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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Even after his death, the words of Michael Gerson continue to warn us about the dangers of Trump

We lost conservative columnist Michael Gerson to cancer last year, but his warnings and on point observations on the dangers posed by Donald John Trump should continue to warn us.
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Post columnist Michael Gerson at the 2014 Faith Angle Forum with colleague Karen Tumulty seated to his right.
(Faith Angle Forum)

Micheal Gerson was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a conservative columnist for The Washington Post, where he wrote many a ode to the dangers of ego, criminality and fraud in failed presidents like Donald John Trump.

He recognized early on that Trump was an outright racist who used that sad trait to bolster his cultlike base.

“Racism is the fire that left our country horribly disfigured,” Gerson wrote. “It is the beast we try to keep locked in the basement. When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020. It is a cause for shame.”

He adds:

What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.

Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.

This is the U.S. president as a loud, bigoted drunk at the end of the bar, making it impossible for anyone else to talk or eat in peace.

–Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

Gerson also sees how racism is embedded with us from an early age:

By the time I was growing up in the 1970s, St. Louis no longer had legal segregation. But my suburb, my neighborhood and my private high school were all outcomes of White flight. The systems of policing, zoning and education I grew up with had been created to ensure one result: to keep certain communities safe, orderly and pale.

I had little hint of this as a child. It seemed natural that I hardly ever met a person of color in a racially diverse city or seldom met a poor person in a place with some of the worst poverty in the country. All I knew was that I shouldn’t get lost in certain neighborhoods or invite Black people to the private pool where we were members. (My brother did once, and there was suddenly a problem with processing our membership card.)

But none of this was neutral or normal. Systems had been carefully created to ensure I went to an all-White church, in an all-White neighborhood, while attending an all-White Christian school and shopping in all-White stores. I now realize I grew up in one of the most segregated cities in the United States.

–Michael Gerson – Washington Post

I met Michael when he worked for the George W. Bush White House. I knew his conservative, religious confictions ran deep and I asked how he could square that with the hyprocrisy I saw of Bush’s hypocritical dishonesty in this use of lies about weapons that did not exist in Iraq.

He admitted unease over that problem but said he felt Bush was honest in his desire to help the nation deal with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which — for a while — seemed to unify a divided nation.

“The President put the natiion’s needs first,” he said. “We needed that in a difficult time.”

But Bush let him down and we saw that after Gerson left working for politicians and used his talens at the Post to focus on the hypocrities of the far-right extremists that took over the Republican Party and the deranged Trump.

He wrote:

The deeper scandal is this: Trump is trying to make desperate, suffering people the villains of our national story. He compares refugees fleeing repression and violence to snakes. He smears them as rapists and invaders . In his warped moral vision, mercy is a form of national weakness. Kindness and respect are crimes against the state. His approach to nationalism involves slander against the voiceless. It demands further oppression of the oppressed. Trump wants to change not just the policy of our government, but also the character of our country, into something hard, and dark, and dishonorable, and pitiless.

–Michael Gerson in The Washington Post

Michael died at age 58 in November of last year after a long battle with cancer, but his words lives on at a desperate time in America’s life. Karen Tumulty of the Post notes “one of the biblical injunctions sometimes cited by Michael Gerson comes from the New Testament book of Colossians: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

She adds:

That advice works not only for Christian believers such as he was, but also in the sometimes brutal political world in which he made his mark. He was a presidential speechwriter whose own words were, indeed, singularly seasoned and notably full of grace. For the past 15 years, he enriched the pages of this newspaper as a columnist for the Opinions section.

Nor should it be mistaken for a lack of principles or perspective. His own were rooted in the faith that fueled and defined his involvement with politics, and he was scorching in his assessment of his fellow evangelicals when theirs took what he saw as a more cynical turn. In a September essay, he wrote these supposedly conservative Christians “have broadly chosen the company of Trump supporters who deny any role for character in politics and define any useful villainy as virtue. In the place of integrity, the Trump movement has elevated a warped kind of authenticity — the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive bigotry.”

“This,” Mike wrote, “is inconsistent with Christianity by any orthodox measure.”

–Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Amen. How in the hell can a warped, criminal, pathetic man like Trump become leader of a nation of free world? It’s happened too much because people let religious leaders who sustitutte theior own personal biases for faith misuse religion to promote hate instead of love and war instead of peasce.

Tumulty gives a good example from a religious forum trying to discuss peace and conflict in the Middle East:

Mike and I were colleagues and friends whose paths crossed pretty regularly. One place we spent time together was at semiannual conferences in Florida known as the Faith Angle Forum, where people gather to discuss religion and politics.

It was during one of those meetings in 2014 that, for the first and only time, I saw Mike get angry — really angry.

I was seated next to him for a session on religious conflict and the future of the Middle East, in which one of the speakers was Elliott Abrams, a fellow George W. Bush White House veteran who had served as deputy national security adviser for Middle East policy.

“It used to annoy me enormously when President Bush, for whom I was working, would say Islam is a religion of peace,” Abrams said, “because the real response to that is ‘Where is your theology degree from?’ “

As Abrams continued along those lines — at one point claiming the “average American” was justified in thinking “this is crap … because all these people who are doing beheadings are Muslims” — I could feel Mike grow tense in the chair next to me. He waited his turn to be called upon, and then he confronted his former colleague.

“We praise Islam, and every president from now on will praise Islam on religious holidays because there are millions of peaceful citizens who hold this view,” Mike said. “It’s also a theologically sophisticated view, as opposed to what you’re arguing … every tradition, religious tradition, has forces of tribalism and violence in its history, background, of theology, and every religious tradition has resources of respect for the other.”

He added: “That is a great American tradition that we’ve done with every religious tradition that comes to the United States, included them as part of a national enterprise and praised them for their strongly held religious views and emphasized those portions that are most compatible with those ideals.”

–Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

Gerson was a man of faith who also reported on what happens in tihis world as a professional journalist. He recognized early on that truth can overcome bias and tolerance should supplant bigotry and hate.

Like most Americans, he never bought into the con, the fraud and the cirminality of Donald Trump.


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1 thought on “Even after his death, the words of Michael Gerson continue to warn us about the dangers of Trump”

  1. He was also distinctly full of sh*t.

    ““The President put the natiion’s needs first,” he said.“The President put the natiion’s needs first,” he said.”

    No, the President did not. The President gave full open season to the war-mongers and the foreign war machine to trample over not only the innocent Iraqis but also the innocent Americans who got caught up in his ‘war on terror’.

    Mr. Gerson may have been a perfectly nice person, and mostly correct in his opinions. But in that one he was most spectacularly wrong, and thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent other people were murdered by the orders of the person he’s apologizing for.

    I don’t care if you knew him as a ‘man of faith’. Faith in what? Mass murder?
    I don’t care if you knew him as a professional journalist – he apologized for George W. Bush.

    That he was right about Mr. Trump I score as ‘too little, too late’. May he rot in hell.

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