A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Trump: a bully who just needs a hug?

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Dec. 24, 25 or 26

As Donald Trump continues to dominate media that try to balance a fascination for celebrities with a duty to check facts claimed by public figures of all stripes, some critics of the GOP presidential frontrunner may recall 18th century novelist Oliver Goldsmith’s line, “The loud voice that spoke the empty mind.” But a more apt thought may come from the classic 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” (airing on Turner cable networks dozens of times this week).

Remember Ralphie noticing the neighborhood bully?

“Scut Farkus!” he thinks. “What a rotten name! We were trapped. There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!”

It’s unclear whether Trump has yellow eyes, but there’s an abundance of bile spewing forth, mixing fear, anger and hate in a nasty fruitcake of emotions.

Blaming the vulnerable or victims – from Syrian refugees to African-American youth – Trump scapegoats Mexicans, Muslims and maybe Mothers Against Drunk Driving – who knows? He advocates closing the Internet and uses violent rhetoric in endorsing torture and excusing followers who beat up opponents. He’s mocked a disabled reporter and also disabled conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. Drawing on a hyper-nationalism that boasts of militaristic solutions, he embraces vague compliments from Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, yet he scoffs at U.S. Sen. (and ex-POW) John McCain’s service.

Where’s that rage come from? He’s craved publicity for decades, but now he’s less a huckster than a schoolyard punk, a foul-if-flamboyant figure running roughshod over the commons.

Maybe someone needs a “time out,” or a calm voice saying, “Donald, son, it’ll be OK. It’s alright.”

After all, we have begun a Year of Mercy, according to the beloved Pope Francis, who said, “We have to put mercy before judgment. Let us abandon all fear and dread. Let us live the joy of encounter.”

Perhaps he feels dread knowing that he has support within the anxious segment of the Republican base but far less among Republicans in general and just 14 percent of U.S. voters overall. So maybe some comfort might ease the tension in the ground we all share.

Some stand up to the bully – from a distance. Republicans from Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham to Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney condemn Trump – from afar, like kids safely behind chain-link fences at a tough boy’s playground “kingdom.” And they’re hardly the only GOP opponents. George Will compared Trump’s ideas to Nazi Germany, and Iowa conservative talk-radio host Steve Deace commented, “If Obama proposed the same religion registry as Trump, every conservative in the country would call it what it is: creeping fascism.”

His browbeating divides Americans even as he diverts attention from real-world problems such as billionaires who get tax breaks, a Wall Street responsible for wrecking the economy yet getting bailed out and never prosecuted, and 1% power-broker who use cheap labor wherever they can exploit it.

Besides the Pope, another Christian clergyman, evangelical Protestant Jim Wallis, said, “From a religious perspective, Trump’s ‘strength’ is a falsehood. Arrogance, lies, greed, the will to power, and the manipulation of racial prejudice and xenophobia are not strengths to us, but are contrary to all of our faith traditions.

“It is not only racist, but also fascist,” he said.

Still, Trump arguably has had positive effects. He’s obviously united Republicans and Democrats in opposing his threatening thoughts; he’s turned the GOP platform on its head by promising to protect Social Security from privatization, raise taxes on the rich, and consider a single-payer health-care system like Canada’s; and he’s exposed the serious flaws in the way campaigns are funded and conducted and in Republicans’ 50-year-old “Southern Strategy.” (Trump’s supporters are dismissed as “working-class underachievers,” according to Republican consultant Frank Luntz.)

Finally, Trump’s sense of self seems like a clumsy cover for fretting about being unlovable.
Perhaps he needs reassurance – and we should avoid treating him as he would treat others.
Mercy might move mountains of nonsense.

Speaking of which, what about Trump’s “Mini Me,” Ted Cruz? He’s like Scut Frakus’ sneering sidekick:

“How about Grover Dill!” Ralphie says. “Farkus’s crummy little toadie. Mean! Rotten! His lips curled over his green teeth.”

C’mon, Ted: How about a hug?

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