I never thought I’d learn anything from Donald J. Trump.
I mean, what is there to learn from a man with zero curiosity? What is there to gain from the most selfish among us? What is there to take from one who only takes? What do the greediest have to offer? What do the most vile present us other than vileness?
And yet, here I sit at 9:46 on a Saturday night, learned thanks to the 45th president.
I have learned just how much I love America.
Now, to be clear, I always loved living here, just as we all love living here. I love fireworks, I love 500 flavors of soda pop, I love the smell of popcorn at outdoor concerts and the screams that emerge from any one of our 700 roller coasters. I love the music of Hall & Oates, the movies of Steven Spielberg, the motorcycles of Harley Davidson, the beaches of Southern Californian, the genius of Apple, the darkness of Tim Burton, the potential to accomplish anything … everything.
Until Donald J. Trump, though, that’s pretty much all it was. I removed my hat at ballgames. I stood hand over heart for the pledge. Mostly, I loved things. I loved moments. I loved concepts. It was a surface relationship.
Now, as the commander in chief walks over one fundamental ideal after another, I realize how dearly I cherish them. Last night, for example, he said NFL owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem. He didn’t praise freedom of speech or freedom of expression. He didn’t say, “Look, I don’t agree—but what makes the United States special is that we allow for people we disagree with to speak, to scream, to shout.” No, he believes if one dares protest by kneeling during the anthem, he should lose his job and his name.
Think about that.
R-e-a-l-l-y think about that.
There’s a line—a great one—from Michael Douglas in the American President, when he defends the right to burn a flag by saying: “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.”
I don’t think Donald Trump has ever seen that film. Or paid attention to its message.
I also don’t think Donald Trump is one to be addressing patriotism. I mean, five deferments. I mean, the bashing of POWs and gold star families. I mean, kicking Vietnam vets off the sidewalk in front of Trump Tower. I mean, donating $0.00 in the aftermath of 9.11. I mean, lying about Muslims celebrating during the falling of the Twin Towers. I mean, spending five years insisting the sitting commander in chief was a Kenyan-born Muslim who didn’t get into Harvard on merit.
When I see Donald J. Trump speak, I can’t help but think how, at a jarringly rapid rate, our liberty is slipping away.
How what we stood for is no longer what we stand for.
How a conman has conned us into surrounding our liberty for justice.
And, as a patriot, I am horrified.
PS: “The issues that he bawled about usually meant nothing to him. He was ready to abandon them whenever he could make votes by doing so, and to take up new ones at a moment’s notice … [He] was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant,bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses…. He seemed only a poor clod like those around him … full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the dung-pile. Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not.”
— Mencken in an obit of William Jennings Bryan, 1925