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THOMPSON: Trump continues to prove he is unfit to lead America

June 12, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


There is real danger in falling in love with your own view of things. This is especially true when that love of viewpoint reaches crowd proportions. Millions of Americans fell in love with Donald Trump's views...views that turned out as perverse as they seemed to millions of other Americans who didn't vote for him.

A lot of us tried to warn against Trump becoming president. Those of us who knew him, knew very well, that he was woefully unfit for the job. But too many people didn't listen to the cautions - preferring instead the hyperbole of a man with more complaints than solutions - and voted for him anyway.

What, you ask, makes those of us who hated the idea of a Trump presidency any different than his supporters? Aren't we just as guilty of falling in love with our own view of things. Yes, we are. The difference lies, of course, between facts and, well, alternative facts. But to understand how we got to this point requires some questions...and a sense of history.

Everyone from political pundits and cultural commentators to comedians have taken cracks at explaining why so many Americans voted for Trump...and largely support him even today. The so-called experts have laid racism, sexism, ignorance, nationalism, Islamophobia and economic determination - among dozens of reasons - at the feet of the electorate. There's some truth in almost all these reasons.

But in my mind there has to be some over-arching reason - the French call it the raison d'être - to explain why people believe Trump is the solution to any problem. There was, indeed, a confluence of reasons contributing to what I believe will result in the greatest American political debacle ever. But one reason stands out.

A deep cultural divide exists in America - transcending racism and sexism and nationalism - and it has been around as long as America. It is values...a complex concept to be sure. It is myth that a single set of values defines America. Nonsense. Not even early on - 240 years ago - when people coming to America came from diverse cultures and countries. About the only thing they shared was a fear of where they left...and the right to have certain freedoms.

Historically, people with separate but equal American values have found homes in two political parties for most of the past century...Republicans and Democrats. Today, however, more Americans identify themselves as Independents than either Democrats or Republicans...further blurring the lines marking vast differences in a nation of 321 million people.

I always cringe a little when I hear people talk about their values. Usually it's as if they somehow possess something more noble that those who hold opposing views...or values. Most people believe if not say, "My values trump your values." Pun intended. But, as you would expect, there are both good and bad people in America...and they populate the Left and Right...Republican, Democrat and Independent...every shade of skin colour and every religion and even the absence of faith.

The determining factor in this big divide falls between those who believe in facts and those who believe in alternative facts. Facts are truths...the essence of freedom...not just in America, but everywhere. The term alternative facts - coined earlier this year by Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to President Trump - has existed in practice if not name for some time. It has reared its ugly head in politics every decade of my life in both Republican and Democratic administrations. An alternative fact is, of course, nothing more than a lie...that usually becomes a series of lies. But it is the "Big Lie" that gives birth to all those that follow.

Some events hastened a divisive America. So-called Talk Radio started way back in the 1920s with Aimee Semple McPherson, but alternative facts gained a real toehold in the 1990s with Rush Limbaugh. The conservative political commentator's opinions are - even today - more often than not rooted in pants-on-fire lies. He is to alternative facts what the Guadalajara Cartel was to illegal drugs. Last year - during the presidential campaign - he even cautioned his listeners that there is no such thing as fact checking.

Talk Radio has both Conservative and Liberal commentators...but the former far outnumber the latter. Alternative facts also found a home with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel in 1996. By 2002, the America public's appetite for alternative facts pushed Fox News Channel's ratings above CNN's...though there has been some significant claw-back of late. Truth, it's seems, is indigestible for many Americans.

But independent, non-partisan organizations - Politifact, factcheck.org and the Washington Post's Fact Checker - have proven time and time again that Fox News Channel is most-likely-to-succeed when it comes to lying. Fox News Channel, predictably, calls all three organizations, "fake news."

Alternative facts and fake news are fuelled, of course, by incredible public ignorance. Today, Americans live in two separate planes that do not - and will likely never - intersect. I'm unsure what most Trump supporters would have to see and hear to make them believe something beyond the lies and propaganda coming from the White House since Jan. 20.

Otherwise, explain how Trump supporters - like Trump himself - can look at something as undeniably true and factual as photos of a smaller crowd at his own inauguration and claim it's bigger than his predecessor's? The argument isn't about mere crowd size. There are far too many more important issues. But facts are facts. Evidence is evidence. If you lie about something as ridiculously stupid and easy to disprove as crowd size...what won't you lie about?

Americans have a choice...and it must come sooner than later if America's future will ever shine as brightly as it has in its past. Are millions of Americans so insecure - so maladjusted - that they believe only what fits their pre-existing views? Facts be damned? Truth doesn't count?  There seems a prevailing attitude among alternate-fact fans of dare prove me wrong...and I'll still spit in your face and call YOU the liar!

I'm gregarious and engage people at most every opportunity. I like to discuss issues, but increasingly, I find many people don't even know the issues...whether healthcare or taxes or global warming. Rather, they parrot what they hear on Talk Radio and cables news. Even worse, they repeat alternate facts that a friend shared with them...often thinking these are true. Often alternate-facts folks make bold statements with such conviction that you might think it true - like President Trump - but what they say rarely resembles fact or truth.

Donald Trump has proven himself - in record time - unfit to lead America. He ran a family business...not even all that well. Quite frankly, he could never lead a publicly traded company. I hope he will resign or be impeached and let America heal from his self-inflicted wounds. Trump - like a hand withdrawn from a bucket of water - will never be missed. America simply deserves better.

The question is what will happen to those Americans too ignorant and too lazy to search for truth? Seriously, there are so many completely ignorant - almost illiterate - Americans that I wonder if the nation can ever get back on track. I'm not as optimistic in my late-60s as I used to be as a young man.

The only hope is that more citizens become more active. That means getting smarter. Pay attention to government at every level...local, state and national. Also, it means we have to understand that facts are facts...truths. There are no versions of facts...or versions of truth. Registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents need to listen to more than one news outlet.

When you hear something ridiculous and inaccurate...call the perpetrators on the carpet. But you have to be smart enough to know it's a lie. Don't fact check on the same website you get your news. Use Politifact, factcheck.org and the Washington Post's Fact Checker. It's long past time more Americans got smart.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan so clearly stated: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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