— by Annette H. SabbahA few months ago, I watched a spy thriller starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. It was based on a conspiratorial plot that set in motion the cataclysmic eventuality and ensuing consequences of a nuclear clash between the United States and Russia. The film was titled The Sum of All Fears and rightly so, as it could scare the hell out of anyone, and it sure did me.
Yet, in some strange fashion, the fearful events evoked in that doomsday scenario seem to pale in comparison when juxtaposed against the fears evoked by Donald Trump’s inflammatory speeches, harmful rhetoric and reckless diatribes. Palpable apprehension is raised by his willful exploitation of people’s xenophobia and ignorance in a manner never seen before.
In a sane, rational and normal world, one would not need to write about Donald Trump or go to great lengths to explain why he scares so many of us. The sad reality, however, is otherwise. We live in a world permeated by violence and fear of the unknown, where all the right ingredients are in place for the acceptance of someone just like him: disillusionment, anger and fear, which are the dominating political factors today.
Although it has been factually proven that many Americans are faring well economically under the current Obama administration, many other Americans are not. They are anxious about what the future holds for their families. They are concerned about jobs, education, health care, contaminated water plants, imported viruses and God knows what else.
Of course, several other factors are at play here, both domestic and external, which may have contributed to Trump’s rise/success within the Republican Party — social unrest, illegal immigration, the influx of war zone refugees, and global weather changes. The most disturbing factor of all is the spread of international terrorism, a terrorism without borders waged in the name of God by men who have no knowledge of God. Fueled by a radicalized and perverted Islamic ideology, this phenomenon has given rise to barbaric groupuscules, organizations like ISIL and other similar nefarious terror networks.
And so, as in all periods of great uncertainty and angst, and in a deeply divided country, the chips of destiny are thrown. The wheels are in motion, and like in a finely written, well-orchestrated play or scripted film production, the stage is set for the main character’s manifestation, as we now witness someone we thought a joke morph into a dangerous reality. Time for the winds to carry forth onto the political arena a heavyweight champ, thespian extraordinaire and great white knight.
Enter the Master Illusionist in chief himself: Donald J. Trump.
Glaringly bullish, grossly infantile and stupendously uninformed. Someone clearly and indubitably ill-suited for the job at hand. A living color representation of that singular circus clown some of us feared as children. The scary-faced clown, the one we knew in our kids’ hearts — no matter how many clever tricks he pulled out of his sleeve — could never make us laugh, but most certainly could make us cry.
It is beyond comprehension how someone so ostensibly inept, crass and ill-mannered managed to first defeat all the other considerably more capable GOP opponents and then win the nomination. At the same time, he is gleaning the support, approbation and endorsement of the former KKK grand dragon himself, David Duke, as well as other nebulous neo-Nazi groups and national white supremacist factions. We have seen such individuals vociferously present at his rallies. Trump supporters have also made well-documented Anti-Semitic tweets and Facebook threats against Jewish reporters, which in some cases have been reported to the FBI.
With a seemingly insatiable appetite for reckless, inflammatory hyperbole and nonsensical mumbo-jumbo, Donald Trump has turned his campaign into a Circus Maximus act where anything goes, and where vicious, belligerent mob mentality and behavior is encouraged, even applauded. At one event, he actually asked the crowd of supporters to raise their right arm and, come heil or high water, pledge to go vote for him. He has repeatedly encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out” of protesters at his rallies, vowing to pay their legal fees afterward, and has expressed the wish to go back to a time when such protesters would be taken out on a stretcher. The most shameful is a moment when he publicly mocked a handicapped journalist by grotesquely mimicking his hand movements.
In addition, there is the now infamous taped bus conversation from 2005, whose crude words and language mirror precisely what a chauvinist, sexist man Trump really is. A sexist and a boor whose comportment toward women is a disgrace and should be an insult to us all, regardless of gender or party affiliation. The behavior he has exhibited toward women whom he has known or interacted with over the course of his adult life is not only of an ugly, predatory nature, but also of a bygone era when women were treated as an inferior species by men and their men-made laws.
Remember, Trump also knows more than all our American Brass put together. He has told us so himself: “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.” And so after carefully digesting the alarmingly dire implications of such a statement, we have come to realize the limited mind scope of the man — and now we understand one thing and one thing only: there is no way anyone of sane mind would want this man in possession of the nuclear code, anywhere close to the nuclear football (briefcase) or within inches from the nuclear red button.
