What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

As a result of our on-going fight with ISIS, the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, and hateful, uniformed statements by Donald Trump, the amount of anger toward Muslims has increased. Mostly, it’s based on religious differences combined with gross misunderstanding. For example, a post has begun circulating on Facebook asking “Can a good Muslim be a good American?”

You may as well ask, “Can a good Christian be a good American?”

In fact, the same question could be asked of a follower of any faith. After all, virtually every system of faith has its share of fundamentalists who are prone to terroristic acts. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan has long operated under the veil (or, more properly, the hood) of Christianity.

Disregarding recent research that shows atheists act more ethically and “morally” than those who profess to be religious, let’s examine the claims made by the Facebook author in the text of the post:

The post claims that a Muslim cannot be a good American because no other religion is accepted by His Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256). If that’s the case, what about Exodus 34:14 of the Christian Bible? It reads: “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

The Facebook post claims that allegiance to Islam forbids Muslims from making friends with Christians or Jews. Since all three religions stem from Abraham, this is patently absurd. Moreover, some of history’s most tolerant rulers were Muslim.

The post claims that Muslims must “must submit to the mullahs (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the great Satan.” Such beliefs are only taught in the most radical madrasas – most of them based on Wahabism, an extreme and virulent form of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia. It is this form of Islam that is the basis of ISIS. It should be noted that there are equally intolerant forms of Christianity and Judaism. But Americans don’t treat all Christians and Jews in the same way we currently treat Muslims.

The post claims that Muslim men are “instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).” There are also passages in the Bible and the Torah, which if taken literally, permit or encourage equally troubling and socially-unacceptable behavior, such as slavery. For example, Exodus 21:7 states, “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.” And Exodus 31:15 orders those who work on the Sabbath to be stoned. Leviticus 19:28 bans tattoos. And Leviticus 19:19 bans the wearing of garments made of fabric blends.

The Facebook post claims that a Muslim “cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.” First, the Constitution was not based on Biblical principles any more than it was based on Quranic principles. It was based on reason. Second, the Quran declares the Bible to be a true revelation of God and demands faith in the Bible (Sura 2:40-42,126,136,285; 3:3,71,93; 4:47,136; 5:47-51, 69,71-72; 6:91; 10:37,94; 21:7; 29:45,46; 35:31; 46:11). Third, Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet. However, Christians do not acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad.

Finally, the post claims that democracy and Islam cannot co-exist, since every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic. It is true that some Muslim governments are theocracies. But many have at least some form of democracy, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Turkey. Further, recent history has seen many authoritarian Christian nations such as Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. And one could reasonably argue that Israel is not a true democracy, as it denies rights to Palestinians and claims to be a Jewish state.

The point is, no one benefits by making false claims about race and religion; making generalizations about large groups of people; or denying respect to others. As Rodney King said during the 1992 riots over his treatment by police, “Can’t we all just get along?”

There Is No Freedom Without Responsibility.

The Fourth of July has long been declared a national holiday so Americans can take time to celebrate our freedom. To many Americans, that makes us unique. But, in reality, the US is not the only country with freedom. Indeed, based on a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which looks at 60 indicators in five separate categories measuring pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture, the US ranks only 19.

That means 18 nations in the world offer greater freedom than the US. Further, 75 of the world’s nations are democracies. Another 41 are governed by a hybrid system. In fact, of the 167 nations measured, only 52 are listed as authoritarian regimes, including several friends of the US, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Obviously freedom is something to celebrate. But have some Americans taken the concept of freedom too far? And are all of the citizens of the US truly free? The answer to those questions may well depend on who you ask. Certainly, the thousands of people incarcerated or on probation for drug use might not consider themselves free. Likewise, those who have been convicted of felonies and can no longer vote or find a suitable job despite having served their time may not consider themselves free.

In addition, the African-Americans who have been segregated into the poorest areas of our largest cities with under-funded schools, disproportionately high unemployment and few opportunities might not consider themselves truly free. American Muslims who are discriminated against for the way they choose to dress and worship might not consider themselves entirely free. The so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the US by their parents at a very young age, and now live in fear of deportation, are unlikely to celebrate their freedoms. And the Native Americans who live in some of the nation’s worst conditions, and who continue to watch their traditional lands stolen by large corporations without fair compensation, may not think themselves free.

At the same time these people are denied their freedom, others – namely some greedy and mean-spirited Americans – abuse theirs.

For example, many corporate leaders, bankers and hedge fund managers use their freedom and wealth to buy favor with politicians. They then use a variety of legal tricks to “legally” steal money from ordinary Americans. They ship American jobs offshore. At the same time, they use their wealth to convince politicians to cut taxes. And for good measure, they often stash their money in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Faced with less revenue, our federal and state governments cut the funding of public schools and universities. The inevitable result is that our nation lags behind many others in terms of upward mobility.

Corporate-owned news media have used their freedom to boost ratings with propaganda. Instead of reporting on things that really matter, such as bringing transparency to our government, they focus on sensational trials and violent crimes – especially those involving people of color. The result is to create more fear leading to more segregation.

Following gains by the civil rights movement, some racists in the South resurrected the Confederate battle flag under the guise of celebrating history. To the descendants of slaves, this was an obvious show of power intended to keep them in “their place.” At the same time, a small portion of our citizens have stockpiled weaponry with the express purpose of intimidating their neighbors and threatening the government to which they pledge allegiance. (Does the name Cliven Bundy ring a bell?)

Freedom, then – at least in the US – is relative. For some in the US, there is too little. For others, there is too much.

Some excuse such things by claiming that freedom is, by its very nature, noisy and messy. However, Germany is free. As a matter of fact, it currently ranks 6 places ahead of the US. Yet in Germany, it is illegal to display the Nazi flag. That may restrict the freedom of some, but it shows a clear sense of responsibility and a compassion for those harmed by Hitler’s regime.

Maybe it’s time the US embraced such values. Even after 239 years, we can still learn and improve our nation. We should understand that with great freedom comes great responsibility – that in a nation of more than 330 million, you cannot do everything you want without infringing on someone else’s freedom. That’s where responsibilities and regulations come into play. As well-educated men of means who celebrated enlightenment, I believe the Founding Fathers assumed our citizens would understand that concept.

Unfortunately, too many don’t.