By Dominique Paul Noth
I almost detest writing another word about Donald Trump. About the only time in my life that I agreed with Rush Limbaugh was when he said Trump is playing the media like an old fiddle. He is, even as the media understandably exploded over his ridiculous call to ban all Muslims from the US, a view so repellent that the White House press secretary suggests it automatically disqualifies Trump from being president. Still, why give him more space?
Except so poisonous was his language and his later justifications by mischaracterizing both FDR and Ike that now the world with some 1.5 billion Muslims has also reacted with an outrage we can’t fully dispute. It was one thing when such words and statistical lies spewed from an unshaven street corner bigot but this was the leading candidate of a major party. To many minorities who have good reason to be cautious about us (even more reason that we have to be cautious about them) he held up a warped mirror and put preening and bullying back in fashion.
It isn’t sufficient that his repeated chant of “we have no choice” but to reject all Muslims was both unconstitutional and unenforceable. The percentage of Americans who regard Muslims as “the other” to be dreaded may not have been very large but now we all seem like the great mentally unwashed.
Not 1 in 100 have met a Muslim or can explain Islam as a religion and not 1 in 300 have any clue why the two main branches, the Sunni and Shi’ites, have turned disagreement over succession to dislike and detest. Even Muslim political leaders don’t fully understand it and Trump sure hasn’t made any accord or cooperation easier, just turned the world more dangerous for our troops. He has become the ugly American Isis wants all of us to seem.
Even as Trump spoke I did post an immediate “what the hey?” for his audience for cheering and hooting over his supposed poll data about how Muslims hate Americans. At the time he was citing numbers they should have known were spurious and motivated by hatred. They stem from a group he called respected and his good friends. Really? They are the Center for Security Policy run by Frank Gaffney Jr., identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a racist organization that attacks all non-Christian religions as enemies of western civilization. It can’t even be called a right-wing organization anymore since its statements, conspiracy theories, attacks and polls have been so virulent that it has been barred from CPAC and other conservative organizations and magazines.
Of all the GOP political candidates so far only Ben Carson and Trump have cuddled up to the Center for Security Policy. But since the group has some big money supporters, we’ll have to see how many others bundle with them at an upcoming conference.
To my knowledge only commentator Chris Hayes on MSNBC on Dec. 8 has called out in detail the group that Trump keeps using as his source material – and only Rachel Maddow on MSNBC discussed why conservatives not liberals have taken to calling Trump a Fascist and given the history lesson that justifies that call. I do wonder if they are among the remaining outposts in journalism for political legacy.
I can call to mind any number of incidents that we could have referred to as Christian mass killers, but we were either too smart or too sensitive to do so. There were different times in past centuries when Christian religious sects went after each other with calls for ostracization. White supremacists routinely wrapped themselves inside Christian movements like the Ku Klux Klan only 100 years ago, a history I learned in high school.
But here’s what I learned firsthand in college (Marquette University) in the early 1960s when JFK was the first Catholic president. I recall a Jesuit teacher pounding on the table in Johnston Hall, I think, warning all good Catholics in his theology class to stay away from that tempting building with a swimming pool just down the street on Wisconsin Ave. or else they were inviting in the devil. That was the YMCA and today the refurbished building is a Marquette dorm. I confess I laughed at the priest then like I would like to laugh at Trump now.
But here’s what really stuns me – the hypocrisy of the denouncers. John Kasich, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorino, Chris Christie and others have forcibly agreed his remarks are way out of bounds. Yet all keep saying they signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee. Which might be Trump, if he continues to lead. And they denounce his language without acknowledging their own milder verbiage against Syrians and Muslims that actually paved the way for Trump.
I hope registered Republicans will remember this moment of moral cowardice.