Donald Trump has been blowing up the media for the past week with his suggestion that we ban all Muslims from entering the United States. This is just another insane suggestion from the presidential candidate who has advocated for building a wall to keep out Mexicans (a majority of whom he believes are "rapists"), has said he knows how to single-handedly defeat ISIL (but doesn't want to tell anyone), and has said captured soldiers aren't war heroes.
Many commentators, celebrities, and politicians have rightfully spoken out against Trump's rhetoric, calling it "appalling" and "un-American." Many have written pieces labeling Trump a "facist" and a "mendacious racist." Even many Republican leaders have condemned Trump and his reckless rhetoric. People everywhere are talking about Trump and asking the question, "How could a man like this gain so much power and prominence in our country?"
As I have watched Trumps rise in prominence as a presidential candidate, I, like many others have found myself shaking my head in dismay and asking these same sorts of questions. I find Trump's personality and policies to be some of the most disturbing in American history. I find the circumstances around Trumps rise to popularity chilling, as they resemble so many of the circumstances that have surrounded the rise of many other less than sane dictators throughout the history of our world. It would be easy for me to just continue on the bandwagon of calling out Trump from my little corner of the Internet like so many other people I admire. But as I have reflected on this moment in American history, I have been compelled to take a different course of action.
It seems that the rise of Donald Trump has much more to do with the state of our nation as a whole than it actually has to do with Trump himself. I believe that we created Donald Trump. We have given him power, money, and platform. Our nation has produced an environment where a personality like Trump can flourish, drawing crowds of thousands wherever he goes and maintaining a near permanent place on the front page of every major newspaper in the nation. We are obsessed with Trump because he is a reflection of who we are as a nation. As polls continue to indicate, many Americans find the reflection comforting and appealing, so they support him. Many others are deeply disturbed by it, and so we protest. But no matter where you fall on the spectrum, it seems, that what we hate in Donald Trump is actually a reflection of what we hate about ourselves. When we look at Donald Trump, we are seeing is many of the current values of Americans, both liberal and conservative, being incarnated.
This may be hard to accept, but I wholeheartedly believe that it's true. It is time that we as a nation step back and take a hard look in the mirror. We are among the most powerful and wealthy society on the planet, with the ability to singlehandedly end extreme poverty and mediate peace in conflict countries, but instead, we continually chose to wage violent wars and consume more. We are a nation founded by immigrants, yet we treat those who are not born and bred Americans as second-class citizens, if we allow them citizenship at all. We are a nation whose founding principles were religious liberty and freedom of conscience, but we marginalize and are intolerant of those whose views and beliefs don't match the politically correct consensus. In a very real sense, we are Donald Trump. We demonize and scapegoat this one individual who embodies all of the things that we have become. But once Trump has left the spotlight, another will rise, who will likely be even more extreme that him, unless we make significant reforms to our nations principles and values.
I hope that many will continue to be deeply disturbed by and call out the appalling ideas being propagated by Donald Trump. I hope we continue to hold him accountable for his hateful rhetoric and that when it comes time for the primaries that we as a nation do not give this man a legitimate chance to vie for the Presidency. But more than all of that, I hope that we will take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that much of what we hate about Trump is what we have come to embody as a nation. Unless we confront our own bigotry and hypocrisy, there is no hope for change. Unless we remember the principles that guided our founding fathers, those of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and stain forward to adapt and expand those principles for our ever changing world, we will continue to be a breeding ground for people like Trump, and will continue to see a spread of his ideology at the by those who are simply looking for a leader who speaks their mind and keeps them comfortable in their privileged lifestyle. But we must stop seeking to protect our own personal privileged, stop seeking to be comfortable and instead to be good, to pursue equality and justice for all people, and to advocate for and protect the freedom of conscience and speech of every person on our planet.
These are the keys to our flourishing as a nation and these are the very values that are being attacked by Donald Trump. But these values are also being attacked, much more silently but equally as aggressively, by the way we are conducting ourselves as a nation as a whole. If we can identify and uproot this from our culture and politics, America may become the shining "city on a hill" once again. If we don't, we may well see the collapse of our society. The choice is ours to make. I pray that we chose rightly.