The Trump effect

When character is replaced by ‘the politics of winning at any cost’

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Over the course of the past 16 months, we have been witness to the constant chaos and litany of lies emanating from the Oval Office. One would think that those who profess to love their country and to believe in the ideals upon which it was founded would be offended — and outraged — by the antics of Donald Trump, the vindictive and impulsive (a very dangerous combination!) demagogue posing as the 45th president of the United States. The man has brought shame and embarrassment to our country and has damaged long-time alliances, many going back 70 years. No one in my memory has shown greater contempt for our laws and our institutions than he. Instead of lifting us up and inspiring us to be the best we can be, he has contributed to the coarsening of our discourse, the lowering of our standards and the compromising of our values. Furthermore, on March 16, Gen. Barry McCaffrey — a 32-year veteran of the United States Army and the recipient of three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and two Distinguished Service Crosses — reluctantly concluded that the President is a “dangerous threat to the security of the United States.” Isn’t it time for the American people to say “enough is enough”?

What “one thing” will ultimately bring Trump down? Who can say for sure. But, like other self-anointed emperors throughout history, the man will be brought down. Perhaps Trump’s “Waterloo” will be that he’s found guilty of conspiring with a foreign government for the purpose of undermining the elections of a sovereign nation. Perhaps obstruction of justice, illegal and/or criminal activity going back decades, or money-laundering will mark the end of his reign. Perhaps it will be all of the above ... or none of the above. However, while we continue to wait-and-see about any criminal indictments or impeachable offenses that may be brought against the president, there is very little over which any of us have influence or control. This must be left to those duly appointed to look into any possible wrongdoings on the part of the president. Yet, as citizens of this great nation, each of us has the responsibility to carefully scrutinize the “character” of whomever is elected to lead our country. Qualities such as integrity, honesty, respect for the truth — and that old-fashioned word “honor” — must never be replaced by what I call “the politics of winning at any cost.”

None of what we have seen played out on the national and world stage should surprise any of us. Trump’s moral, spiritual and intellectual deficiencies have been on full display for a very long time. Think of this: It is our president who lies as effortlessly as you and I breathe; a man who has offended not only individuals but entire countries; a man so insecure that he must always “win,” no matter what the cost nor how trivial the issue; a man who operates (I cannot bring myself to use the word “govern”) without consistency of policy or coherency of thought; a man so insecure that he has made as one of his primary objectives the denigration — or total obliteration — of the legacy of his predecessor; a man who loves nothing more than to humiliate and degrade anyone who dares oppose him, especially those weaker than he and not in a position to fight back; a man who creates his own “reality” as it suits his need; a man who considers himself “above the law,” believing that the entire Justice Department was created to support and defend him; a man who knows little about governing and shows even less desire to learn; a man who has insulted veterans and Gold Star families, preys upon women, and, time and time again, has shown himself to be a xenophobe and a bigot. And finally, we must never forget that it was Donald Trump who allegedly had the temerity to call the White House “a real dump”: that noble and historic place built primarily by slaves in which he and his family are privileged to reside and whose very presence diminishes its history and greatness every day they remain. To me, nothing demonstrates Trump’s total lack of “class” more than this one statement, reminding us that all the money in the world will never make this boorish man a “gentleman.” One day Donald Trump will be gone. Then he will be seen for what he has always been: an empty shell. The man will not be remembered kindly — except, perhaps, by himself.

Anyone who was paying attention leading up to the election in November 2016 should have been aware of the dangers “lying-in-wait” at the election of Donald Trump. Unfortunately, fear, anger, feelings of alienation — and, yes, hate — ruled the day. And look where it has brought us! For weeks now, we have seen the president of the United States embroiled in a legal hassle between himself and a porn star, played out daily in the media in the full view and hearing of our children. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear of another disgrace or charges of corruption on the part of Trump or one of his associates.

“Where,” I ask, “ is the outrage?” I’ve certainly not heard it coming from Congress where all too many of our elected leaders have been complicit by their cowardice, their acquiescence, or their own selfish ambition. Nor have I heard it coming from those still willing to overlook, forgive, or explain-away Trump’s lies and behavior. Are they so driven by their desire to get what they want — a Wall, another Supreme Court Judge, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the total ruination of Hillary Clinton, vindication for all the years on the “outside,” and who knows what else — that they are willing to accept as their president an individual who is the antithesis of everything this country has stood for since the time of its founding. Do they know what’s going on? Worse yet: Do they even care?

Most baffling to me is the continued support provided by evangelical Christians, who, studies show, comprise a very large part of Trump’s “base.” The early founders of that movement must be turning over in their graves! Yet why should anyone be surprised? Remember: It was Trump, himself, early in his campaign, who said: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Based upon what the past 16 months have demonstrated, this might well be true. How disheartening to concede that many Americans have, indeed, replaced “character” with “the politics of winning at any cost.”

Obviously, my bias is clear; but never do I accuse the president of anything that is not true. While I am a registered Democrat, this letter is neither about policy nor politics. No. This letter is written for one purpose only: to address the character of the man who represents each and every one of us. I write this as a friend, a neighbor, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a Christian — and as an American. I write this because I am gravely concerned about the direction of my country. I write this because I am heartsick. In closing, please think about these three simple questions: “What do we stand for, as a people and as a nation, in the year 2018? What lessons is Donald Trump’s presidency teaching our children about honesty, integrity, respect for others — and for the truth? Finally, does Donald Trump “support” or “undermine” the values your children are being taught in their homes and in their places of worship?

In the centuries since our Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, men and women have given their lives to defend our freedom, protect our liberty and guarantee that our nation remains faithful to the promises made in that historic document. Isn’t it time to put politics aside and to speak out for what is true and right, no matter how difficult this may be or how uncomfortable it might make us feel? If we fail to do so — by remaining silent; by being timid; by worrying about what others may think of us; or, most grievously, by denying that better part of ourselves — all that we cherish could be gone in the blink of an eye. It has happened before.

Darlene Frahm is a resident of Columbia Falls.

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