Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Trump pollution

A short follow up on how Donald Trump is polluting the very air we breathe.

Bloomberg columnist Francis Wilkinson describes his place in the U.S. mosaic:

I'm hardly an obvious target of Trump's demagogy and contempt. I'm not a Mexican "rapist" who hopped a fence. I'm not a female "pig" whose dimensions don't conform to the demands of a pageant sash. I'm not a Muslim, accused by Trump of knowing, and keeping silent about, the murderous plans of home-grown terrorists. I have no physical disability capable of triggering Trump's unerring instinct for gratuitous cruelty.

I'm a college-educated, white, heterosexual American male born in the latter half of the 20th century -- about the most privileged species on earth. ...

Without any special thought except liking the name, Wilkinson and his Indian-American wife gave his daughter a name (undisclosed in this article) that is heard in this country as "Muslim." He wonders whether they would have made the same choice for their daughter in the time of Trump.

The point is not that any member of my family -- least of all me -- is a particular victim of Trump's ugliness. It's that bigotry has second-level effects, indeed third-level and fourth-level and so on, that are impossible to predict, measure or contain. Demagogy seeps into social crevices and institutional arrangements in ways both conscious and unconscious.

Vaclav Havel wrote: "Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance."

Something like the reverse is also true. A vicious strain of politics can ripple through apolitical corners of society, invading sanctuaries, altering morality, subtly poisoning relations and peoples. The histories of authoritarian and totalitarian politics, of the sort that for decades dominated Havel's Czech homeland, are full of such encroachments.

Trump's greatest reach, of course, is inside the minds of his own supporters. ...

Even when the Donald is repulsed, the taste among his enthusiasts for venomous grievance will endure.

This is a country which teaches all too many people to keep their heads down and their opinions to themselves. Amid the cacophony of TV shouters and social media, that's hard to recognize, but really, what is it when the parents of Black kids have to give them "the talk" and immigrant children have to fear that ICE will snatch away their parents? The Donald spreads a whiff -- an intimation only -- of that everyday backdrop of fear to the comfortable. No one is the better for it.

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