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On Trump: What is the word for ‘beyond appalled’?

Donald Trump in Scotland
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media June 25, 2016, on the golf course at his Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri

I hereby announce a reader contest to select or create the most fitting word to describe the appropriate reaction to Donald Trump’s most recent campaign outrages.

The offenses against common decency come rolling off Mr. Trump’s tongue so fast and furious that it is hard to keep up. The two that I have in mind from this week are the “Second Amendment People” comment and the “Obama founded ISIS” line from Wednesday night.

They join a long list of statements from the cesspool that individually would rank among the most offensive things ever said in a United States political campaign, and together should disqualify this particular person from even being considered for public office.

Personally, I consider both to at least come close to being incitements to political violence against specific human beings, which probably makes them worse than prior award-winning offenses, such as the Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists comments from last July and the war heroes who were not captured line about John McCain, but really, all are very, very deeply offensive.

In covering a normal political campaign, a religion-ethics blogger like me might be able to focus on the disputed social-cultural-ethical issues at play in the election, like, say, abortion, gay rights, or the death penalty. Or perhaps we could talk about the faith perspectives of the two candidates and how these shape their policies. All standard fare.

But in this election, the overriding, overwhelming, overarching story is how one of the two major political parties gave us a candidate who says the things that this one says on an almost daily basis. The offenses are so genuinely shocking that they crowd out the capacity of most of us to do anything other than respond to them — or to cover our heads with our pillows and try to drown out the noise.

I have vacillated between attempting to respond and attempting to cover my head with my pillow.

In a sense, everything I really want to say about Mr. Trump was said in a lengthy joint statement that I helped draft and was released around May 1. Here it is again. It’s named “Called to Resist Bigotry,” and the list of evidences cited there has only lengthened in the last one hundred days.

After a while, saying it again, and again, and again, seems almost to be complicit with Mr. Trump in the debasing of our public life. It would be like watching pornography over and over again and writing column after column about how debasing it is. I hope that this is my last Trump column, as I am sure some of my readers do as well.

I wish that Donald Trump would be disciplined enough or decent enough to allow us to debate some of the interesting and important issues that at one point he raised during his campaign. Trade, the erosion of America’s manufacturing base, the perception of American weakness abroad, even the way he is recasting LGBT issues in the GOP context — these are all worthy things to talk about.

And I wish that he would allow his own party and campaign breathing room to focus on the problems present in the Hillary Clinton candidacy.

Because yes, there is much to criticize in the long public life of Hillary Clinton, and certainly many particular policy issues one could take up. She was not my first choice for president this year, and I was sufficiently troubled that if the GOP had nominated a normal candidate I might well have voted for him or her. I was hoping for O’Malley vs. Kasich, if you’d really like to know.

But that is not what happened. We got Hillary versus this version of Donald Trump, who we once thought was just kind of a brash and funny businessman and reality TV star. It turned out that we got a man whose character has interacted with the hottest national spotlight in a way that has badly damaged both himself and all of us.

Grief seems a more appropriate response than anything else.

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David Gushee

22 Comments

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  • “””I hope that this is my last Trump column, as I am sure some of my readers do as well.”””

    Agree, it is time to just turn our backs to him.

    “””Trade, the erosion of America’s manufacturing base, the perception of American weakness abroad,…”””

    What bugs me here is that we always talk from the presumption that the claims are true; rather than first evaluating the claim and having the discussion from the evidence/data. THE DATA is that the manufacturing sector of the American economy is **growing**, and has been for years, and that by $$$ value we manufacture more than anywhere else in the world [including China]. Manufacturing has not eroded – manufacturing has changed. That is just one example of how these conversations have become decoupled from reality – regardless of party. We cannot help people by creating good policy unless we first talk about the real world; but we as a nation seem too fevered and touchy for that to happen.

    “””We got Hillary versus this version of Donald Trump,”””

    It is possible to view this contest as an election of The Coasts vs. The Midlands. It makes sense from that perspective. Not that that makes it any more pleasant.

  • I don’t know if Obama founded ISIS, but he DID promise to destroy ISIS. Just another broken Obama promise, to add to the 8-year pile.

    Let’s send the man a little reminder that broken promises “have consequences”, to borrow a phrase of his. Vote TRUMP !!

  • Tony Blair claimed he, Bush and Cheney were responsible for ISIS, but I’m sure Trump knows more about it.

  • Trump keeps the debate in the public domain where it belongs and keeps it out of the sacred realm of progressive commentators and ‘news’ heads. He speaks a language we aren’t used to in in the sanitized world of ‘political correctness’ and sentimental liberal social activism.

    So many like you are ‘appalled’ because the discourse has taken a turn that is outside the long-standing and effete political structures that have shaped American politics for too long. Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of all that is worst in those structures and is the inevitable result of them.

