Opinion: On Trump
The line, crossed
I always knew plenty of Americans were bigoted. But until about 10 years ago, I naïvely assumed that the vast majority of them—us—would think about it long enough to at least understand why we couldn’t enshrine bigotry on racial or religious grounds as national policy. I also thought the American system of government was robust and fair enough, and most Americans decent enough, that full-blown, authoritarian fascism had no chance of taking root here. The George W. Bush years disabused me of that idea. We didn’t go fascist then, but I lost forever the conviction that we never could.
Yesterday, Donald Trump delivered a speech from the hangar deck of the USS Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier anchored near Charleston, and said the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country until the government “can figure out what is going on … Are we going to be politically correct, or are we going to be stupid?” A religion-based ban would be unprecedented in the history of the United States.
There’s really no brushing this off as campaign hyperbole, is there? Here’s Trump, undermining the one overriding freedom that supposedly makes America America, introducing it as a way to make America great again. But that’s to be expected from the American Mussolini. The real lesson comes from the reaction of people who support him.
They have thought about it. They’re not drunk or enraged. They’re calm, seemingly functional American citizens who think banning human beings from entering their country solely on religious grounds is a fine idea.
So yes, this is where you have to draw the line, that point at which you have to accept that when fascism comes to America, it won’t just be carrying a cross and waving a flag but occupying the smiling faces of your next-door neighbor who invites you over for a beer, or the co-worker you play fantasy football with, or your cousin or uncle or mom; and realize that maybe it’s ever been thus, and Trump is just awakening the tentacled beast from his nap.
And then you have to do something: prepare to contribute, work phones, knock on doors, get in people’s faces, whatever it takes. A united America wouldn’t be worth defending anyway if it meant uniting with this.