The Temptation of Mr. Trump

I have something to say about Donald Trump.

But really, who doesn't have something to say about Mr. Trump? Obviously he wants people to talk about him. He practically begs us to do so, regardless of whether we love him or can't stand the sight of him.

Still, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually write the man's name. Until now. Until after yesterday, when I heard a very wise person speak--in simple, unscripted words--about what's really going on.

Abundance, security, and power.

This person didn't elaborate on abundance, security, and power--which was a wise decision. That would have been a sermon, and I might have stopped listening. Instead, he simply told us that when the historical Jesus was launching his ministry, he first went into the desert for forty days. And while he was there, Jesus was tempted in three ways. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth was tempted by the promises of abundance, security, and power--all of which he rejected.

What are we asking of our leaders today? What are we demanding of political candidates, in return for our votes?
  • We are demanding that they magically provide us with an abundance of money, in a country where we continue to shelter and protect the richest of the rich--the infamous 1 percent--and pay starvation wages to the poorest of the poor.
  • We are demanding that they protect us from foreign threats, because we aren't willing to admit that the person most likely to shoot us down in the street is another born-and-raised American using a gun legally purchased at the local pawn shop.
  • And we are demanding that our politicians make America great. Again. Because it sours our stomachs to think that the United States of America, this country blessed by God, might no longer be at the top of the global pile--feared by our evil enemies, revered by the weak whom we protect and defend, and respected by our almost-but-not-quite peers.

We ask too much . . . and the wrong things. And in return, inevitably, we are rewarded with political candidates who, in order to get elected, have to promise too much . . . and the wrong things. Typically, the kind of candidates who are willing to make such promises are--well--Donald Trumps.

And the rare candidate who stands their ground and refuses to bend to our unrealistic demands? They do exist, but their rational voices disappear in the cacophony of grandiose promises and scathing insults, dystopian entertainment on a far grander scale than any Broadway stage has ever produced.

Now, you might be thinking, "What's wrong with abundance, security, and power? This is America, goldarn it! I work hard! I deserve no less!"

Okay, but I don't want a president--or a senator, governor, mayor, etc.--who gets elected by lying to me and insulting their fellow candidates. Plain and simple. I don't want a president who will promise the world to me, but who lacks the integrity, wisdom, and humanity to get the job done.

And let's be honest. The pickings are slim and getting slimmer, and Donald Trump is the slimmest of the slim.

My own political awareness was born in the spring of 1968. At twelve years of age, I enthusiastically and optimistically watched Bobby Kennedy campaign for the presidency, and I mourned for our country when he was assassinated in Los Angeles that June. I don't know if Bobby would have made a good president, but I sure thought he cared about the right things. Over the years, I've voted mostly for Democrats but also for the occasional Republican, always trying to support the person rather than the party. As a gay American, I will always be especially grateful to President Obama for making it possible for me to legally marry the love of my life.

But this current presidential campaign season frightens me. I will vote in November, but neither enthusiastically nor optimistically. Washington has come undone, people are angry, and we have no good choices. Abundance, security, and power have become our idols, and our pursuit of them is costing us dearly.

It's time for a conversation about better priorities and goals, perhaps starting with civility and respect for one another. Prosperity, security, and power aren't working out so good. Let's ask for better.