    Donald Trump has come to speak sacrilege into the temple of political and social progressive religion, and its high priests don’t know what to do with him.

  • Oh, is “effete” what we’re calling it when candidates don’t call for the assassination of their opponents, mock the handicapped, attack Gold Star parents, attack firefighters for doing their jobs, bar babies for crying, insinuate their opponents are members of a cult, consider women’s normal body functions to be “disgusting,” etc.? Seriously, effete’s a pretty funny word to be used by supporters of a candidate with a tiny penis (and who, many people are saying, contributes to NAMBLA).

  • I read a lot more than that, sweetheart. Is anything that I said untrue, or is that just another “gotcha question from the lamestream media”?

  • “He speaks a language we aren’t used to in in the sanitized world of
    ‘political correctness’ and sentimental liberal social activism.”

    Yes, he is more forthcoming about appealing to bigotry than the usual “dogwhistle” approaches of seasoned politicians. This is not something to be proud of. All it means is his voter base are just terrible people who just want to be pretend expressing their prejudices is “political discourse” and not really just acting like a d-bag.

  • How’s this for “appalling?”

    Main Entry: appalling
    Part of Speech: adjective
    Definition: horrifying
    Synonyms: alarming, astounding, awful, bad, daunting, dire, disheartening, dismaying, dreadful, fearful, formidable, frightening, frightful, ghastly, grim, grody, gross*, harrowing, heavy*, hideous, horrible, horrid, horrific, intimidating, mean, petrifying, scaring, shocking, terrible, terrifying, the end, unnerving
    Antonyms: comforting, encouraging, reassuring, satisfying

    My favorites for trump are “harrowing, dreadful, ghastly, hideous.” He is all of those things, and worse.

  • The true story of this election cycle is not Donald Trump, it’s you!

    Every election has its dull, egotistical, authoritarian candidates who are quickly dismissed, and consigned to the political fringe. There is nothing particularly interesting about the star of Celebrity Apprentice; he’s a twenty-first century P.T. Barnum.

    No, the interesting thing here is you. Trump’s convictions are only that of a showman and he has found the freakishly vile words that keep you coming back.

  • I’d just like to see David Gushee write a commentary wherein he does not wet himself.

  • Exactly. Watching the right-wing spin is like the “car races” we used to have in the back seats as kids. We were in a car race with all the other cars on the road. (There were no cell phones, just good old imagination to entertain us.)

    We always won. Why? Because any car that passed was disqualified. This is the right-wing approach to “the media.” Any concept or idea they don’t want to deal with is just disqualified. Trump is a fourth grader with money, and if you got call that your kid was calling calling names, or claiming some kid stole his pencil when his pencil was *right there*, you’d be mad at your kid.

    But with Donald, it’s the media’s fault for daring to point out that he’s said things patently untrue, incredibly immature, or simply dangerous.

    I would be ashamed if my child behaved this way in public.

  • Here are the sorts of things I’d love to hear from a Christian ethicist commenting on the election.

    1) What is the witness from Christian history to similar moments? When a Roman ruler more obscene than the one before rose to power — are there writings that would shed light on how the early church saw itself, or responded emotionally? Of course they weren’t free to say what they thought publicly, but do we have any inkling then, or throughout history– how religious people responded to extreme public figures? I have a vague idea, but could always hear more, about the Christian response to the early stirrings of fascism in Germany.

    2) Grief, lament. . . is there anything interesting to say about what that might look like? Or is it just tsk-tsking over a beer?

    3) What happens when we are exhausted by bad news? Is there a right way to respond? Should we keep watching, or turn off the news, or check more infrequently? What should we watching for, internally, as this story drags on?

    4) What might be some imaginative ways to respond? Should we stay away from Trump rallies, or protest, or do something completely unexpected.

    5) Trump plays on fear. Lots of people, including Christians, are afraid. Of course we can just say, “don’t,” — but is there anything else that might be said about fear. What would a pacifist Christian or a Niehbuhrian Christians say are our options in the Middle East, or regarding terrorism?

    6) What if you are the sort of Christian who thinks abortion is the worst possible act (probably because you think it will cost more lives than poverty or war.) This is the reason you support Trump. Is there a response to you?

    I’m sure there are more possibilities to consider, but this is a list that quickly occurs to me.

  • Merriam-Webster: Effete: “lacking strength, courage, or spirit. : resembling a woman.”

    Perhaps you’ve said more than you wish to say about Trump and his supporters. They’ve bought into some myth about masculinity and are determined to live it.

  • My dear, forgive my relative illiteracy with respect to internet shorthand, what in the world does ROFL mean (Roll On the Floor Laughing)? In hindsight, my comment was too scatological, It would have been better to ask him to refrain from weeping in every article.

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