I live in North Carolina, where we are suffering from near-lethal campaign fatigue. Both major party candidates seem to show up here every other day, resulting in an alarming spike in ER visits from people who’ve chewed off their own ears. It’s bad, y’all.
But we’re blessed to live in a democracy (Or... a republic? Feel free to weigh in here, civics nerds.) People are entitled to differences of opinion. Although I know and love people all across the political spectrum, I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat, so I’m not the most qualified person to write a political article in a country that seems oblivious to those of us in the middle. But, like most people, I care deeply about the fate of my country.
And in my case, I also care deeply about my faith. I welcome the perspectives of all religions, as well as those of people of no particular religion. I don’t speak for Christians in general, or for my beloved church in particular. But one of the reasons I chose to write this article is it seems my perspective as a politically moderate Christian is lost in the chants of the evangelical build-a-wall crowd. Some years ago, the minister of a mega-church near my home pulled his support of a local soup kitchen because three Muslim students from the nearby university were allowed to help serve a meal.
I remember feeling almost sick as I wondered how anyone—especially a minister!—could promote the idea that Jesus would not want us to help the homeless if people of another faith were also willing to help. Really? You read the Gospels and that’s the message you came away with? I didn’t understand how our two interpretations of Christianity could be so radically different.
Unlike Trump, I believe wholeheartedly that America is great. We are born free, and that freedom—to be our most essential, blessedly unique selves—is our greatest strength.
It’s a feeling that’s magnified now. I keep hearing and reading that Christians should stumble, presumably blinded and gagged, to the polling booth in order to cast their reluctant votes for a man—Donald Trump—who pretty much everyone agrees is a moral cesspool. Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ—who Mr. Trump claims to follow— praising dictators? Urging people to beat up peaceful protestors? Vowing to commit war crimes? Sexually attacking women? Making light of a catastrophic massacre of innocents at the hands of Saddam Hussein? Denigrating Gold Star families and war heroes and generals? Lying with breathtaking regularity, more than any other candidate in modern history? And of course, every living creature in the solar system, including my innocent children, has heard the infamous grab-her-by-the-p-word speech by now. We’ve all heard that the women who came forward with claims that Mr. Trump did exactly what he described doing are a) not hot enough to be molested, and b) liars because they didn’t sue him at the time.
I don’t know about you guys, but as an average woman, I am 100 percent sure I wouldn’t sue one of the most vindictive, litigious, richest men in the world—somebody who keeps an army of lawyers on retainer—in a he-said-she-said unsolicited crotch grab situation. I’d just wail to my friends. And while we’re on the subject, if I’d been allowed to ask a question at the town hall debate, I’d have stood and faced Mr. Trump, and I’d have asked him my rating. Am I a 6? A 4? Maybe even an 7? It makes me want to cry, or kick someone—one person in particular—to think that this man assesses my worth as a human being not based on my accomplishments or my intellect or the sum of my actions or my being a beloved child of God, but because I’m first and foremost a piece of ass. Or even sadder: a former piece of ass, since I’m over the age of 35. Or maybe not even that, because I know I’m not pretty enough.
But I digress. Nobody is making the argument that Mr. Trump is a man of good character, aside from his family and maybe Newt Gingrich. Instead, the argument seems to be that we should overlook his “crudeness” and his “imperfections” because he’s a person who will get things done and shake up Washington and stick it to the man, and, hey, no one in American politics is moral anyway. Everywhere you look, there’s some politician banging someone else’s wife, pilfering campaign funds to buy himself a private jet, or straight-up sleeping with Satan. So why be so hard on Mr. Trump?
But I think I’m safe in saying Donald Trump is not going to stick it to the man; he IS the man. It’s hard to think of anyone running for public office in America—ever—who’s had a history of being less compassionate to the little guy. This is one of the central tenets of my faith, one of the abiding and most compelling of Christ’s calls to us: to practice kindness and empathy, to help the oppressed and the poor. You can bog down in debate about whether or not that means the government should aid war refugees, or offer entitlement programs, or, you know, offer soup to the homeless if there’s a Muslim trying to help too. But it clearly, absolutely means there is a moral imperative to—at the very least—try to avoid screwing over the little guy in order to add to your own personal billions.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of how Mr. Trump conducts himself in business and in his personal life, but I want to focus on just one of them: how he’s treated small business owners.
