My upcoming newspaper column:
Fox and Friends, Donald Trump’s favorite source of fair and fawning news, recently featured interviews of Harvard students. Asked who is more dangerous, ISIS or Trump, to the smug derision and faux shock of the studio-bound, their answer was Trump. After showing the video, the gaggle interviewed the interviewer, who produced random unsubstantiated claims and conclusions. The thing is, notwithstanding the condescension of the couched, those students were apodictically correct.
Which is not to say that ISIS or wannabes in their thrall are incapable of doing considerable harm in the US. They have. They will again. But destroying the institutions of our democracy? That, only Trump is doing. Killing Americans by the tens of thousands? Not ISIS, not on our soil. We don’t yet know whether Trump’s impulsive, uninformed, and discohesive foreign policy will lead to American deaths. Let’s hope not. With certainty, though, we know his domestic policies will.
For example: each year, between twelve and fifteen thousand Americans die from asbestos-related causes. Yet Donald Trump -- who’s referred to asbestos as “100% safe” -- and his EPA head would deregulate it. In the same phlebitic vein, their removal of environmental protections, clean air regulations, water quality rules, allowing the use of clearly dangerous pesticides, reversing climate change mitigation, coal plant cleanup, and too much more to stomach, will lead to countless more death and disability than ISIS ever dreamed. So will his rejection of science research. Trumpists’ denials won’t change the truth. If they’ve somehow rationalized approval of those destructive actions, they need to explain why.
Threatening our free press, attacking the exercise of rights to assemble and protest, granting clandestine ethics waivers to his swamp-born appointees, Trump erodes both trust in government, and the ways by which we hold it to account. His steady stream of lies big and small, and reneging on most of the promises on which he campaigned (golf being the least of it!) make it obligatory to question everything coming from him or his government. Same with his tweets. Is this more damaging than ISIS? In terms of what makes America great, absolutely.
This isn’t speculation; it’s happening. And if lying about releasing tax records doesn’t rise to the level of life-threatening, it does, along with the aforementioned throwing ethics overboard, raise legitimate concerns about having turned our government over to thieves and swindlers, who’d enrich themselves at the expense of the health and well-being of average Americans. As witness, the tens of thousands of deaths predicted by repealing Obamacare to provide tax breaks for their pals; or the effects on women’s health of defunding Planned Parenthood (which Trump signed in private), or the heartless results of cutting nutrition programs for children. Pointing to ISIS is distraction from all this.
The greater threat is obvious. The only way America can be brought down is from within, by lying autocratic politicians, deceivers, and by the lazy voters (and non-voters) and complicit press who enable and excuse them. Trumpism is the Cascadia fault line. ISIS is a tremor.
And now, having praised those Harvardites for their grasp of the obvious, let me acknowledge college students can also be idiots. When I was one, I was one. But I never shouted anyone down, demanded a speaker be disinvited, or felt “unsafe” in the face of contrary ideas. Nor did my classmates, some of whom turned their backs, or walked out, or refused diplomas when Robert McNamara was given an honorary degree at our graduation. (That was early enough among Vietnam war protests that it made national headlines.)
No more than “alt-right” threats and violence against minorities define true conservatism do those safe-space-seeking, micro-aggression-claiming, speech-drowning students define liberalism. They’re the opposite. They anger and embarrass me, as do administrators who coddle them. There are words and actions, especially directed against minorities, that are inexcusable and shouldn’t be tolerated, on campus or anywhere. But if colleges and universities aren’t places where uncomfortable and unfamiliar ideas can be aired and challenged by direct discourse, what are?
As to those who turn peaceful protests violent, I abhor them even more: effectively, they may as well be working for Trump. For that matter, since it’s always a handful of goons in disguise, who can say they aren’t?[Image source]