Toxic Word Play with Trump

My British wife worries that our five-year-old talks too much about Trump -- in particular, that the teachers in his pre-school might conclude that we are Trump supporters, which, for the record, we are not.

But our son, as well as our other children, are less interested in his candidacy than they are tickled by Trump's name, which is for them a double entendre, referring not only to the politician but also, in the Queen's English, to flatulence.

So, whenever the radio spews with news of Trump, it doesn't generate outrage but rather merriment and mischief, especially fart-sounds and other gastrointestinal imitations.

While I think my kids have got it right, I find that I cannot laugh with the same kind of abandon.

It seems that The Donald is surpassing himself in "passing" his peculiar version of political gas. And I am worried that we, as a society, don't realize how close so-called "moderate" conservatives are to Trump, who they claim to dislike. Indeed, in a toss-up between Hillary and The Donald, these same conservatives would give their vote to, well, the trumping candidate, no matter how shameful his rhetoric.

It may be fun wordplay, but it's no laughing matter. Trump rallies are explosive expressions of white American jingoism and fear: thinly veiled threats against media; ugly hostitlity towards women; beatings of protesters who, according to Trump, probably deserved it. The list goes on.

Most recently, the news flashed with the video of Rose Hamid, the Muslim woman who was ejected from a Trump rally for, well, being a Muslim. As she was led out of the rally, she was shouted and jeered at, the faces of the people around her distorted by irrational fear. That form of distinctively white anger, faces twisted with insults and venom, brings to mind the scenes of integration in the South, when young African American girls, escorted by police, walked through another valley seething with white hostility.

This time, the source of hostility, Trump, is galvanizing a particularly toxic mix of racism and fear, thus "mainstreaming" the darker side of the American psyche at the highest levels of power. I fear that Trump, whatever becomes of his candidacy, is lending legitimacy to this kind of dangerous rhetoric.

Curiously, "moderate" Republicans (and Christians in particular) have been slow to stand up and be counted as opposed to this kind of fear mongering. Perhaps they prefer the veneer of quiet neutrality, seemingly standing above the fray. Maybe their polite relations (you know, the people they work with or their neighbors) would be offended were they to put a Trump sign in their front yard, but they nevertheless keep Trump as a "second" but far from ideal choice for the Republican nominee.

Unfortunately, this is not an ordinary campaign. We err in believing that the forces Trump has set into motion will sink into the background, a faint memory of unpleasantness.

It may be too late to stand in the way of this monstrous release of toxicity -- but it is not too late to speak.

Such were the thoughts of a German pastor who was jailed for speaking out against Hitler's Nazi propaganda in his preaching, a public statement by a community leader if there ever was one. His wife wondered whether perhaps he had said too much in his preaching. No, he wrote back, my greatest worry, what keeps me up at night, is not that we said too much, but that we did not say nearly enough.

Those haunting words should not be forgotten by those who believe in democracy, in freedom of expression, in civility, in the basic dignity of every person.

Our children have got it right, of course. They know a double entendre when they hear one and they're not afraid of calling it out.

If only more would follow their lead.