Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What to Say to Someone With a Trump Bumper Sticker

Suppose that you win the lottery and now have enough money to buy some land in a place you’ve always loved, and to have your dream house built on it. You contact several architects. At your meetings with them, all but one bring drawings and fairly detailed rundowns of what the house will cost. One, though, arrives empty-handed, but loud-voiced. In his loud voice, he tells you, “I’m really, really smart, so I’m the one you should hire.” You mention a potential problem to which a couple of the other architects have alerted you, and ask how he would solve it. “Don’t worry about that!” he shouts in annoyance, “by the time we begin construction, I’ll have read up on that, and will know twice as much as any of these other guys — and maybe everything there is to know.”

Would you, in a million years, hire Mr. Loudvoice over one of those who seem actually to know what they’re talking about? Of course you would not! 

And you probably, deep down, don’t want to continue to support Donald J. Trump as a presidential candidate. You like him because he isn’t a mealy-mouthed politician whose every pronouncement has been spun and vetted and sugar-coated by a team of advisors, and because, as a non-politician, he’s one of us. Well, we can agree about his not being mealy-mouthed.

He is not One of Us. While you, or an uncle or dad, put yourself in mortal jeopardy (for no good reason!) in Vietnam, Mr. Trump was invoking bone spurs to avoid military service. You, your uncle, or dad would probably have been issued a uniform and assured that an army podiatrist would treat your condition with exercise, custom-made orthotics, anti-inflammatory medication, and cortisone injections. Mr. Trump, who'd learned all there is to know about miitarism at military school, got deferred. But of course, he has since claimed to be remorseful for not having…served, in the manner of so many leading Republicans. Does that claim entitle him, in your view, to brag pre-emptively about how he intends to make the American military so mighty that Mexico, for instance, will gladly erect a wall across our shared border rather than “go[ing] to war” with it?

Is that the country you really want ours to be, one that wins by intimidation? Let’s say that you live on a street on which you and 19 other home owners want speed bumps installed to keep idiots from driving too fast, endangering your kids. One fellow homeowner, who’s very big and strong, and is constantly telling you about his large collection of firearms, doesn’t want the speed bumps, though, and has made known that he will…fix any of the 20 of his neighbors who doesn’t withdraw his request for them. Do you like the idea of America being the national equivalent of that bullying neighbor?

He is not One of Us. He is almost inconceivably richer than you or I, and inconceivably more arrogant. What leads you to imagine that he cares in the slightest about the average American, who exchanges 40 hours of his life each week for less money than he himself might leave as tip in a restaurant in which he was served by a hot waitress he hoped to impress? Is it his being what his Website used to describe as “an ardent philanthropist”? Well, over the past five years, he’s donated $102 million worth of cash and land to philanthropic and conservation organizations. That’s kind of like you or I having given the Red Cross 92 cents.

Now of course it’s possible that he’s anonymously funded medical research, let’s say.

Trump. Anonymously. Think about that for a moment.

All politicians lie, so it would be unfair to denigrate Donald J. Trump for failing to tell the whole truth all the time. On a local level, you might occasionally encounter one who tells only the occasional little white lie. But the rest need to “spin” the truth just as inexorably as mechanics need to get their hands dirty. The politician spends his or her career cutting deals — making concessions so that his or her counterpart will make reciprocal concessions — and then pretending to abhor the mere thought of compromise. There are those rare ones who hoodwink their constituents because they genuinely believe they can, if they retain their jobs, benefit their constituencies. Far more commonly, their desperate need for external affirmation compels them to seek ever-higher (and thus less local) office, lying through their teeth at every turn.

As Donald J. Trump does, either because he hasn’t troubled himself to know what he’s talking about, or because he so enjoys the attention he gets when he just makes something up out of thin air. Consider his thousands of Muslims dancing exultantly in the streets of New Jersey after the collapse of the Twin Towers. That happened to exactly the same extent you found Jesus Christ hiding in one of the hard-boiled, dyed Easter eggs one of your friends at work shared with you the first workday after Easter last year. Consider his recently having bragged about Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago having been named The Best Hotel in America.  You need only go to TripAdvisor to see that it isn’t even the top-rated hotel in Chicago, but the 11th!

Do you really feel good supporting a candidate who lies so brazenly and so often to your face, assuming you’re either too stupid or gullible or lazy to verify his claims?

You get a call from your child’s school advising that he or she has been bullying other children, bragging implacably, and even stealing others’ lunches. Are you proud, or appalled? My guess is the latter. And yet you want someone who indulges in exactly such behavior on a much larger scale to be the person others around the world will see as embodying your country’s values?

While we’re here, let’s try this exercise. Make a list of the personal attributes you most hope to become characteristic of your child. I suspect you would hope for your child to be seen by others as kind, generous, reliable, hard-working, honorable, and gracious, among other things. How many of those words can reasonably be applied to Donald J. Trump? (I count two at the most. He may be hard-working, for all I know, and is extremely reliable in his obnoxiousness, but is that the kind of reliable you had in mind?)

You have a new colleague at work. Every time he sees you in the break room, he comes over and shows you photos of either his new muscle car or his sexy young wife, and tells you that he has these things because he is fantastically smart. He shares the point of view that those who don’t have these things are losers. Would you make a point of inviting such a person out to lunch? Do you suppose others like him more than you do? Probably not, right?

Why, knowing that he’s likely to have approximately the same effect on everyone with whom he deals, would you want such a person to be president? Do you suppose your life will be enhanced in any way by his offending every other country on earth?

Your removing that bumper sticker tells the world that you’re not stupid and gullible and lazy, as Donald J. Trump is counting on you to be. Do it, fellow American. Do it for both of us.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. His supporters always comment on him speaking his own mind. What narcissist doesn't? Good one today John, thanks.

  3. Yes. Yes indeed. Right on the money.

  4. Well said sir. I applaud your insights.

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