We are Diminished and in Danger

Nathan Hale said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Thurgood Marshall said, “History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.”

John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Patrick Henry said, “Give me Liberty or give me Death.”

Thomas Jefferson said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

Bill Clinton said, “The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”

Mahatma Gandhi said. ““Truth never damages a cause that is just.”

Barack Obama said. “If somebody is different from you, that’s not something you criticize, that’s something that you appreciate.”

Felix Frankfurter said, “It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.”

Theodore Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Donald Trump has said:

  • “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. “
  • “There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
  • “You know, it really doesn`t matter what [the media] write as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • [on the topic of the Constitutional balance of powers] “It’s a very rough system, It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.”

I guess the question is, who among us can discern the outlier here?

But worse than the crudeness of Trump’s adolescent locker room orientation and his fundamentally repulsive nature (my father once said of Trump, “He’s the guy you kick out of a shitty fraternity”) is this quote from earlier this week:

“Just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is
not what’s happening.”

 ̶   Donald Trump, July 2018

Now, I have been known to cite the similarities between Trump’s behavior and attitude and public utterances – and his supporters reactions to such as  —  not unlike the tenor, tone, and desired results of what happened in Germany in the 1930’s.  Some called me paranoid.

Well, I am here to tell you that it is decidedly not paranoia when they really are out to get you.  Let’s take Trump’s quote and compare it to George Orwell in 1984:

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.
It was their final, most essential command.”

̶   George Orwell, June 1949

Now, let me repeat what I said earlier, “It is not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”  From Charlottesville and its “very nice people” to “look at my African-American over there” to Mexicans crossing the border being “rapists and murders” to “I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and they would still vote for me” to the “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, I’ll pay the legal fees” to “I’d like to punch him in the face” [regarding a protester being kicked out of Trump rally], Trump and his supporters echo the Nazi incitement to violence, racist philosophy, brute force bullying tactics, and practice of the “big lie” so effectively used by that master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels – lie big enough and often enough and people believe you.

And do not kid yourself, a whole big chunk of the country, voting population, and what used to be the Republican party are supportive, enthusiastic, and overjoyed at the “progress” Trump is making in dismantling our environmental protections, whittling down our national parks, trampling our long-standing tradition as a refuge of the oppressed, encouraging anti-Semitism and anti-Black and anti-immigrant sentiment and behaviors, and destroying our relationships with our allies by starting a trade war and…in another interesting parallel…cozying up to and being beholden to the dictator leading Russia and ignoring any and all facts such that the behavior smacks of treason (even George Will agrees).  So, please, do not call me paranoid, call me clear-sighted.

I leave you with this quote from 42 BCE:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

― Marcus Tullius Cicero

3 thoughts on “We are Diminished and in Danger

  1. Excellent piece, too true. Love your dad’s characterization of Trump as the guy you’d kick out of a bad fraternity. But you omitted one relevant quote: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (W.B. Yeats). I’m afraid that no amount of warning is going to change the minds of Trump supporters, who fall into three categories: (1) under-educated crypto-facists (or overt facists) who think “The Apprentice” was a documentary; (2) Republican free-riders who privately disdain Trump but are happy to have him be the crude, cracked vessel of many of their policy objectives; and (3) libertarian anarchists who are happy to have a human Molotov cocktail in the Oval Office. The only solution is to OUTVOTE these people, next week in our district, in November, and in 2020. The best had better not lack conviction, ’cause the worst sure are full of passionate intensity.

  2. Of all of Trump’s noteworthy statements, from the most anodyne to the most odious, the one that sticks out as unique—and you quoted it—is the one about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. All of his other statements seem to fit into categories: self-aggrandizement, vitriol aimed at others, disdain for useful programs or traditions he doesn’t understand. But that statement is aimed at his own supporters. And he is saying what I believe: that the hard core base of his support is people slavishly beholden to cultist adoration. We see that, of course. It is interesting—and frightening—to realize that he sees it too.

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