Donald Trump greets supporters at a political rally in Alabama on February 28, 2016. Photo: JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES
A year ago political correspondents laughed at the thought of billionaire businessman Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee frontrunner. Politicians balked at the embarrassment of even having to run against the eccentric reality television star, refusing to entertain the last-minute announcement for election.
In many ways, the people themselves were enjoying the drama unfolding on their TV sets. More news coverage was devoted to Trump’s antics and incendiary comments against women, Latinos, and even his fellow candidates. And while the people laughed and wrote him off at first, somewhere along the way Trump struck a long-suppressed chord of hatred and anger within many. As the political rallies, debates, and commercials unfolded themselves via television, Internet, or word of mouth, Trump Idealists suddenly started coming out of the woodwork. And the lone racist voice of Trump was suddenly joined by a cacophony of other voices, eventually rising to the screeching roar of hateful rhetoric that is a Trump rally.
An example of one of the many memes circling the Internet with less than flattering photos of Trump.
If you’re even a casual American historian, then our country’s troublesome relationship with people of color is no mystery. Pretty much no minority group can or has escaped the proverbial “target on the back” as so placed by the majority- white, upper-class men- in order to keep the balance of power as it were. But it’s 2016, and there shouldn’t be a candidate- let alone a leading candidate- whom labels immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” and regurgitates anti-Muslim sentiment in the post-9/11 era. This, along with his misogynistic statements towards women in the media, anti-Syrian and/or Muslim refugee stance, and lack of political know-how created a dangerous formula of violence between Trump supporters and protesters.
“But you have people coming in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.” – Donald Trump
Granted, while most Trump supporters are lower-class, uneducated, white males, what may be truly frightening is the growing numbers of people on the fringes of society now backing him. Though we on the outside can look at these rallies and judge them as ridiculous displays of racism and power hungry cries, those on the inside feel much differently. “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” said Patrick Stewart, political scientist in an article for Wired. “He is saying things in such a manner that he is able to pull energy off the crowd. It’s a feed-forward mechanism. The problem is that his message is about anger, and anger vents itself.”
So while the racists, bigots, and extreme nationalists make themselves more public as the campaign season continues, the world continues to watch our political carnival. Not surprisingly, most of what they have to say is less than complimentary; why should it be? More than one foreign diplomat has expressed their concern and disdain for the billionaire and his followers, most vocal are those from Mexico. Felipe Calderon, former Mexican president stated that “[he is] acting and speaking against immigrants who have a different skin color than him, which is frankly racist and is a bit like the exploitation of raw nerves that Hitler did in his day.”
Most people have the sense to laugh at the ridiculous character that is the Trump. But there are still those that get caught up in his charm and perceived entitlement to say whatever, whenever, to whomever. America has always been that shining golden opportunity across the sea for foreigners wishing to emigrate to our shores. Now, it seems we have become the butt of an international joke, and it’s hard to not to join in on the laugh with the rest of the world.
One thing is for sure: this is not the American dream. Defending your rights and entitlements while simultaneously denying them to others is not the dream. Denying a group of people the opportunity for a better, more fair life due to the color of their skin or the language they speak is also not the dream.
As the old saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall,” and we as a society and culture try to uphold this value, though imperfect our methods may have been. But this is not the motto Trump abides by. He wants to “make America great again.” I for one, do not pretend to know how we are going to achieve this, but it won’t be by following Trump. Hopefully, in time, voters will come to realize their folly as well. If not, there’s always Canada.