America's Political Gut Check: Here, Now.

It is often said that there comes a time in every person's life where they are faced with a decision unlike any other, one that has the potential to alter the course of their future substantially.  It may involve a relationship, a job, perhaps even life and death.  A decision with consequences so dire that, once initiated, they cannot be undone.  It appears that nations are no different, and that very moment has arrived for the United States. 

As the son of Polish immigrants - one of whom was actually a refugee fleeing communism- this election has unfurled a host of issues related to immigration, heritage and diaspora communities like no other.  Then, as an Army veteran and foreign policy connoisseur, especially as it relates to Eastern and Central Europe, the issues emerging seem to be hand-picked as among the most relevant and concerning of our time.  They have been erupting across headlines, televisions and social media with such force that they cannot be ignored.  

Given their gravity and where our nation stands today, there is little time left for subtlety and brash candor must govern: Donald Trump has shown himself to be the single most flawed candidate our nation - indeed, any developed nation - has ever seen.  While there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, Mr. Trump has exhibited behaviors, tendencies, opinions and strategies that have the actual potential to draw the United States directly into a nose dive toward oblivion.  Lest you think this hyperbole, think again.

Sadly, we have seen this before. We have read about it in history books. We have watched it on movie screens.  We may have even heard it from our parents or grandparents.  And when we did, we were all horrified.  But, we tell ourselves, those stories didn’t take place here. We would like to think that it cannot happen in our own country, but it can, and in some ways it already has.  No one can deny that Donald Trump has run a campaign of bombastic speeches with fever pitch energy, much of it negative, directing hatred and anger at the opposition and at certain targeted groups and individuals. Minorities. Gays and lesbians. Immigrants. Those with disabilities. Those of "different" religious faiths. Our international military allies, NATO.  Jailing political opponents.  Attacking the parents of an Army officer who gave his life defending our freedom. The Pope. Nothing, or no one, is safe.

With clear intent, Trump sought to connect with the very worst in every one of us. Contrary to the sensible model of politics which seeks to make a genuine connection with the voter on an issue of importance, Trump rewrote the American political playbook and sought the reverse, tapping into paranoia, hate, racism, isolationism and scapegoating. While some might argue that this isn’t the first time some of these tools have been utilized in American politics, they are surely the first time a mainstream party candidate - as estranged as he might be - running for the office of President of the United States, has used all of them.

And where is the love, might you ask?  Well, in the strangest of places, such as quoting and admiring Mussolini.  Or, a bizarre affinity and permissiveness for Vladimir Putin and the Russian model of aggressive military and subversive foreign-policy. Illegal and unprecedented Russian invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, or in recent weeks moving nuclear-capable missiles closer to the Polish border. Cyber attacks, economic and military espionage, hacking and interfering with our election in an unprecedented way.  And despite the fact that almost every reliable intelligence official in the world points to Russia as the architect of this scheme, Trump defends the Russians and denies these allegations. The "why" part of this has never been answered.  But those surrounding Trump as part of his current or former team, including Paul Manafort, who was hired to consult for Russian interests in Ukraine, Carter Page, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, all have nebulous ties to Russia. Every American should be very concerned.

And what of his temperament? Volatile. Incomplete. Reactionary.  Bullish. Arrogant. His character? Offensive. Abusive. Derogatory.  His business acumen? Unlearned. Exploitative. Clear and established failures, time and time again.

And his support? One by one, Republicans representing every generation and branch of government have revoked their endorsements and rebuked him for his behavior.  Nearly every major paper, even those that have never endorsed a democratic candidate before - or never even endorsed a candidate, period - have rejected his candidacy.

    And yet, support for him remains.  And so I ask each of those individuals finding him to be their choice - still - to step back for a brief moment.  Review what he has said and what he has done.  Consider how his decision-making approach and demeanor would play on the international stage, in the most sensitive talks and on the most sensitive subjects. Then, reflect on what history has shown us. Recall the words of Euripides, who warned us that when one with honeyed words but a dangerous mind persuades, great woes will befall the state. But what of the dangerous mind that doesn’t even care to use honey? Well, there really isn’t a compelling quote for that - that danger should be clearly apparent. As should your choice on November 8.

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