In her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention this past week, Hillary Clinton speaking about Donald Trump said, “He’s taken the Republican Party a long way…from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”
We agree with Secretary Clinton’s assessment that nominee Trump has pushed the Republican Party into the darkness and the shadows. The question is what will happen there “After Midnight?”
The more important question for our nation, however, is what will happen because of the current mourning in America. The nation stands united in some of that mourning but is greatly divided in some of its other mourning.
On the united side of the mourning ledger, for example, there is: a sorrow about the killing of police officers in places like Dallas, Baton Rouge and other cities across the country; a sadness about the shootings of the kids in Sandy Hook, the church members in Charleston, the nightclub goers in Orlando and so many other urban and rural areas; a sense of despair in the face of income inequality and wage stagnation; a concern about the strength of the economy; an antipathy toward politicians and the government; and, a fear of terrorist groups and the threat that they pose to our shores.
On the divided side of the mourning ledger, for example, there is: a disagreement about whether there is racial inequality in the U.S. today; a distrust of the motives and methods of those in the opposite party; a dispute as to whether America’s best days are ahead of or behind it; a difference of opinion on the achievability of the American dream; a debate on the reality of climate change; a disparate perspective on the value of immigration and diversity; and, a divergence on the role that America should play in the world.
There is something else on which the nation stands seriously divided in its mourning. That is on the importance of civil discourse in our national dialogue and the manner in which presidential candidates should comport themselves.
One group of citizens would say that the communications on the issues of importance to the future of this great country should be substantive, dignified and respectful of others. The other group of citizens would say that speaking their “truth”, shooting from the lip, and being demeaning of others is what matters in those communications.
Put us in the corner with the first group. That is because we believe the consequences of taking the second approach increases the divides between us as citizens.
The old saying goes, “United we stand. Divided we fall.” We are in favor of the United States standing.
A popular country song goes, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything.” We’re not falling for anything.
We are standing for keeping the United States united. We stand against any one who would divide us.
That was the stance that an American citizen Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan took in speaking at the Democratic convention with his wife, Ghazala, by his side. The Khan’s son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, died courageously in combat in Iraq sacrificing his own life to protect the soldiers in his unit.
After telling his son’s story, Mr. Khan said directly to Donald Trump:
…you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [He pulls it out of his coat pocket.] In this document look for the words ‘liberty” and “equal protection of law.” Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
After Kahn’s comments on Thursday, July 28 at the convention, Trump was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on Friday, July 29 for This Week on ABC News Sunday, July 31 show. In that interview, he told Stephanopolous, “I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done – I’ve had tremendous success.”
In the same interview, Trump observed that Khan’s wife Ghazala, “Had nothing to say. She probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”
Mrs. Khan had told Lawrence O’Donnell on his MSNBC show on Friday, July 29 that she decided not to speak because she would have lost her composure. She stated, “…I cannot see my son’s picture, and I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are. That’s why when I saw the picture at my back (on the screen in the convention hall) I couldn’t take it and I controlled myself at that time.”
Ghazala Khan reiterated and expanded on this position in a column for the July 31 edition of the Washington Post writing, “Donald Trump asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump. Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.”
On Monday, August 1, the Khans made the rounds of a number of talk shows and the exchange between these two private citizens and the Republican candidate for President of the United States continued – moving into its fourth day.
Mr. Trump tweeted out, “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!”
In an interview on “New Day” on CNN Monday, Mr. Khan commented, “We need a leader that will unite us, not disrespect, not by derogatory remarks. I feel bad about the discourse that this campaign, this election campaign as taken.”
We feel badly as well. Mr. Trump’s full frontal attack on all of those who are Muslims practicing the Islam religion over the course of many months compelled the Khans to speak out.
Their testifying and raising their citizens’ voices is the essence of free speech and our American democracy. Being forced to do so, however, by the name calling, bigotry and behavior of a man running for the highest office in this land, is not a cause for joy or celebration. It is another reason for mourning in America.
During one of the Republican debates, Senator Marco Rubio asserted that Donald Trump has small hands. We don’t know the size of his golf glove. So, we cannot comment on his hands.
On the other hand, we have had more than enough time to assess his character and temperament in order to comment on the size of his heart, humanity and healing power. He is small in all of those areas at a time when the nation needs “huge”
There is mourning in America today. Out of that mourning can come renewal, rebirth and hope. Or, out of that mourning, can come whimpering, withdrawal and fear.
Hillary Clinton has summoned us to be the United States of Hope. Donald Trump has summoned us to be the United States of Fear.
The United States has been tilting toward the United States of Fear for a few years. [We wrote about this in a blog that we posted near the end of 2014 titled, “The United States of Fear: From Ebullient to Eboliant” that we will repost with a slight update as our next blog after this one.]
Donald Trump recognized this condition and has been exploiting it and those who are afraid of the future to try to become President of the United States. If he achieves that position, the result will be inevitable.
Fear will win. Hope will die. The United States will plunge into a perpetual state of mourning.