No Patriot Belongs on the Sidelines

12.11.15

No Patriot Belongs on the Sidelines

12.11.15
Gage Skidmore

Trump. Carson. Cruz.

Racism. Xenophobia. Misogyny. Unbridled bigotry. A wholehearted repudiation of American values.

American politics today has become the piece of absurd theater that Samuel Beckett never wrote because the prevailing discourse is just too thoughtless. It would be nice if George Orwell could weigh in right about now. Salvador Dalí probably could have captured this surreal political moment well.

What’s essential now is to hope and fight and do everything possible to ensure that what we’re currently witnessing in Republican politics is ephemeral and not the beginning of a more pronounced period of intolerance.

The Neanderthal wing of the Republican Party is currently running the show. When any friend of mine who isn’t from the U.S. asks me to explain the current state of American politics, I immediately begin to feel uncomfortable and emotional — like there are thoughts in my mind and feelings in my heart that just have to come out. Because I love my country and America is so much better than this!

Recently someone based in Sri Lanka posed the following question to me via Twitter: “You reckon Trump will secure Republican nomination being this polarizing?”

The short answer is that Trump securing the nomination remains unlikely, but if he were to take Iowa or New Hampshire then, quite literally, anything is possible. It would have been great if Trump’s poll numbers were declining. It looks like voters may be waking up to the obvious reality that Ben Carson would be a disaster as president, yet they’ve not begun to draw similar conclusions about Trump.

It’s hard to speak about U.S. global leadership when a significant part of one political party embraces a vision that is bereft of both strategy and morality. If Neanderthals keep driving the debate, it’s hard to see how the Republican Party can continue to exist in its current form.

Last night I was picking up a couple basic items at a store in Takoma Park, Maryland. Based on previous conversations, I knew that the owners of the store were from Ethiopia. The gentleman with whom I usually spoke was outside of the shop talking to someone, so when it was time for me to pay, I ended up meeting his wife.

“You are from Ethiopia too, right?”

“Yes,” she told me.

“Well…I just wanted you to know that…when people like Donald Trump speak…that’s not the majority…I’m happy that people from Ethiopia are living here. Americans want people from other countries to live here; please don’t listen to people like Trump.”

“Thank you. I know,” she told me.

She went on to tell me that her family has been living in the U.S. for sixteen years. She went on to tell me that when the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting took place, she was really sad for the victims and their families. She told me that she has a child who was around the age of the students who were killed.

“It was good speaking with you. See you next time,” I told her.

The look on her face, that smile, said more than words ever could.

The only way to defeat the scourge of bigotry is to confront it head on. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tells us “If you see something, say something.” This isn’t bad advice, but why not look at those words outside of a national security prism? Indeed, the overlooked war within the U.S. remains ongoing; it’s a battle of ideas, ideals, values, vision, and more.

“If you see something, say something.”

If you hear someone supporting Trump’s un-American views, why not say something? If you see bigotry or racism firsthand, why not say something? If your friends or colleagues aren’t sure where you stand on issues that you feel really matter, why not say something? If the racism and the xenophobia and the intolerance that now permeates American political discourse bothers you, why not say something?

Given the current state of affairs in the U.S., we can’t afford to have good people stay silent. We can’t afford to have thoughtful Americans looking the other way during these dark times.

America’s not a perfect place — far from it. However, the vision, ideals and values that have made the U.S. special are now coming under fire — from within. Let’s never forget that, irrespective of one’s political persuasion, there’s common ground to be found.
“If you see something, say something.”

Or, even better, do something.

We’ve entered an hour when no patriot belongs on the sidelines.

This article was originally posted in The Huffington Post.

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