You’ve probably never heard of J. Michael Diehl. He’s the retired owner of a small family-run music store who sold $100,000 of grand and upright pianos to Mr. Trump for his Taj-Mahal casino in 1989. His initial excitement at the large sale gradually changed to dismay, as he remembers the Trump corporation responding to his repeated requests for payment with one excuse after another. Ultimately, he received a letter stating they’d pay him 70 percent of what was owed. As he reported to The Washington Post, Mr. Diehl had no good options:
I didn’t know what to do — I couldn’t afford to sue the Trump corporation, and I needed money to pay my piano suppliers…Losing $30,000 was a big hit to me and my family… It made me feel really bad, like I’d been taken advantage of. I was embarrassed.
Today, when I hear Trump brag about paying small business owners less than he agreed, I get angry. He’s always suggesting that the people who worked for him didn’t do the right job, didn’t complete their work on time, that something was wrong. But I delivered quality pianos, tuned and ready to go. I did everything right. And then Trump cheated me. It’s a callous way to do business.
Does Mr. Diehl sound like a guy who did “shoddy work”?
Or how about the father of Brian Walsh, a Republican strategist, who recalled his company being stiffed on a six-figure job his small telecom business did for Mr. Trump in the 1980’s? Or the Ohio fiberglass company whose owner says he had to take out loans —ultimately having to write off two million dollars—when Trump didn’t honor their contract? Think this guy did “shoddy work?” Mr. Trump evidently didn’t think so: he offered the fiberglass company right of first refusal on future jobs.
It’s a great business model: hire people who depend on the work, then refuse to pay them, or pay them cents on the dollar, knowing most of them can’t afford to sue you. And while you’re at it, go ahead and slander them.
It would be bad enough if there were only a few of these stories, but there are hundreds. The ones I mention are the result of a five minute Google search, but I spent hours—maybe days— reading this stuff in detail. I checked conservative websites as well as liberal and neutral ones, in order not to fall into the poisoned well of groupthink. I read investigative reports by journalists who spent months finding original documents and interviewing people. This is so much more than just some horndog getting up to a few sexual shenanigans, or some unprepared oaf spouting unhinged tweets. This is a man utterly lacking in integrity and conscience. This is not the lesser of two evils.
These stories are upsetting, because they upend our fundamental sense of right and wrong, of fair play, of which behaviors are rewarded and which are condemned. You fashion a career out of screwing people, and in return, you get billions of (untaxed) dollars? And then you claim you are the only one who can help the little guy, in a nation that’s rotten and unfair and rigged?
It takes more than a bumper sticker to attack the massively complicated issues we face.
Unlike Donald Trump, I believe wholeheartedly that America is great. We are born free, and that freedom—to be our most essential, blessedly unique selves—is our greatest strength. We’re a nation of mongrels, and we should be proud of it. We hail from every corner of the globe to live in a society that treasures equality and industry instead of kings and castes. Our diversity spawns an ingenuity seen nowhere else on the planet. No one else has our unique mix of creativity and compassion. The same country that races to aid the world’s disaster zones also offers “Saturday Night Live” and Apple.
We explore the infinities of space and the mysteries of the atom. We band together to help the least of us, donating our time and money and muscle to those in need. We churn out a torrent of art and music and literature and science, and we send our bravest men and women to defend against tyranny and evil. We worship—or we don’t—each according to our own internal conscience, without compulsion or punishment from the government. If our leaders turn out to be incompetent misogynistic narcissists—just to pick a few words totally at random— we revel in our ability to mock them or protest them or eviscerate them on Twitter, all without the fear that we’ll be thrown in jail, or beaten up at a political rally, or “disappeared.”
We are American.
But we have challenges. Life is harder for some than others, and I think Mr. Trump is right about one thing: the system is tilted. In this America, you can force those less fortunate than you into financial ruin, without ever suffering any consequence or expressing any remorse.
And as far as Donald Trump being the only one who can make America great again, he doesn’t have a workable plan to pull off most of the things he promises. Talk is cheap, especially talk from a filterless word-vomiter. It takes more than a bumper sticker to attack the massively complicated issues we face. Are we going to just magic up the zillion-dollar wall? The idea that our climate might be affected by spewing trillions of tons of hydrocarbons into the air is actually a hoax by the Chinese, you say? Oh, you never said that? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Obamacare is gong to be replaced with “something terrific,” but what, exactly?
How can you be president if you don’t think these things through?
Mr. Trump expects the voters to trust him and only him: “I alone can fix it. I will give you everything... I’m the only one.” When you ask people to believe that you, and only you, can accomplish things—without specifying how—that’s asking for blind trust. Or to say it another way, that’s asking for faith. In my view, there’s only one man in the history of humanity deserving of that kind of faith, and his name isn’t Donald Trump.