A Question for Donald Trump

Clark R. Clipson, Ph.D.

© 2017

I had a dream the other night. I was attending some sort of formal occasion, like an inauguration, in which President Trump was going to be speaking. Thousands of people were there, and the event was being broadcast all over the world. Several people from the audience, including me, were chosen at random to ask questions of Mr. Trump after his speech. As we were being led to an area to the side of the podium where he was going to speak, we were briefed and searched by Secret Service agents. I looked back at my wife in the audience, saying with our eyes that we were incredulous I was selected.

Then I began to panic: what was I going to ask him?

After all, this was my big chance. I had one opportunity to ask Donald Trump a question in front of the world, and I needed to make the most of it. Ideas flooded my mind, but each seemed unworthy of the occasion. They might be fine if I could ask lots of questions, but I could ask only one. What was it going to be?

Then it struck me. I knew what I wanted to ask. And this was it:

History is full of conflicts and wars fought by people of different religions, races, and social classes. Over time, some people have sought to overcome these divisions to find common ground in larger, truly important struggles, such as a common need for health, to have enough food, to live in harmony with their environment, to have the opportunity to learn, and the chance to pursue their dreams. My question to you: why do you consistently take positions that favor one religious tradition, one race, one gender, and one social class over the others, sowing division instead of unity, and hate and mistrust over love and peace?

I woke from my dream and ran downstairs to write down the question before I forgot it. I liked this question, even though I knew my chances of receiving an honest answer were, well, there was no chance.

I liked the question because I thought it captured what was happening before our eyes. Amid all the tweets, the rants, the White House drama — this was the essence of what is happening. Behind the claims of fake news, the secrecy, and the distractions, there is a deliberate course being charted during this first year of the Trump presidency. He says he’s looking out for the middle class struggling to make ends meet, for the coal miners whose industry is dying, for victims of natural disasters and gun violence, for women, and for people who are offended by NFL players using their position of celebrity to call attention to a pattern of police shootings involving Blacks. He says he’s got the backs of everyday, hard-working Americans for whom things have gotten tougher over recent years.

But what does President Trump really do? He tries to make us question people who are different from us — to make us think they may be terrorists, that they may commit crimes, that they will steal our jobs and take advantage of us through “bad deals” — and to make us think we need to be protected from them. He takes away safeguards designed to improve our environment, and fails to change laws to make it harder for one individual to kill dozens of people in a single incident. He says he wants to provide improved healthcare, more jobs, and financial security for all Americans. But his polices consistently favor one socioeconomic class, one racial group, one gender, and one religious tradition.

I understand why, if you are a member of one of these groups favored by Donald Trump, you would support him, or at least not speak out against him. People do not want to lose their power and their privilege, and they don’t like to question their beliefs. But we need to see the bigger picture. Power and privilege is fleeting. What is won can easily be lost, particularly when others are hurt by the winner. And the most enduring beliefs evolve in the face of increased knowledge and awareness.

President Trump is taking our country down a path many other leaders have followed throughout history. He consolidates his power and affirms the privilege of those like him through divisiveness, threats, and opportunism. Like those other leaders, he may succeed for a while, but his victory cannot be sustained. There are larger, more powerful forces at work, people who believe in unity more than division, in knowledge more than fear, and love more than hate. We succeed as a country when we have policies that are good for everyone, when science and justice drive those policies, and when business and government work together so that business succeeds while quality of life improves.

In my dream, I had one question for Donald Trump, but I think he and all other leaders should be asking four questions any time a law or governmental policy is proposed, or a judicial decision made.

Does the law, policy or decision promote love and tolerance?

Does it support or increase our freedom?

Is it based on what we know so far?

Is it as fair as it can be?

Unless these questions are addressed in every single step we take, we may end up in a nightmare at the end of the journey.

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