I previously promised that I would ignore Donald Trump and concentrate only on the issues important to the American people. His most recent comments on the protest gestures of NFL players so perfectly illustrate the malaise that has infected this country that I cannot pass up the opportunity to draw the lesson learned.
To briefly recap, President Trump, speaking at what appeared to be a campaign rally, told his followers that he would like it if, when an NFL player knelt in protest during the national anthem, the team’s owner would say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field. He’s fired!” When faced with resounding protests from people across the nation, including players and even owners in the NFL, Trump protested that “it wasn’t about race.”
Since the original protest was clearly about race, Trump’s denial is disingenuous at very best. In the root sense of his rant, however, he has unwittingly hit on a critical point. Trump’s rant is not merely about race. It is far worse than that. What Trump did, in essence, was to replace our commitment to the American ideal of equal birth and inalienable rights with allegiance instead to the symbols of those rights, or, much worse, allegiance to a single individual. Boiled down to its essence, Trump’s degrading insults are based on a classic blunder, in which the ideal is replaced by the symbol created to represent that ideal. We create a statue to represent our God, and by and by we end up worshiping the statue. We create a church to serve our God, and by and by we end up serving the church. We create a flag to represent the American ideal, and by and by we become willing to limit or even eliminate our ideals in order to serve the flag. By that process, anyone who protests anything is a son of a bitch and needs to be silenced.
What is really at the heart of Trump’s disgusting tirade is his total lack of a moral base. Donald Trump’s worldview is completely devoid of any value outside himself. In Trump’s world, that is good, and only that is good, which serves his interests. But it is of the very essence of morality to be obliged to others. Trump has utterly no sense of that obligation.
Note, however, that we voted Donald Trump into the White House. And that should tell us a great deal about us. We, as a nation, have fallen for this specious “morality of self-interest.” Whether we literally voted for Donald Trump or not, we have allowed this cancer of self-interest to infiltrate our views and our actions. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than our failure to insist on rational debate over our pressing national issues. We have replaced, we have pretty much all replaced, debate with name-calling. We, we, have chosen, or at the very least tolerated, a predominant worldview of self over others to overtake the ideal upon which this nation is founded. Donald Trump is no more than the distillation of the worldview of self-interest that we have adopted.
So it is indeed not about race. Far more, far worse, it is about a crisis in our national identity. Trump is what he is, an ignorant, self-absorbed sexual predator. If he does not represent us, it can only be that we are choosing to concern ourselves with values beyond ourselves. I truly believe we will do that.