off—and yet, a simple twist of fate can, at any given moment, cast any one of us to the bottom of the heap.
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 would be helping overturn the moral order, where the good prosper and the wicked suffer. Instead of the best, we are now led by the worst; instead of raising our standards, they have been sent crashing. Trump is 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 Salman, 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 hotcakes. We have all seen him do these things countless times.
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, praises armed gangs trying to kidnap governors, 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.
This is why many of the things you have said have left me feeling alienated. Trump is 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 he does or losing our freedom. Meanwhile, his supporters hide under the guise of Christianity while praising someone more akin to the Antichrist, forcing their 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. Perhaps you have missed him saying and doing some of these things, but there is no denying the general thrust of it: we have all seen him in action on countless occasions now. He preens and gloats, bullies and mocks, while hundreds of thousands die on his watch. Haven’t we been warned of his fate, haven’t we been told where his actions will lead?
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. So, let’s not make this about liberalism and conservatism.
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. It is why not a single recognizable conservative intellectual supported his campaign in 2016, and why the new ones are such relative hacks. No wonder his advisors speak so ill of him.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “fucking 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 fucking liar.”
Perhaps some of these quotes were concocted, but Trump found quite a few believable, and numerous tell-all accounts, written by former advisors, cabinet members, and heads of intelligence agencies paint the same picture. Yet, to those on the receiving end of his abuse, his actions are far more alarming.
The race-baiting and lies, propaganda and indiscipline, attacks on the press and festivals of hate, and the concentration camps on the border, are all eerily reminiscent of interwar fascism. Still, sometimes he just looks like a mad emperor hinting that he is the chosen one and pestering the experts about nuking hurricanes. Do you remember that one?
Just consider how accustomed we have become to this insanity and ask yourself whether you want this to be the everyday reality of your grandchildren. There can be no trust in any society with such a racist hater at its head, who separates children from their parents and systematically abuses them. There can be no family and community when our country is held hostage by a bully who is constantly threatening to abuse us all.
Trump is tearing apart not just the families of immigrants but our own as well because, through the bully they vote for, they are bullying us all—and they 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 the people who are denying it nor the talk show hosts they listen to nor the politicians who claim it is a hoax, know all that much about it. This should be obvious from the vague generalizations in which they speak.
Do you really expect us to respect people who 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, and we expect you to do your part in leaving us the same opportunities that you had growing up—and that means the same resources, the same democratic institutions, and the same stable climate.
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 understand how you would not dismiss everything Trump represents with a wave of the hand. Aren’t we all so much better than this?
There is no kindness in supporting Trump and nothing decent about it. His supporters are going against the things everyone values, which move us in films and songs and lend meaning to our lives in all times and places. 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 would be 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 Trump has created 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 if you support him this election, after all of his abuses of power, you will be demonstrating that you don’t either—and both of us know that deep down inside, you are so much better than that.
Politics can be confusing, and it is sometimes hard to know who to believe, but at least we can show a little kindness and decency—and, at least, we can demonstrate a little goodwill, if only so that those who are closest to us can trust that we have their best interests at heart.
~ Theo Horesh, author of The Fascism This Time: and the Global Future of Democracy
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