He calls himself a Trump supporter and approached me as I walked out of the White House and through Lafayette Park. “The best way to make America great again is for everyone who doesn’t like this country to leave it,” he tells me. “If you don’t agree with the president, get the hell out.”
The above statement comes from an old white man in a red “MAGA” hat the day after Donald Trump went to Greenville, North Carolina to deliver one of his divisive rallies. Trump’s orgy of dark hatred culminated in chants of “Send her back!” as the president dismissed four members of Congress. It invigorated his worshippers. It was just another three word slogan, after “Lock her up” and “Build the wall,” but it was more frightening—enough to take your breath away.
Watching the exuberant faces and the maniacal shouts brings to mind images I’d only seen in newsreels from World War II. The Trump base long for a country that never existed—a Leave it to Beaver episode where Mom wears pearls while vacuuming. Dad works eight hours and comes home to smoke a pipe while the two and a half precocious children act like rascals behind a white picket fence. The base buys what Trump is selling because deep down, they don’t think anyone else understands them. That fact alone enables them to dismiss Trump’s repugnant actions.
But for a growing number of them, North Carolina became a turning point. The day after Trump visited Greenville, Vice President Mike Pence went to the White House to meet with administration and congressional sources. With the supposed urging of some in the GOP, Pence tried to get Trump to walk back the “Nuremberg style rally” chants from the crowd in Greenville. While many members of the GOP privately oppose Trump, few have the stones to confront him openly. They remain eunuchs at the hate orgy: Unable and unwilling to do anything about the vile atrocities of which they are a part.
He is, without a doubt, a racist, but the darker truth is Trump may be worse than a racist. He is a miserable human being who hates everyone.
Riffing on that theme, Trump said he stopped speaking and tried to calm the crowd from saying anything racist. This was at odds with what reporters witnessed and what video recordings showed. But even if the president conflated events to make it sound like he was on the side of the ACLU and the NAACP, it was apparent he and other members of the GOP, including Pence, were trying to make amends.
While some of the president’s supporters have threatened violence against the members of Congress Trump assailed, a senior administration official said on background that no one in the West Wing had discussed safety concerns for Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) The administration just didn’t seem to care that the president put other members of the U.S. government in harm’s way.
So it is was no surprise Trump’s narrative of appeasement lasted less than a day. By Friday, Trump was on the South Lawn assailing the same women of color, denying the chant was racist and saying what truly bothered him were members of Congress who hated the United States. Make no mistake, this is proof that Trump is deepening his allegiance to the lowest-common denominator.
He appeals to fear, hatred, racism, sexism and seeks to divide the country. Nothing he does is meant to heal any division, and he doesn’t care to do so. Trump is a venal man who purposely confuses criticism with hatred and critical thinking with socialism, communism and anti-American sentiment. He points at the foibles of others and refuses to hold himself to a higher standard because he cannot take the high ground. Trump and his minions want a country without dissent. His rants against members of Congress thus take on an even darker tone when you consider what Trump is perpetuating. He does not consider himself a racist, but his actions embolden racists. His words are sparks in a contentious world of acrimony and filled with the gasoline of fear and hatred. He is, without a doubt, a racist, but the darker truth is Trump may be worse than a racist. He is a miserable human being who hates everyone. His narcissism is a consuming fire. Across the globe, he fans the flames of intolerance that other despots use to usurp power and subjugate the governed. He uses racism and the surrounding chaos to keep you from looking at every other foul thing he undertakes—the exploitation of women, the abuse of the treasury for his own ends, the stripping of regulations that enables the robber barons to run free, the destruction of science and a sharable base of facts from which we all operate.
The administration just didn’t seem to care that the president put other members of the U.S. government in harm’s way.
The Apollo landings, almost forgotten by this administration while it foments hatred and divisiveness, represents the very best we can do when we work together. African American women made significant contributions to the effort to put a man on the moon. African American men. White men. White women. Immigrants. Hispanics. Gay people. Straight people. From the tiniest screw and wire fashioned by manual labor to the losses of astronauts Gus Grissom (once considered to be the front runner to putting the first boot on the moon), Roger Chaffee and Ed White to the brave accomplishments of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins; we all had skin in the game and took pride in our accomplishment despite our differences and our nation’s struggles. We did this!
But Trump? He would eliminate the collaborative efforts of all Americans by favoring the deeds of only those Americans who show fealty. He would have us forget his many horrific scandals while he attacks women of color in the U.S. Congress. Reps. Tlaib, Omar, Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are just the current targets of a president intent on destroying everything we’ve built in this country. You may not agree with their politics. You may not like them, but they’re right where they should be. Here. Trying to make a better country.
It’s a job for all of us. And as the Apollo moon landing showed us, when we all work together, we can accomplish anything. The lessons of history should never be forgotten. Trump and his faithful band of supporters can never achieve the unity Trump claims he desires because they simply do not understand what history shows us. Our diversity is our strength.