“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
I remember the first time I had an objection to the Republican party. I was 18, driving down the road in my parents’ car, listening to good ol’ Rush Limbaugh.
I got to the part of the talk show where people called in. Every time someone offered a differing viewpoint, Limbaugh was quick to hurl insults at them. His implication was that they were idiots.
Impulsively, I switched to a music station.
And that was the last time I ever listened to Limbaugh.
It suddenly didn’t matter if Limbaugh was right or not. What did matter was that he was treating people who disagreed with him in an incredibly disrespectful way.
More than that, it bothered me that Limbaugh’s words were “right” and everyone else’s were “wrong”. How could one person claim to have such a strong hold on the truth?
Limbaugh was elevating his opinions too high- to an almost God-like status, in fact.
How many times in my life have I heard, “Because I said so! That’s why.”
I bristle at those words.
I bristle, for one, because I don’t like being told what to do.
I bristle because, well, I want to be trusted as a critical thinker, and I want to be allowed to ask questions.
I also feel instantly suspicious when, “because I said so, and you’re a complete idiot if you disagree,” is used as a reason not to question someone’s assertions.
Like, sir, why are you not willing to engage me in dialogue? Why are you scared of my queries?
I’m sorry to say that the “Because I said so” lingo follows Trump around like too much cologne. And it really repulses me.
I’ve struggled a lot with how to articulate my objections to President Trump.
I realize anything I say could be argued away.
I have had to ask myself, if I liked what Trump was doing for this country, would I turn a blind eye on some of the things I currently cannot ignore?
I hope not, but it's certainly something to keep in mind if and when there is a President I actually like.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that whatever I say about Trump will need to be with the caveat that it is all my opinion.
My opinion is certainly founded on things Trump has said and done.
But it is also colored by the visceral emotional reactions I have had to so many of his words.
Just as I decided not to listen to Limbaugh because he was someone whose words I couldn’t respect, so too, I have never been able to conjure respect for Trump.
Most of the time, my lack of respect has been due to Trump’s rhetoric and zany assertions, but recently I have been horrified by some of Trump’s actions as well.
Okay, So, What Wild Assertions?
Before I begin, I want to point out that we empower people by listening to them.
Trump wouldn’t make some of the assertions he does if everyone was like, “Hey dude, what the heck? What are you talking about?! What’s your source??”
We need to do what Chris Wallace did in this recent interview with Trump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6XdpDOH1JA. We need to ask hard questions and then listen carefully to the answers.
Remember when Trump was running for President in 2016 and he got lots of people to question Obama’s citizenship? People should have called bullshit on that right away, but they didn’t.
I remember some folks being terribly worried about a “Muslim takeover” of our country. Do you?
Now, as we face a global pandemic, Trump has hinted that China engineered the coronavirus, in direct opposition to what his own intelligence officers have stated.
He also hinted that China does not want him to win re-election.
Is it just me, or does it sound like Trump is taking the coronavirus personally?
Like, China didn’t want him to be re-elected so, it tried to infect Americans with the coronavirus, and that would make Trump look really bad and he would lose.
Recently, I have heard many folks insist there is going to be a communist takeover of our country. Is the source of that rumor the President?
I don’t know...what do you think?
This leads to my next concern.
Who Says That?
In times of crisis, our true character is revealed; what we really care about comes to light.
And our President’s words and reactions are often very self-focused.
Go back and watch the Chris Wallace interview, then tell me I'm wrong.
Trump recently reassured people the coronavirus would just “go away”, when experts were saying the opposite.
Why would we want a President to confidently make assertions about viruses he knows nothing about?
How is that comforting?
I want a President who turns virus-speak over to the experts, who gives them support and a microphone.
THAT would mean he cares about the American public.
Empty statements, especially ones that are obviously false, do nothing to comfort me; and in my opinion, they should do nothing to comfort anyone.
Currently, there is also this whole mask controversy.
I remember there being a lot of confusion in the beginning as to whether or not wearing masks was a good idea.
But even after it was becoming clear that wearing masks could slow the spread of the virus, Trump stated he would choose NOT to wear a mask.
I have read many angry, fearful Facebook posts asserting that wearing a mask is a violation of people’s rights and even that mandates on mask-wearing are communistic.
Now, suddenly, Trump is urging Americans to wear masks, stating that they do help slow the spread of the virus.
I wonder what all those folks who love Trump and who were sure masks were communistic are thinking now? Is he displaying a double-standard? Is he promoting a communist agenda?
Again, I want a President who sets a good example of caring for others.
From the beginning, even when the efficacy of wearing masks was uncertain and medical experts were asking that we wear them to (possibly) slow the spread of the virus, I wanted a President who displayed a love and care for the needs of others above his own.
Even if wearing a mask was shown to be non-efficacious, I would have respected a President who was doing something uncomfortable for the sake of those more susceptible to sickness, more than a President who was concerned with his own rights and choices.
