Trump: Well Done
Words fail me. As a writer and teacher, that is a unique circumstance. For one of the few times in my life, I neither know what to say nor how to proceed. And yet as an American, as a human being, I must try. Charlottesville. I wonder if this is a turning point. Is this a moment that historians will look back on and point to as a transcendent moment? I hope so. There are signs of Americans crossing party lines and ideology to come together. I have written about racism, Black Lives Matter, Lee’s battle flag, and Trump’s transgressions in other columns. In one sense, I have covered this territory before. Yet this time feels different.
Alternative facts have very little purchase here. The truth is that people who identify themselves as Alt-right descended on the U of V campus in Charlottesville, Virginia armed with guns, clubs, shields, helmets and tactical gear and proclaimed their hatred and intolerance by word and deed. Trump says he doesn’t know what the Alt-right is. Let me help him out. Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, David Duke, and Richard Spencer. These are examples of the racist goons who foster chaos in order to gain the power to create the white male-dominated society they think is superior to the diverse, democrately created one we have. The Alt-right is anti-American. It is the KKK, Nazis, fascist thugs, and part of Trump’s political base. That’s not conjecture. It is a real, reproducible fact. One proclaimed loudly by the aforementioned goons. And Trump has done little to separate himself from them even after they celebrated his response to their planned violence.
Much is being written and will be written about Charlottesville. Who am I to think I have something important to add? Why should anyone bother to read about my thoughts on this terrible but potentially history-altering event? I have no illusions about this piece going viral. I have no naïve belief that my words can inspire change in the hearts of those who hate. Yet I must add my weak and pitiful voice to the cosmos. My family can vouch for the fact that I am a terrible singer. And yet in high school I sang in an award-winning concert choir. Modifying the analogy in Aristotle’s writings on democracy, the majority of the good ingredients in the musical stew overcame the rancid tone of my voice.
In a democracy every voice matters. It is easy to feel that one’s voice is unworthy of being heard. That it is atonal and out of key. Yet to not speak is to surrender to the hate. To let the hatred yell the loudest and thereby win this debate. The majority of people who went to protest against fascism in Charlottesville were armed with mostly with their voices and their desire to oppose racist hate. I have seen many pictures and video of these people. I saw few signs of preparation for violence. I saw no guns at all unlike the Alt-right who were heavily armed, prepared for physical conflict, and trained by their leaders through the internet to ensure violence broke out.
Trump’s attempt to give ethical equivalence to both sides is morally repugnant. But it is unsurprising. Donald Trump has shown repeatedly throughout his life that he has no soul let alone a moral compass. And I don’t mean that in the metaphysical sense. I mean that Trump is unable to connect to other people on a deeper level than the physical one. He did not watch his children being born. He changed no diapers. He never rocked a sick child to sleep at 2 am. He has never been punched in the face or held a dying comrade. He has never stared into the embers of a campfire thinking about all of the human beings who have lived before and stared at that same fire. He shows no sign of understanding on a deeper level what it means to be human. Exhibit A is his description of chocolate cake. He raved about “a big beautiful piece of chocolate cake” while detailing his dinner with the Chinese leader, Xing Jingping.
I am a certified, registered, professional chocoholic. I have consumed many pieces of chocolate cake. Any chocolate lover worthy of the name knows that to describe any chocolate product as beautiful is code for “it looked great but tasted like frosted cardboard.” Yes, presentation of food is important. But it is taste, not appearance that determines the true value of any food. Trump talks about cake with his eyes instead of his taste buds. And it’s not just cake. Trump has admitted to eating $300 steaks that have been cooked well-done and smothered in catsup. He has no appreciation for the process that went into aging and cooking such a meal or the cow that gave its life to sustain him.
Lest you assume that I am being really petty here, try going into an expensive steak house and ordering a steak well-done and covered in catsup. Most waiters won’t even take your order. They will warn that the chefs refuse to cook a valuable piece of meat that way. Some restaurants will even bring out a piece of shoe leather to anyone who dares order such a monstrosity. My wife, who also like well-done meat, has learned to order her meal “with no pink” thus ensuring satisfaction for both her and the chef. Only Trump’s money and privilege allow him reduce rare expensive food to the level of KFC and McDonalds which he raves about as though these food stuffs are all equal.
My point is that one can learn a lot about a person by what and how they eat. Trump shows over and over again that he values appearance over substance. That details, the little things, don’t matter. Except that they do. And deep down, he knows this. He obsesses over every little comment about him on television and responds accordingly. He just doesn’t care about the small things that make up the daily lives of ordinary Americans. It’s not that Trump is incapable of understanding the importance of the details in his reaction to Charlottesville. It just doesn’t matter to him. He has more important things to think about… like himself.
But I care. And I plan to show it. It may only be in small ways; in this column, in my conversations with others, and in the streets if necessary. If enough people show that they care, even in small ways, then fascism, which is always around like a fungal spore waiting for the right conditions to sprout and flourish, will once again crawl back into its hole to hibernate. Maybe this time forever.