I keep thinking about my father. He was 18 when he enlisted in the US Army, 22 when he was discharged. He spent the years he should have been in college dodging bullets and following General Eisenhower through North Africa and into Italy. He got shot. He got malaria. He nearly died. “Sacrificed youth for country.” That’s what it says on a brick I bought to honor his service. It’s near the entrance at the The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. I felt good about the brick. I felt proud of my father’s service. I felt his sacrifice made a difference.
I have to try to believe this these days. I have to try to remember that because of the sacrifice of millions of men and women like my father, the world was saved from a genocide far greater than the unfathomable genocide that happened. Despotism and a form of national insanity were defeated. For a while, anyway. But only for a while because just as in every horror movie, the creature that was felled is never really dead. It feigns death. It morphs. It bides its time and then it comes back, sometimes in a different guise, but as insidious and as malevolent as ever.
Always before, though, this creature was somewhere else. On another continent far away. In another country. Under a rock in David Duke’s backyard. But now the man who would Make America Great Again by making it all Christian and all white, is the President of the United States.
And, according to a recent poll, an astounding 42 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing.
Donald Trump does not hide who he is. On June 16, 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy for the US presidency at Trump Tower in New York, he went right after Mexicans. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
They’re not sending “you,” he said twice to the overwhelmingly white crowd. He takes the melting pot that is America and cherry picks it. There’s “you” and there’s “them.” Us is not in Donald Trump’s albeit limited vocabulary. Seventy million people died in the six years that were World War II. Some 400,000 of them were American troops, many fighting on the European front against a nation hell-bent upon creating an Aryan race. Now we have a home-grown boy seemingly intent upon doing the same thing.
Two weeks after he denigrated Mexicans, he reposted a Tweet disparaging his Republican rival, Jeb Bush, and his Mexican-American wife. “Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife.”
Trump removed the post after being criticized.
A few weeks later, two months into his presidential campaign, two brothers from South Boston beat a homeless Hispanic man sleeping outside a subway station with a metal pipe. Then they urinated on him. The Boston Globe reported that when police asked what provoked the attack, one of the brothers said, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
When asked about the beating, did Trump condemn the violence? No. He said, “I haven’t heard about that. It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that.” And then he added, “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.”
In Trump’s warped mind, beating up Hispanics is an act of patriotism.
Just three months ago at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., Donald Trump actually smiled at the suggestion that Mexicans at the border be shot. A woman in the crowd had yelled out “Shoot them!” in response to Trump asking, “But how do you stop these people? You can’t.” And the crowd cheered and Trump smiled and said, “That’s only in the Panhandle, you can get away with that statement.”
El Paso was inevitable. Because hate trickles down. And a smile becomes a nod. El Paso was inevitable because our leader calls refugees at our border, unarmed men, women, and children, an “invasion.”
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
— Lao Tzu
Hispanics. Blacks. Women. Latinos. Mexican. Muslims. The disabled. The media. He has called them lowlifes. Liars. Rapists. Drug-runners. Stupid. Nasty. Dumb. Criminals.
Get rid of them all and this country will be great again. That’s what Donald Trump would have us believe.
But what I believe is that the only way this country will be great again is to get rid of Donald Trump.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.