Friday, December 11, 2015
Trump Is Symptom Of A Bigger Problem
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:52 pm | Updated: 10:55 pm, Thu Dec 10, 2015.
Donald Trump is not the problem. He’s merely the most visible byproduct of it.
We have freedom of speech here in America, and that’s great. We have the right to express our opinions, no matter how outrageous or controversial they may be. That’s also a good thing.
As someone who publicly states opinions here on a regular basis, I am grateful. And I have often taken full advantage of those very important rights, sometimes to the chagrin of others. So I get that it’s OK to be controversial and differ from prevailing public sentiment.
It’s not a new phenomenon. This country was built by those who challenged authority, who dared to say things previously only whispered in back rooms and small groups.
No, it is not the number of people who say ridiculous and ignorant things that has changed today, but rather the way we — the general public — react and respond to them. And that is a very serious problem.
Today we elevate stupidity, ignorance and arrogance to unprecedented and undeserved heights. We confuse bigotry with courage, bluster with bravery, and outspokenness with intelligence. We rate the style in which remarks are given more critically and carefully than we do their content.
We often seem to extend more respect to those who appeal to our frustration than those who tell us the truth. We are too easily swayed by those who give us someone to blame for our fears and our problems. And while that may be understandable, given the state of politics today, it is also dangerous.
Donald Trump has yet to voice an original thought during his comical and frightening presidential campaign. He has not come up with any intelligent plan to do anything. What he has done is directly appeal to the fears and frustrations of Americans, and made it acceptable to voice prejudices and discriminatory thoughts that are generally considered immoral and wrong.
Too much crime and not enough jobs in this country? Blame Mexicans. They are nearby, they are convenient, and most importantly — they weren’t going to vote for him anyway.
Propose to build a wall along the border. Forget that it sounds more like old Berlin than modern America. Disregard the fact immigration from Mexico — legal and otherwise — has slowed to almost nothing over the last decade or so. What you say doesn’t have to be true or make sense. It just has to strike a chord, and tap into the reservoir of anger simmering just below the surface here.
So, Trump can propose a ban on people based upon nothing more than their religion, and actually be cheered by many.
He doesn’t concern himself with the constitutionality of such matters, or the legality of them. Just by being outrageous he somehow earns respect from some for being a “straight-shooter” or someone unafraid of “speaking his mind”.
And when the inevitable criticism comes flying back at him, when he is accused of using racism and bigotry for political advantage, Trump plays the victim card. He arrogantly says he is being blamed for avoiding the political correctness that he claims has gripped this country.
Political correctness. That is such a phony term.
The phrase was made up to excuse bad behavior and make it seem more socially acceptable.
We make it easier for our public officials to be like Trump than more rational leaders. That is, until we really need them to act.
Then, the shallowness and superficiality of their arguments and reasoning leave us wondering how we ever gave them credence in the first place. Not because they aren’t smart, mind you. But because they think it is OK to elevate themselves at the expense of others.
Whether it is Donald Trump seeking to use Muslims as a political steppingstone, or North Attleboro’s Bob Nerz using immigrants in neighboring Attleboro to fight governmental change in his town, this type of behavior has become too popular and prevalent.
But it is society that has to change. We have to stop rewarding this type of behavior. It should be recognized for what it is — wrong and opportunistic.
We need to demand more from our politicians and leaders than loud and controversial speech. If we don’t — that’s our fault.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.