It’s spring break time and what could be more wonderful than that? I had firmly decided that we all need a vacation from politics and the craziness that seems to be defining this election cycle. I had set aside my concerns about the outcome of the political primaries and began to understand the wisdom of the old saying, “Que sera sera.” I’ve certainly seen enough in my lifetime to realize that the good, the bad and the ugly tend to come and go with the wind. I settled into a determination to just have a good time in this beautiful Easter season and celebrated my victory over my own indignation by watching a James Bond movie on Friday realizing that escape is often quite therapeutic.
Once the movie had ended I checked my Facebook page one last time before retiring for the night only to find a couple of private messages from friends who had instead been tuned in to CNN and Fox News that evening to observe the demonstrations at what was to have been a Donald Trump rally in Chicago. They wondered how I was reacting to the scene and mentioned that they really wanted to hear my thoughts on the chaos. I was a bit surprised because I had assumed that my mini rants against Donald Trump and the unhealthy anger that I see fomenting in our country had turned most of my readers away from the habit of checking my blog lest they accidentally encounter another of my opinion columns. I was also stunned because at that moment I was totally ignorant of what had transpired because I had decided that for the sake of my own mental health I had to simply ignore events at least for a time.
One thing about our democracy is that we must all care for it. There is perhaps no greater gift that we Americans have. It would be oh so easy to just sit back and let those who are active in the political world be in charge while we live our respective lives in anonymity. As humans we crave peace and harmony. I personally have stepped aside from conflict on so many occasions. There have only been a few moments when I have heard the clarion call of responsibility and felt in my very being that enough was enough. I had to become vocal about the misguided war in Vietnam. I might never have lived with myself had I not aligned with those demanding civil rights for all citizens of our country when I was still a school girl. Today I speak loudly and proudly for my gay and lesbian friends. I defend unborn fetuses and those who would be executed in our prisons. I admittedly envision a more perfect world in which we all value life as it was meant to be. Somehow the happenings in Chicago this past weekend have once again awakened my need to voice my concerns. I know that neither I nor anyone should now be silent. The stakes are just too high to tune out and pretend that what will be will be.
I have been following Donald Trump’s campaign closely since he threw his hat in the ring. I didn’t single him out because I learned as much as possible about all of the other candidates as well. I quickly became most concerned about Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and general campaign style. I saw it feeding into the fears and anger of people rather than seriously outlining solutions for the problems facing out country. I instantly determined that his ways were amateurish and wrote him off as a flash in the pan, a phenomenon that would soon enough lose its appeal. Of course as we all know his popularity in the race for the Republican nomination has spread like wildfire. He has a fiercely loyal following albeit less than fifty percent of the party’s voters. In each primary or straw poll the bulk of the votes have been spread out among the rest of the candidates whose numbers have slowly but surely been winnowed down. Sadly my own predictions that we would soon enough see the end of Trump have been quite wrong. There is little about campaign 2016 that seems rational or traditional. As one of the friends who messaged me on Friday pointed out we seem to be repeating the history of 1968, one of the most contentious years in the history of the twentieth century.
I remember quite well how insanely crazy that year was. It seemed as if all of the world was on fire. Outside the Democratic convention that was held in Chicago all hell broke lose in the streets. Rioting and melees with the police stole all of the attention from the political happenings. Robert Kennedy who might have taken the nomination had been earlier assassinated after winning the California primary. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed in April of that same year. The Vietnam War had intensified under the leadership of Lyndon Baines Johnson. College campuses were hotbeds of rebellion. Citizens turned against citizens and literally everyone worried that our nation was going to rupture from all of the unrest.
It is easy to see parallels in today’s world. I believe that our woes began on the day that terrorists brought down two buildings in New York City. I don’t think that we ever sufficiently recovered from that catastrophic event. We bravely carried on but we didn’t really take the time to counsel ourselves as a nation. We sought random answers to the problem some of which didn’t entirely make sense. We watched New Orleans being destroyed by the vagaries of nature and the mistakes of engineers. Our boom time economy went into a nosedive when the false schemes that had been shoring it up collapsed. We engaged in a misguided war in the Middle East that appears to be never ending. We have sacrificed the treasure of our youth. People have lost jobs. Our once robust economy seems to only limp along. People from all walks of life are afraid and angry. The atmosphere provides fertile ground for revolt and it is happening from all sides of the political spectrum and geographical area. The sickness of our country that festered under the surface is now fully exposed and many people don’t want to take it anymore.
Enter Donald Trump. He has attracted a particular element of the population. In general they tend to be people whose lives were somehow upended during the last decade and a half. Perhaps they lost the good jobs that had provided them with security that no longer exists. They may have been concerned that their religious liberties were being threatened. They have witnessed the world rapidly changing in ways that fly in the face of their own beliefs. They are worried and in Donald Trump they have found someone who is unafraid to voice the concerns that they have. They like his style and don’t worry that he has little substance. They are true followers who are willing even to pledge their loyalty to Trump in the hopes that he will return the world to the way it felt when the Twin Towers still stood and our country provided them with safety and security.
The trouble is that Donald Trump has encouraged the darker side of his followers’ anger. He has used incendiary language to describe Hispanics, Muslims, women, journalists, his opponents and even the Pope. He fully understands the power of negativity. It forges an almost unbreakable bond between him and those who are so taken with him. He is outrageous in his criticism and handling of anyone who disagrees. Over and over again he has suggested that his detractors must be ejected from his rallies. He has his handlers escort a Univision journalist from the room. He refuses to be in a debate if a woman from Fox News is a moderator. He does not apologize when his campaign manager manhandles a representative of Breitbart News. He shuts down protesters and suggests that his followers do the same. His loutish behavior disregards the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with him again and again. He does not want to hear them or even have them in the same room. It was only a matter of time before his rallies would become more violent and I worry that his denial of his own culpability in creating this situation will only lead to ever more danger. As long as he views himself as a victim while insisting that his supporters fight back the possibility of trouble exists.
I would love to believe that we will somehow find our way out of the darkness that is descending on our beloved nation. I understand the sorrows and frustrations that are so very real for so many of our brothers and sisters. We really do need to set our partisan ways aside and learn how to heal. I so dislike seeing us fighting with one another. Surely there is a leader out there who will finally understand that this is a time not for pushing agendas but for bridging differences. As we approach Holy Week in the Christian calendar I can only hope that we will remember that it was suspicion and lust for power that resulted in the violent execution of Jesus Christ. The real message of his brief time here on this earth should remind us that love, not hate, is the answer to the problems that we all must face.