San Diego Rotary recently featured a program on human trafficking, which The City Club of San Diego joined in sponsoring (but it was a Rotary driven event).
The City Club did so for two reasons:
First, because human trafficking is a great evil and it is thought that as many as eight thousand women in San Diego are its victims; and, secondly, because Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), under the leadership of Dr. Jaime Gates and Kim Berry Jones, is at the center of efforts to shine light in this darkness. (You should know about their wonderful program, “Beauty for Ashes”, which helps women escape from human bondage. Their web site is: www.pointloma.edu/cir.)
But the program on human trafficking is not my focus, but was occasioned by my being at Rotary, and I needed here to establish that connection.
When Rotary ended I stayed around to visit with friends not seen for a while, including former Mayor Dick Murphy, a personal favorite of mine.
But the longer conversation I had that early afternoon was with a San Diego business leader, whose company is remarkably successful. The gentleman, for whom I have genuine affection, as he is immensely likeable, wanted to share his concern that I have been too hard on Donald Trump.
He said, “People like and respect you, but I think you hurt yourself by your Facebook posting on Trump.”
My friend doesn’t like Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State, but thinks Trump is credible because he enjoyed great success in business, wrote a best-selling book, had a hit television show, and has wonderful children, who appear to love their dad.
He admitted Trump can be over-the-top in his behavior, bullying, rude, condescending, arrogant, and ignorant about many issues. But he said he believes that can be fixed, once Trump is elected president.
When I raised the question about Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience, my friend said that was not a worry because Trump would surround himself with the “best people,” and cited a list of former generals and admirals supporting Trump, which had impressed him.
To say I was surprised by this conversation, would be an understatement, that a person like my friend, a San Diego business leader, a pillar of the Republican Party, would be a Trump supporter. It defies my comprehension.
But then I think of my church, where one of our most important members, a trustee, and lay leader, is also a Trump backer.
I do not know if my business friend is a person of faith, but I know our trustee is, that he confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, as do I, but between our common confession and his support for Trump, there is a very great divide.
Earlier this year I was at Duke Seminary in Raleigh-Durham, and following a colloquy attended by students, I was asked by a seminarian from Texas what I thought of Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump?
I told him Cruz was the most disliked member of the U.S. Senate in its 227-year history and that Trump is evil.
“Evil” is a word I seldom invoke. I believe I understand its meaning, theologically, historically, and morally. But I believe if you invoke it you should mean it – and I meant it when I said I believe Trump is evil.
By which I mean that words have consequences and the consequences of Trump’s candidacy will result in evil being done – because of his insulting, among others, the 1.6 billion Muslims in our world; meaning, insulting 23 percent of the world’s population.
Since that January day at Duke, there have been terrorist attacks in Brussels, Nice, Orlando, New York, and in more than 100 other places in the world. Terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim extremists; and while it would be wrong to accuse Trump’s anti-Muslin rhetoric as the cause of such evil and the resulting terror and deaths, neither can it be arbitrarily dismissed, as words have consequences (see Adolf Hitler) – especially when you insult people’s religion, their way of life, their values.
Rollo Romig in The New Yorker, wrote recently on evil:
“…attempts to understand evil fell into three main strains: Hegel tried to explain evils as necessary steps in the march of history; Nietzsche argued that evil is a problem we brought on ourselves, by inventing moral categories that don’t reflect the ways of the natural world; while a third view insisted that evil was a clear moral category of its own…”
As a Christian I reject the first two categories, but believe the third – evil is a “clear moral category of its own.”
And I define it as embracing conduct that is disrespectful of others, dismissive of those who do not look like you, demeaning of those who do not think like you, and damning of those whose religious beliefs differ from you.
You cannot listen to Donald Trump, as I have listened to him virtually every day since June of 2015 (thank you, MSNBC), and ignore, not the hidden meaning of what he says, but his frequent assaults upon common decency and the disrespect he evidences for our democracy, for the rights, opinions, lifestyles, and competence of others.
But, as it relates to my businessman friend, that even if I forgave Trump his tear down of our civil order, which seems unrelenting, there is one matter for which I can never forgive him – that he is the Father of the Birther Movement; that he, more than any other, lent his influence to a blatantly racist appeal to deny Barack Obama legitimate standing as president of the United States; that he did so by insisting Mr. Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii; that the whole of that insidious campaign was motivated by one reason, and only one – because Barack Obama is a black man.
After five years of leading the birthers, of telling David Letterman on the “Late Show,” he had sent “investigators” to Hawaii to prove the president hadn’t been born in Honolulu, trump, under pressure from his campaign advisors, conceded President Obama was an American citizen, had been born in the USA; but then said, astoundingly, he wasn’t the one who started the rumors, it was Hillary Clinton – and then repeated that utterly baseless lie in the first of the presidential debates.
To attack people because of the color of their skin or because of their religion or their sexuality, directly or by innuendo, is to commit a moral wrong – and constitutes an act of evil.
Is there anything nice I can say about Trump?
He is the most entertaining candidate who’s ever run for president of the United States. The man is great theater – but we’re not electing an entertainer.
Finally, the 20th Century gave us Joe McCarthy; the 21st, Donald Trump. I will let you decide who did more to damage America – the anti-Communist crusader from Wisconsin or the anti-Muslim/Mexican crusader from Manhattan.
The decision is yours, November 8.
George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader and may be reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org.