Our nation thankfully recognizes a number of Americans who have contributed greatly to the country’s growth and development as bright and shining stars for all others to emulate. Former President John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage pays homage to a number of these citizens while American literature and media have added a rather lengthy list of Americans deserving special recognition in addition to JFK’s collection.
Meanwhile, we’ve also had a dark side. Although the Ku Klux Klan was first organized immediately after the Civil War and helped to end Reconstruction in the former Confederacy, it had a re-birth during the 1920s and ‘30s when it invoked racial hatred toward African-Americans throughout the country and directed its wrath toward Catholic Church members and new immigrants, mainly from China. The KKK has endured but it has been too offensively despicable for mainstream Americans, subsuming it to unacceptable status in modern times.
The so-called Red Scare was another dark episode that commands attention, this time in the 1950s. Then-U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, rose to fame and power when, in February, 1950, he charged that “hundreds” of “known communists” were in the U.S. State Department. His Red Scare charges convinced millions of Americans that communists had infiltrated all of American life. After McCarthy attacked the U.S. Army as communist infiltrated he was viewed as a person “without a sense of decency” and sent to history’s dust bin.
It is high time once more to take issue with a D.C. resident, President Donald Trump, who, daily, tells lies, presents falsehoods, perpetrates tall-tale whoopers, speaks half-truths along with scary inconsistencies, commits snake-oil salesman exaggerations, espouses conspiracy theories and delusional, self-serving analyses, and, of late, trumpets misbegotten pardons, destructive tariffs and more unfounded mendacities that have been proven untrue and unfounded. By the way, unless our U.S. Constitution with its separation of powers no longer governs this land, Trump cannot pardon himself.
It all adds up to a moment in America where a majority of us who are dedicated to preserve and sustain what we most appreciate and value must protest the mindlessness and apparent self-protections by a president who blatantly embitters and poisons our public culture. Further, Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia was concretely established by way of the meeting by his son, Don, Jr, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, when they met with Russian foreign agents to discuss “dirt” against Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign.
At the same time, it has been wholly disheartening and shockingly disappointing that, among the 535 voting members in the U.S. Congress, so few have come forward to denounce the divisive, antagonistic and reckless language from Trump that the American people find more often offensive and un-American than not. Examples of the few brave souls who’ve stepped up to defend truths include a Republican senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, a representative from South Carolina, Trey Gowdy, and even an anchor on Fox News, Shepard Smith, has been courageous enough to stand up.
Our Oregon representatives in the House have been silent save for the one Republican in the state’s second district. Otherwise, the others from the remaining districts have been in mute mode for reasons not disclosed. Our senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have been outspoken at times but, to this writer’s knowledge, have never confronted Trump to his face.
The future of our nation as a democracy, with a Constitution and Bill of Rights, our institutions (especially the Department of Justice now), laws, traditions and norms, is at stake by what’s happening in our nation’s capital. Personally, this writer cannot fathom a future where what’s been held in the highest esteem could be lost to a leader with little to no respect for the rule by law. Faith is that the American people will rise in great numbers as they have in the past to oppose authoritarian overreach by what’s offensive and unacceptable for the U.S. present and the future.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)