Because of his continually incongruent and frankly disconcerting statements, a plethora of well-known neoconservative Republicans, including lawmakers, senators, congressmen, secretaries of defense and state, editors, publishers, generals and one former president have disavowed Trump and publicly turned against him. Men like Bill Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Mitt Romney, David Brooks, David Frum, Glenn Beck, David Petraeus, Michael Medved, Colin Powell, Robert Gates and George H. W. Bush — many of whom have penned scathing articles why, in their view, Trump is simply unfit to serve.
In addition, veritable bastions of conservative publications and newspapers have followed suit and taken a stand against Trump, including The Washington Post, The National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle and The Cincinnati Enquirer.
And yet, day in and day out, as if prey to some soap-operatic trance, with eyes wide open but a gnawing, foreboding feeling deep in our gut, we keep on watching him. As if transfixed, we keep listening to him as a veritable maelstrom of emotions washes over us — uneasiness, disbelief, sadness even — asking ourselves how someone of such small moral stature and brutality of spirit could have come this far.
And this man proclaims to be an American. But you see, the thing is, Mr. Trump, American born does not American make. Loathsome individuals like Charles Manson, Bernie Madoff, Jim Jones, Ted Bundy, Adam Lanza and others were U.S. born and yet there was nothing American about them, who they were and what they did. My understanding of “American” extends beyond the geographical, constitutional or legal confounds of the word. American is a state of mind. It is a way of living, behaving and engaging with others not like us. It is a belief in a set of moral and ethical values and a God given talent for seeing the wrong and righting it, even far beyond our borders. It is an integrity of mind, a nobility of spirit and a generosity of heart.
None of these qualities have I seen in the person of Donald Trump. None.
About a month ago, a young Lebanese Christian, Khalid Jabara, was shot point blank in cold blood by his anti-Muslim, bigoted neighbor, who had harassed and threatened the family for months calling them “Dirty Arabs,” the same hateful slogan hurled at German Jews in 1940’s Nazi Germany: “Schmutzig Juden!” (Dirty Jews!). This story should have made us all heartsick, but somehow, it went completely under the radar, hardly mentioned or reported on by any of the major TV or cable news channels.
To say the xenophobic rhetoric by the “demagogue du jour” permeating the airwaves ad nauseam is harmless is simply denying the terrible consequences of hate speech. Tell me again this type of divisive, exclusionary message doesn’t echo with some of the more unbalanced individuals within the margins of our society, some for whom this simply translates into a clarion call to action. We can be sure someone else full of rage and anger has listened and listened well to the stated and to the between-the-lines messages. That someone is now sitting alone in the dark, brooding, thinking to himself how those words echo his own feelings, ruminating within the somber confines of his bigoted soul how to find the next Khalid.
Is the national media at fault ? Are they to blame for the meteoric rise of this modern-day golem? In their collective eagerness to broadcast ad nauseam Trump’s every word, phrase, insult, lie or twitter, did they miserably fail their basic journalistic code of ethics, the kind dear to Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid and Wallace? Was it lost down the road along with the ability to distinguish between the valuable and the worthless, the right stuff and sleazy showmanship, the world of reality TV and the real world?
Are they solely guilty, or are we both to blame: reporters and we, the viewers? I mean, honestly, how many people do you know would willingly refuse to be entertained day in and day out, freely, assiduously and outrageously? How many people do you know would refuse front row seat tickets to a rowdy boxing match, a bloody corrida or a heavy metal rock concert?
Well, in taking into account all the howling, cussing and sucker-punch throwing, as well as the shoving of a woman reporter, the pepper spraying of a young woman, the kicking of an old woman in an oxygen mask, and finally the Nazi “Sieg Heil!” saluting, I’d say we’re all guilty of watching the same freak show. However, with one major difference: some will join and become part of it, and some will choose to repudiate it and decide to do something about it, as I’ve just now done to the best of my ability.
For how can one remain an indifferent bystander, an impassive onlooker while a dangerously volatile entity is negligently at play on our national podium with the most malleable, the most powerful of combustible matters: human passions? Once aroused, impossible to extinguish, as history has tragically demonstrated time and again.
So let us beware. And if the words I just wrote resonate with some among you, then you must speak up too. Speak now or forever hold your fear: Trump — presidential material? Not in my lifetime. Not ever.