My disdain for Donald Trump has little to do with Republican vs Democrat. It has much more to do with what I was taught growing up about being a decent human being.
Much of that was taught to me by my father, a man who wasn’t perfect but always tried his best to be decent toward and honest with everyone he met. Trump is just about everything I was taught not to be, and it’s become almost all but impossible to hold onto whatever respect I once held for people I know who support him.
It doesn’t feel good to lose that respect. I was also taught to look for the good in people, and I still believe there’s good in almost everyone, but I find less of it when I hear people cheer for a man who embodies everything my father taught me to disdain: bullies, liars, blowhards, braggarts, and cheats. To me, championing a man who displays those behaviors on an almost daily basis demonstrates a fundamental flaw of character.
Based on what I was taught, you just don’t do the following: You don’t mock the disabled. You don’t disparage someone for being a prisoner of war, even if you disagree with their politics. You don’t take money from a proclaimed charitable foundation and use it to pay $20,000 for a painting of yourself to give to your spouse. You don’t claim you’ve given a million dollars to veterans that you haven’t given, then, when the press discovers and reports that you haven’t, try to cover your ass by giving it in the middle of the night before calling a press conference the following day to berate the media for calling you on your dishonesty. You don’t insinuate things about the parents of a fallen soldier you could have discovered were false by checking just because you got your precious feelings hurt when they criticized your proposed ban on people who practice their religion which is about as direct a violation of the U.S. Constitution as someone can cook up. You don’t claim that people in the military will do whatever you tell them to do, even if it’s a war crime, as if this is Nazi Germany and you’re der Führer. You don’t score women’s looks like you’re the Universe’s gift to them. You don’t encourage crowds to commit acts of violence against people exercising their first amendment rights. You don’t encourage foreign agents to hack your political opponent’s emails. You don’t run around accusing the president of not being a natural born citizen, then wrongfully dump the blame on your opponent when you finally have to admit, in the most weaselly way possible, that you were wrong from the start. You don’t claim you can’t release your tax records because you’re being audited when being audited in no way prohibits you from releasing them, and then refuse to even provide evidence that you’re actually being audited. You don’t pretend you’re friends with someone you never met. You don’t promote torture when men and women have given their lives to fight enemies who employ it. You don’t make flippant remarks about people assassinating the other candidate. You don’t do so many things this man does almost every day.
If we disagree on these things, we simply don’t share the same values. If I criticize these things and your response is to laugh with derogatory glee, you come across to me like a toothless jackass braying as you take a steaming whiz on human decency.
We can debate the impact of a minimum wage hike, the best approach to healthcare, the effectiveness and constitutionality of a gun regulation proposal, and a great many other things, but human decency isn’t on my list of debatable topics anymore, and it never should have been to begin with.
My father was a Republican, but he was not a straight ticket voter, and I can’t believe he would have ever cast a ballot for this man. As the father of a handicapped child who died very young, he would have severed any ties he had to Trump the day the candidate mocked a reporter’s disfiguring congenital joint disorder.
I think my father would have agreed with my basic argument against such behavior: “Screw that asshole and the festering pile of shit he rode in on.”
But more important to me than what my father taught me is what I teach my own children. They’re adults now and must decide for themselves who they’re going to be, but I still believe it’s my responsibility to be someone worthy of their respect.
I have never been what anyone would call wildly successful, and I would say I failed at being the kind of husband I should have been when I was married to their mother, but I do my best to demonstrate to them how I feel about the importance of honesty and compassion for others. No, I don’t always live up to my own standards, but I have them, which means I’m painfully aware of the times when I bite the ethical dust.
It also means I recognize a candidate who has no standards at all when I see one. I don’t have to read a news report or fact check claims made by others about him. I can read the transcripts of his talks and interviews. I can watch videos of him in action. I can read his childish tweets. I can watch him live as he displays an absolute disdain for anything requiring humility, compassion, or scholarship.
As former POW Joel Sollender says in a new Hillary Clinton ad, “He is everything I would not want to be or emulate.” And those who support him are supporting everything I have no respect for, and I honestly find it hard to separate them from that.
Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here to get free updates.
Photograph: Trash Planet by Alias Albinos on Flickr
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