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Guest column by Alex Kent: What is the price of your morality, Uncle Ralph?

  • President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Thursday, Jan. 9, in Toledo, Ohio. AP

Published: 1/13/2020 7:01:07 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 7:00:21 PM

Dear Uncle Ralph, For years, I’ve avoided talking politics with you. I know you voted for Trump in 2016, and I know you admire right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly.

But the other day when I called you I slipped and violated my own policy: “So, how do you like your boy in Washington these days? Any buyer’s remorse?” You chuckled and said, “Hmpf!” (shades of O’Reilly) “He’s the right man at the right time. Just look at the stock market! The record low unemployment rate!”

I trembled. I know there is little I can say that would make you see things another way, my way. The divide between us is deep. Maybe it can’t be bridged. But I can hope.

You take great pride in your Christian faith. In South Florida where you live, you’re a churchgoer and you sing in a church choir. You’re a member of an amateur singing group that visits nursing homes and hospitals to lift people’s spirits. You’ve always been respectful of my aunt’s culture, which is Jewish (even though she’s always been a non-practicing Jew). You are alert and opposed to anti-Semitism. I’m sure you’re a supporter of Israel. You’re loyal to the women in the family who have, reluctantly, exercised their right to reproductive choice.

I admire some of the things you’ve done in your life: You’ve loved and cared for my aunt for nearly 40 years. You’ve stood by her through numerous health challenges. I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy for you. With my aunt’s powerful take-no-prisoners business style and your own in-born sales ability, you worked to build a prosperous business. You’ve been a loving father to three children and a doting grandfather to a bunch of grandchildren. I’m sure you care about the kind of world you will leave to your family.

But I simply cannot understand your political position. How can an earnest Christian support a man who has violated every basic tenet of Judeo-Christian ethics and morality? By his own admission, Trump has been serially unfaithful to his several wives. He has, again by his own admission, engaged in behavior that is rightly called sexual assault against women. He has admitted that he was a mostly absent father who had little involvement in his children’s upbringing. He bullies people. He has lied about his net worth, inflating it to borrow money and deflating it for tax advantages. He has declared bankruptcy several times. 

All that before he managed, with Russian help, to become president. Since becoming president, Trump has demonstrated a disregard for the truth that is at odds with Christian morality. Even if the actual number of his untruths is not the 15,000 lies documented by reputable fact-checkers, surely Trump has set a new standard for lying in an American leader. Is that OK with you, Uncle Ralph? Do you esteem a compulsive liar? 

Under Trump’s leadership, America’s foreign policy is broken, our alliances in tatters. Now the U.S. stands on the brink of another unnecessary war in the Middle East after the assassination of a senior leader of a sovereign state. This war, should it happen, will result in tens or hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

America no longer has a policy that confronts climate change as the effects of climate change are everywhere to be seen. Every federal agency is shaken to the core. The federal judiciary is increasingly staffed by partisan and often rankly unqualified judges. And our next general election will be just as surely tampered with to Trump’s advantage by a hostile foreign power as it was in 2016. Donald Trump has brought nothing but shame to the United States.

As you know, I despise Donald Trump and all that he stands for. Perhaps what you don’t know is that I believe in our two-party system. I believe it is important to have a legitimate conservative party on the right as a counterbalance to a more progressive party on the left. But the GOP is no longer a conservative party; it has mutated into a radical far-right movement, increasingly focused on the politics of distortion, rage and division.

Is this all OK with you, Uncle Ralph? Or do you side with a recent Gazette letter writer who argued that those who dislike Trump should in fact be grateful to him for helping increase the value of their 401K’s. Uncle Ralph: Is that the price of your morality? The gain in a retirement account? Would you sell everything, the very world your grandchildren will inherit, so cheaply?

You see, Uncle Ralph, I can’t talk to Donald Trump. But you’re part of my family and I can have a conversation with you. I need to ask you these questions and challenge you to live up to the high values you profess. I want to understand you.

But I’ll level with you, Uncle Ralph: I do hope you’ll change your mind.

Alex Kent lives in Amherst.


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