Battle for the Nation (1)

Recent talk has it that Mr Trump has got his reelection well in hand, his supporters contending that the economy is strong (by other accounts it is slowing), and with unemployment low what else is there to care about?

Behind this hubris is the implicit – and sad – belief that “money is what it’s all about, so carry on, please,” and to mind comes the often quoted line “Money, money, money, makes the world go round,” which was part of a song in the film “Cabaret” (1980), a story of Germany’s descent into Fascism. 

Mr Trump is, undoubtedly, a savvy politician, able to persuade a lot of folks that what he offers and represents is what the country needs. He is very lucky too. He inherited a sound economy, an economy that took a lot of effort and patience on the part of the Obama administration to bolster, so we could pull out of what could have been a catastrophe (the credit crunch of 2007-2008).

The economy that Mr Obama bequeathed to Mr Trump was in such good shape, that it has managed to withstand the latter’s efforts to wreck it, as with his vaunted trade war with China, the renegotiating of NAFTA 2 (the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico) and his continued assault on the Affordable Care Act.

All of what Mr Trump has done so far is to make a lot of noise – loud noise – to keep people and himself from paying attention to what really matters, which is not his deification but the designing and creation of social, training and educational programs necessary to boost the productivity of the American worker so they can compete effectively in today’s demanding world.

Not knowing how to go about it – without risking a hint of disapproval from his supporters – he prefers to bang his drum louder and louder instead.

Mr Trump’s strategy is not difficult to decipher, but it will take much discipline on the part of democrats to mount an effective campaign against him.

To think that America is all about the money is for Mr Trump to profoundly underestimate us.

To ignore the great need to build bridges between us is for the president to bury his head in the sand.

Building bridges is no easy task but it is the grand task now before the nation.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) intellect and vision led us out of the Great Depression, and then we went on to lead the effort to win World War II, ushering in a long period of economic and cultural expansion. 

Today we are in the midst of another great depression, not economic but of values – a depression of the spirit – as evidenced by our deep national divisions and the inability to overcome them. When WWII brought us together, we could point to someone outside of us and brand them the enemy. Today, however, the obstacle in our path lies not without but within, and it is none other than the intolerance we have for the dissenting view, the unwillingness to pause and reflect on our differences and to dare start a dialogue.

Tolerance does not mean approval of an opposing view, but instead signals the need to examine its roots. In a nation like ours, where plurality is a strength, such tolerance is essential.

Extremist views cannot be excised, as you would a tumor, but they can, with great patience and understanding, begin to be dissolved. It can be done by meeting and talking, confident as we should be that all extreme positions, whether on the right or the left, are fortresses of fear.  

An effective campaign against Mr Trump must offer a clear alternative, and a key part of it ought to be an invitation to establish such dialogue in the hope of finding common ground.

Why, then, not abstain from calling people racists, and instead express our disapproval by saying that such view is unkind? Isn’t that choice of words less likely to ruffle anyone’s feathers? If I behave in a prejudiced way, I would much prefer for you to say to me that I’m being unkind rather than labelling me one thing or another. Labels stir up anger and close doors. Even truly racist people are not without kindness. Using words that lead to reflection open the path to possible change. Since we are now at a damaging standstill, couldn’t that be one alternative to try?

With the world in a period of transition fostered by massive technological change, the call is out for exemplary men or women with the ability to heal and lead.  Mr Trump is lacking on both counts. An opposing democratic candidate must have such credentials to counter him effectively.

We are not about the money alone and never have been. We are about the struggle for our freedom. Tolerance of the dissenting view does not mean we approve of it. Instead it must be seen as an invitation to seek clarity in the quest for truth. Our privileged geography and the bounty of resources that nature bestowed upon us, have put us on a favorable position for such endeavor, so let us not be timid in this crucial pursuit. We Americans are much better than what Mr Trump wants us to be.

As FDR once said, “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”

Oscar Valdes   

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