Saturday, July 30, 2016

Politics Unusual

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” --Dalai Lama

Happy International Day of Friendship. Given the tone of this year's election so far, it seems unlikely our would-be national leaders will be celebrating this today.* They’re probably also not going to lead by example on “Bring Your Manners to Work Day” in September or “Do Something Nice Day” in October.

And the ever-timely “Golden Rule” seems to have long flown out the window.

Ugliness in politics is not unusual. What’s unusual for me is the fact that I’m writing this post at all. I'm passionate about individual issues. Politics in general is a science that has never held any appeal for me. But the incredibly base nature of this year’s presidential race has filled me with such a sense of disgust that I decided to say something.

I am a million miles away, in shock, and at the same time, not distanced enough. People over here mention our presidential race with sympathy. As personally embarrassing as it is to me, it affects them, too. America is a major player on the world stage. And right now it feels like we’re standing up there drunk, disheveled, and flailing about for our next line.

I have some small hope that as we move past the conventions, our official nominees will look beyond personal jabs to address the bigger picture. Unfortunately, I just don't think that's possible for the Republicans.

So here’s the part where I talk about Donald Trump. To put it mildly, I am not a fan. In fact, I haven’t felt this much shame since Arnold, the porn star, and what seemed like a third of the state ran for California governor in 2003.

Having a free election does not equate to having a free-for-all.

For me, Trump is the poster child for “prevaricate.” It’s a word that’s not used often enough, but he seems to be a master of it. And when he’s called out on his exaggerations, innuendos, or outright untruths--like any insecure and unqualified individual--he goes on the offensive.

I'll be generous and say his lack of civility is subterfuge, designed to distract us from very real problems. Like his political platform, which appears to be a celebration of subjugation and dehumanization. Rather than engaging in discourse with his detractors, he blocks their access or bullies them. No wonder he’s been compared to the most distasteful dictators of the past.

This is not to say I’m all in for Hillary Clinton. I admire her personal and professional strength, but I'm still waiting to be inspired. In light of Trump’s divisive agenda, she has a responsibility to remind everyone that America was built on the backs of diverse peoples who worked hard to make it so, not the cretins who sit back, put their feet up, and conveniently forget how it all came to be.

Speaking of forgetting history, Trump and his supporters keep talking about returning our country to greatness and oppressing, expelling, or turning away those who are different. Different than whom? Trump’s grandfather came here in 1885. There are a lot of us darker Americans--particularly Native Americans--who were here long before then. Guess we should have built a wall.

I truly believe Trump wants us to be fearful and ignorant and keep to ourselves. He’s like the abusive boyfriend trying to isolate us from the independent thinking that would liberate us. And if that weren’t enough, he’s encouraging internal unrest. What kind of leader who loves his country as much as he professes to love America, actively works to fracture it?

At least Clinton isn't courting hate-mongers to gain support so she can use America up at her own whim and then toss us in the Goodwill bin. I think Trump sees us as his personal plaything that he’ll become bored with when it doesn’t do what he wants, when he wants. Then where will we be?

The sad thing is the rhetoric isn’t even in full force yet. When it comes time for the debates, are we going to get more bombastic theatre, or an intelligent examination of the issues? Right now everything is set out in shades of black vs. white, good vs. evil, us vs. them. But life is lived in shades of gray, not absolutes.

To both parties, I ask: Is this the example of leadership you want to set? Is this the legacy you want to leave for the children of America?

This is the road to infamy, not greatness.

Ok, getting back to the kindness quoted at the beginning. It would be wonderfully kind of my fellow voters to let productive purpose, decency, and some light of humanity prevail in the November elections. Don’t embrace dogma to the exclusion of your reason and your heart. Don’t be less than who you are.

If we don’t demand respectful consideration of everyone who has contributed to make the U.S. the envy of other nations, then Trump & Co. will be returning us to “greatness” by establishing the most openly hateful, dismal period American history has seen for more than 100 years.


*for the record, I am not naive enough to think that actual friendship applies to politicians opposing each other in a race. If they’re so intent on putting on a show to garner attention, however, how about modelling some friendly behavior and stop being so gauche?

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