Alan Zendell, July 16, 2019
Forty-five years ago, when Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s hit single said, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, here’s something that you’re never gonna forget,” they were talking about love. Today, with the specter of nearly sixteen months of election campaigns still to go (does this madness ever end?) those words have taken on a different, more sinister meaning. If you thought Donald Trump was a divisive spewer of hate and bigotry before, just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Trump made it clear this week that nothing is too outrageous, too hateful, or too lacking in class in his win-at-any-cost approach to life. He elevated his rhetoric to outright lynch mob proportions, sounding even more like 1933 Adolph Hitler than he did in 2016. I don’t care which side you’re on politically. This is so far beyond politics, it has become an existential question of the survival of our national identity.
As we continue to struggle to put the aftereffects of our legacy of slavery and genocide (remember the native tribes that used to inhabit America?) behind us, Trump would usher in a new era of hate. In a transparent appeal to the Alt-Right and those who still subscribe to the Nazi-like mentality of the last century, he has thrown down the gauntlet to anyone who is not white enough, male enough, or American enough to suit his taste.
If you’re not the kind of American he believes in, you don’t belong in Trump’s America. He said so over the weekend in unambiguous, coherent (for him) terms. His rabid base heard him loud and clear. Did the rest of the country get the message? The rest of the world surely did, and not just countries where millions live in poverty and fear for their families. It’s become clearer every day to our erstwhile allies that the America Trump would build is not the country they tied their hopes to in the past.
Our (perhaps false) national image of openness, generosity, and commitment to democratic ideals has become one of selfishness, callous disregard, and lack of compassion. Not surprisingly, those qualities perfectly describe Trump himself. By attempting to change the country to look just like him, Trump, who views himself as godlike, makes a sick mockery of the Judeo-Christian tradition that men and women were created in God’s image.
Last week, I singled out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for risking the party unity that is essential to defeating Trump in 2020 with her unbridled rhetoric. But I did not criticize her for being non-white, female, or progressive. I love what she represents. She is her generation’s embodiment of the American ideal of immigrants growing and strengthening our country. I didn’t call her anti-American, anti-Semitic, or a Communist, as Trump referred to her and the other members of the so-called Squad.
The Squad is four members of the US House of Representatives: AOC of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayasha Pressly of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. They are all American citizens and women of color who hold strong beliefs and ideals and who are not afraid to speak their minds. They are anathema to Donald Trump who would banish them to the nonexistent places they came from that he conjured up in his sick mind.
Like many Americans, I am sometimes troubled by the things they say. They remind me of the deep divisions that still exist in America, and their sometimes exaggerated claims scare me, because they could deepen the racial and gender chasms that separate us. That said, they don’t scare me nearly as much as Donald Trump’s hate-mongering, which is made worse by the unwillingness of anyone in his party to call him out for it.
I’m angry as hell at the millions of Americans who buy Trump’s lies and bury their heads in their tax returns to avoid seeing and smelling the putrid corpse of America’s prestige in the world. I don’t blame the far right for Trump’s success – there aren’t enough of them to re-elect him. If he wins in 2020, it will be because of the indolence and intellectual laziness of Americans who won’t get involved. The real crisis in America isn’t at the Mexican Border. It’s the gradual erosion of what most of us believe in.
I normally don’t quote television personalities, but Stephen Colbert got it right last night. Commenting on Trump’s statement that if the Squad doesn’t like it here they should leave, Colbert suggested that Trump apply that to himself. He even suggested a place for him to go.
If you’re already nauseated by what politics has turned into in America, look closely at who is the chief purveyor of hate. Between now and November of 2020 it’s only going to get worse. You ain’t seen nothing yet.