Of Moonlanding and Moonshine

It's hard to articulate the profuse awe that I and many of my generation growing up in India in the '70s had for America. To say that we were smitten by an America that we thought of as nothing short of utopia, is an understatement. Here we were, the product of a Third World country steeped in poverty, filth, bureaucracy, and a hundred other ailments compared to an America that was a global leader in technology, innovation, enterprise, entertainment, and more. Speaking in metaphors, India was a rusty old jalopy compared to the fancy, spanking new sports car that was America.

From that perspective of a young boy of the '70s growing up in India, everything about America was surreal...glass doors in fancy malls that opened magically by themselves, and those staircases that did the climbing, not the humans who simply stood on those things called escalators. It was not just these small wonders. Here was a nation that gave the world the most paradigm-shifting inventions of our times--automobiles, airplanes, and the moon landing, for God's sake!

America, in our minds, was associated with everything progressive and laudable--not just inventions and breakthroughs but also a progressive and inclusive society, the kind that can only come from scientific and intellectual thought, not from superstition, dogma, insularity, or parochialism.

Now, having lived here for 30 years, I find myself in complete lock step with supporters of Donald Trump: Like them, I, too, feel that America has seen its better days, and that it indeed needs to be made great again. Where I differ 180 degrees from them is in the how and why of this societal reversal. They feel it is "them"--minorities, Mexicans, Muslims--that are the cause of America's downfall. What irony! Because there are scores of us who believe that it is precisely Donald Trump (and what he represents) that is the cause of America's descent: regressive attitudes like racism and xenophobia and the bitterness and anger that fuel them. Add to it the juvenile bluster and bravado of Trump, and you have in him a demagogue with a score of a perfect 10.

Decades ago, Adolf Hitler obviously thought he was out to make Germany great again--by exterminating Jews by the millions. Muslim terrorists obviously think they will make Islam great again--by indiscriminately killing innocent men, women, and children. The Trump camp, too, thinks it will make America great again--by hunkering down, fear-mongering, hating, and clamping down on Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans and sundry minorities.

Look at Trump through the filters of any human enterprise--spirituality or psychology; motivational literature or business acumen--and what you see is the poster boy of the errant son.

Here are actual verbatim quotes from the mouth of Trump in reference to protestors at his rallies:

"I would like to bang him."

"I would like to punch him in the face..."

"We have some protestors who are bad dudes. The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate." (Referring to the roughing up of protestors)

"If you see somebody ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously."

"The audience hit back. And that's what we need a little bit more of." (Again, referring to the roughing up of protestors).

And this man is a frontrunner for the highest office in the nation? Are we now living in a Twilight Zone? Because his language seems more representative of a roadside hooligan. Do Americans no longer have any respect for the dignity of the office of the presidency?

Peter Wehner, who served as an advisor in the last three Republican administrations, and has voted Republican in every presidential election since he first became eligible to vote in 1980, is just one of the scores of Republicans who have recognized the danger that Trump represents not just to the nation, but also to their Party, and are no longer willing to remain silent. In a brilliant takedown of Trump, Wehner writes in the New York Times:

He is erratic, inconsistent and unprincipled. He possesses a streak of crudity and cruelty that manifested itself in how he physically mocked a Times journalist with a disability, ridiculed Senator John McCain for being a P.O.W., made a reference to "blood" intended to degrade a female journalist and compared one of his opponents to a child molester


Wehner goes on further to say, "Mr. Trump's virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as commander in chief should send a chill down the spine of every American."

It is therefore hard not to think of Trump's supporters as backcountry moonshiners who don't know any better, if despite these red flags, and his daily exhibition of his demagoguery, are still flocking to him.

Trump's cowboy shtick can't possibly work even at lower rungs such as in the world of business, let alone in the capacity of the president. Indeed, just look at his track record of a string of business failures: his several bankruptcies; Trump Airlines; Trump Vodka; Trump Mortgage; Trump Casinos; Trump Steaks; Trump Magazine; gotrump.com, a luxury travel search engine; Trump University... all driven down to failures within surprisingly short times. And the man has the chutzpah to brand himself as a successful businessman?!

How then can this cowboy shtick possibly work in the office of the president of the United States--a role that requires endless juggling between dozens of conflicting interests and objectives? It requires thought, nuance, character, and courage, none of which Trump is famous for--unless you mistake swagger for courage and bombast for character.

Here's a man who, far from making America great again, is likely to pummel it into the ground. The only question is how long it would take him to do that. The four years that so many are willing to hand him might be sufficient to send America into a spin of destruction that will make other rusty-old-jalopy countries look like paradise.

America, don't buy this moonshine!