When President Barack Obama hung America’s highest civilian honor around the neck of former Senator and Vice President Joseph Biden last week, I realized I was watching a great gesture being made that most who witnessed it firsthand probably did not fully comprehend. What made this most poignant moment in American history–which to many just seemed like an act of respect and honor for a lifetime of Federal service, to me meant something entirely different. I felt as though President Obama was saying in a most graceful way that when Joseph Biden leaves public life, decency in American politics will go with him.
We have already seen in an ugly campaign for the Presidency that opposing camps have little regard or respect for the other side. If we are truly judged by the company we keep, then Donald Trump and his followers have much to answer for and he has yet to be sworn into office.
The legions of racists who proudly came crawling out of the woodwork in the past two years are one manifestation of this lack of decency. They appear proud of their intolerance in a manner which even one campaign ago would have been unthinkable. They feel emboldened to express their repugnant views on the evening news and no one appears eager to try to stop them. Because of this inability to stem racism, our quiet little suburb adjacent to our nation’s Capital is now home to a Neanderthal-led group of anti-Semites of whom Donald Trump gladly accepted the assistance and support of during his campaign.
In the 1960s, the B’nai Brith and Anti-Defamation League, under the legal guidance of my late father, was able to fight the leader of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, having him and his followers thrown out of his Virginia location. My father would be appalled at the presence of Donald Trump’s Nazi friends in his beloved city today. I have no idea who gave this individual a rental agreement, but the City has much to answer for in permitting this group to move here.
We have already seen how Donald Trump lacks the proper temperance to lead. That is bad enough. What concerns me even more is his total lack of decency in how he treats other people; how he acquired his world view which is shocking in its lack of perspective or depth and how he has no shame in how he has expressed his feelings about women, minorities, veterans, Muslims and anyone who is not like him.
Decency is not something you can acquire late in life. Either you are raised with a strong moral personality that includes respect for others or you aren’t. Psychiatrists will tell you that people without empathy, decency and respect for others are nothing more or less than sociopaths. Furthermore, it is hard to argue that millions of Americans are decent individuals when their ideal candidate was Donald Trump who never really had to work hard for anything in his life. His refusal to allow the country to see the proof of his life’s work via his income tax forms means that his Administration will be rife with conflicts of interest and massive wastes of American revenue.
When asked today who he “trusts” more, Germany’s Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin, Trump’s answer was to hedge and say that he wants to wait and see how his dealings with both leaders proceed. No decent leader would have difficulty comparing the two leaders and determining who is the more trustworthy.
Judging by the people he has selected to pursue his agenda, we will not be witnessing the best and brightest of folks running the government for the next four years. What we will see is people who have their own goals and agenda to pursue and they will not feel the need to consider the opinions of those with whom they disagree. Republicans believe they have a mandate to change any and all of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishments. If they believe it is the proper thing to throw over 20 million Americans out of their health insurance plans merely because the plan bears Obama’s name, then their lack of empathy and decency means that they have more in common with Donald Trump than they will ever admit. It will be the job of millions of Americans to remind those elected officials that they were not elected to ruin the lives of so many citizens; but rather, to improve all of our lives.