Why Is Everything Painted Like Some Sort of Battle?
Okay, this leads to a third concern. Trump’s “us versus them” lingo, directed at anyone who disagrees with him or calls him out.
“Unlike the socialists, we believe in the rule of the people, not the rule of the unelected bureaucrats that don’t know what they’re doing.”
Let’s break this down a bit. “Unlike the socialists.”
Who are these socialists? I haven’t heard anyone claiming that name, have you? So who is Trump referring to? Who is he labeling?
Then, “We believe…”. Who is “we”?
Don’t all Americans believe in the “rule of the people”? Isn’t that the point of protests?
Friends, notice what Trump is doing.
He is inviting you into the lie that America is split into factions with differing ideologies, some of which are downright dangerous.
While there may be disagreements, and there always have been, about how things should be done, the disagreements hardly necessitate the label “socialists”.
Here’s another example of “us versus them” lingo: “Their leadership has...lost control of the anarchists and agitators...We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE.”
Trump stated this about the protesters in Oregon. His claim that the protesters are “anarchists” is uncalled for.
Most protesters are peaceful. Yet Trump is slapping a violent label on all protesters. And that label causes you to get only one mental picture, doesn’t it?
To make matters worse, Trump goes on to say, “We must protect...OUR PEOPLE.”
Aren’t ALL people “our people”? Shouldn’t they be?
Are protesters suddenly not American?
Are they for some reason against everyone else?
Before you blow me off for reading too much into Trump’s words, let me ask you this, why have I suddenly seen a slurry of videos claiming Black people want to destroy and kill white people?
Where do you suppose those ideas may have originated?
Us versus them. And yet, we are all American.
Don’t we want a President who speaks to unity?
A further "us versus them" mentality I have seen is that when anyone speaks out against him, Trump finds a way to insult, discredit or label that person.
Here are just a few examples:
“...She’s a mess!” about Mary Trump, and,
“...lowlife dummy John Bolton, a war mongering fool, violating the law…”.
Fast forward to the recent video interview I shared between Trump and Fox News reporter Chris Wallace.
Trump is proud of himself for hosting the interview outside, saying, "I wanted you to sweat a little bit."
In the past, Trump had tweeted some mean words about Chris Wallace. He called him, "nasty & obnoxious" after an interview he didn't like.
During the interview, Wallace asked Trump why Trump didn't like it that Wallace interviewed Democrats as well as Republicans. And Trump explains that since Wallace asks Democrats questions, then Wallace is "toward the Democrat side".
I find this labeling disturbing. Because in essence what Trump is saying is, "If you listen to anyone except for me or people on my side, then you are playing for the opposite team."
This is "us versus them" mentality. It is divisive.
It also has a dark side. The implication is, "If you get your information from any source other than me, it is wrong."
What do we have to fear in listening to more than one side of a story or event? No one should be bullied or labeled for simply asking questions.
Do we want a President who is constantly insulting people when they say anything to question him or his integrity?
Let me let you in on a little secret: People who are confident of their own integrity rarely feel a need to defend it. Defensiveness and name-calling points towards guilt, in my opinion.
I Feel Embarrassed
I’m often embarrassed by Trump’s words and tweets, especially towards immigrants.
Having grown up in a foreign country, I have seen firsthand that not everyone considers America to be “the greatest nation on Earth”.
I have seen America and Americans from an outsider’s perspective, and I understand our culture is not perfect, nor is it above scrutiny.
In some parts of the world, Americans have done much more harm than good.
I remember a while back when a bedraggled immigrant caravan approached the U.S./Mexico border and Trump called it “an invasion”.
In his tweets and speeches, Trump has often promoted the idea that immigrants are “stealing” jobs from Americans, though this was disproved by a study done during the Bush administration.
The president has also made wild, unfounded, fear-inducing claims about Muslims, hinting at a conspiracy among Muslim immigrants to our country.
I can’t fathom the amount of hurt that has caused to the Muslim community in America.
Why are we okay with a President spreading false information and making demeaning statements about immigrants?
I would like to remind my Republican friends that not all Republicans support Trump: https://rvat.org/.
In my opinion, Trump has redefined the Republican party and turned it more nationalistic.
I would like to refresh Republican’s memories of the pro-immigrant, welcoming attitude of Republican presidents Reagan and Bush: https://www.boundless.com/blog/reagan/.
Honestly, I could write for days, breaking apart Trump’s words and actions, trying to help folks see my concerns.
In the end, whatever your opinion of Trump, I hope you will agree with me that no one in authority should ever be above a questioning or a reckoning.
Let’s hold Trump to a high standard when he makes bold statements, and question whether or not his words are actually true.
Let's not just listen to the President when he states things authoritatively; let's fact-check everything he claims.
Let’s keep our eyes on situations like the one in Portland where federal agents are operating outside the purview of local law enforcement. Let's make sure we cry out against these sorts of covert operations.
I will leave you with the words of Ben Franklin, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”