Email #254: “staying silent”?

The list of GOP politicians condemning the President grows daily.

Senator Corker: “I do think there needs to be radical changes. The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful. Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance, our nation to overcome the many issues we have to deal with right now.”

Senator Scott: “I’m not going to defend the indefensible … comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”

Even his daughter and son-in-law’s rabbi is condemning the President. Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein wrote to his congregation: “We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right. While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”

More businesses are expressing condemnation of the President too. Yesterday three fundraisers cancelled galas at the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. The American Cancer Society said: “Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community. It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.”

The Cleveland Clinic and the American Friends of Magen David Adom cancelled events on Thursday too. This is in addition to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and at least four other organizations that already refused to hold events at the President’s resort. The head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce called Mar-a-Lago “morally reprehensible” on Thursday and predicted even more charities would follow.

But the President does have his supporters. His lawyer, John Dowd, forwarded an email by Jerome Almon, a conspiracy theorist who alleges that the FBI has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists and that Black Lives Matters is a terrorist organization. The email is titled “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” and argues: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington, there literally is no difference between the two men.”

President Trump’s Virginia campaign chair Corey Stewart also supports him: “The president is absolutely right. After they get done removing statues to Confederate generals because, arguably, they fought to preserve the institution of slavery, they are going right after slave owners, including the founders — Jefferson, Madison, Washington — and when you undermine the founding fathers, you undermine the founding documents, namely the Constitution of the United States.”

And of course white supremacists are pleased by the President’s attempt to blame the “alt-left” for the violence in Charlottesville too. The Grand Dragon of North Carolina’s Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan shares the President’s view that counter protestors were in the wrong: “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit, and I’m glad that girl died. To me, they were a bunch of communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all.”

Will you join your fellow Republicans in condemning President Trump, or will you remain silent and tacitly validate the views of people like Stewart, Almon, and the KKK? Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said it best on Wednesday: “I think in learning history, that we know that staying silent on these issues is simply not acceptable. It is a dishonor to our country’s veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.”

Or you can maintain the hypocrisy of his staff who admitted that the President’s Tuesday press conference was not an aberration but was an accurate expression of his long-held opinions. The New York Times reported: “Members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private… In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference. Aides said he seemed to bask afterward in his remarks, and viewed them as the latest retort to the political establishment that he sees as trying to tame his impulses.”

Do you also feel liberated by the President’s remarks? Are you basking in his retort? I would like to believe you are a significantly better human being than that, but your silence shouts otherwise. Until this week, you have had the political convenience of willed ignorance, but now you and all the world understand who Donald Trump is. It is time for you to speak up and challenge the fascist sympathizer in the White House.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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