If there was any doubt that President Donald Trump’s words and actions foster division and violence in the country, the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, should put that notion to rest. Whatever efforts President Barak Obama did to promote a climate of peace and understanding (which were, in different ways, undermined by the Republican legislators) is now being rapidly undone.
The big question now is: where do we go from here? Is it still possible to create a climate of peace and understanding or are we doomed to an even darker future? Given the circumstances and the actors at play we have reason not to be optimistic. Change is only possible if there is an acknowledgment of wrong and the need to modify behaviors which increase violence and promote confrontation.
I received today a phone call from a friend in Tel-Aviv. She was very upset and she asked me, “What is wrong with you people in America? Are you crazy? How can you stand a President like that?” I felt at a loss for words to answer her, except to tell her that many people here in the U.S. share her level of frustration and fear.
We have a president who mourns the loss of ‘beautiful statues and monuments’ in wake of the Charlottesville rally over Robert E. Lee statue, but has no feeling of sadness for the lives that were lost in Virginia. Predictably, David Duke, the former KKK leader, tweeted to thank the President for his “honesty and courage” for denouncing “leftist terrorism”.
However, how honest can a person be who has been sued multiple times for his dishonest commercial practices and is still being investigated for shady commercial dealings? How courageous can a person be who manages to avoid military service to the country in time of war preferring instead to devote his energies to organizing beauty pageants? Decency and lack of empathy are, precisely, qualities that President Trump obviously lacks.
This is a special moment in history. It is time for President Donald Trump to rise to the occasion and signal, unequivocally, his total repudiation of racism and violence. But I also realize that asking a noble gesture from our President is like trying to get oil out of a dry fig. I wonder if it is not too late for him to learn some nobility from the noted Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s short vignette in his book “Mujeres” (Women):
Tracey was a little girl in a Connecticut town, who practiced a game frequent among children of her own age. One day, along with her classmates, Tracey set fire to an anthill, which everyone enjoyed. But Tracey was impressed by something the others did not see, or pretended that they did not see, but which impacted her and left, forever, a mark in her memory: in front of the fire, facing immediate danger, the ants separated in pairs, and, two by two, stuck together, very close, awaited death.
(Translation by Alicia Bliffeld)