A group of leaders from the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, which is officially an Episcopal Church, have written an open letter absolutely hammering Trump for his racism and encouragement of white supremacism. Since this is the cathedral that hosts so many major national events, their criticisms carry a bit more weight than most such statements.
As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?
As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
That was U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, when he confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience, effectively ending McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.
In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole. Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?…
Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.
These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.
It goes on at great lengths and I could not agree more. The ascendance of Trump says much more about America as a country than it does about him. We are seeing the worst parts of humanity — xenophobia, bigotry, racism, cruelty — come out and dominate our political system the way it has during previous periods in our history. And it isn’t just those who actively support Trump who are the problem, it’s those who stay silent in the face of the growing fascist threat, who blithely accept it with a “well every president lies” shrug, or who let it continue out of political calculation (I’m looking at you, Congressional Republicans who privately express your misgivings about Trump but still protect him) who allow it to continue.
History will judge us and only those of us who actively resist the current reality who will look good. I hope. My worst fear is that this is not the temporary outbreak of reactionary thinking that took place with the John Birch Society in the 60s, the pro-Nazi rallies in the 30s or the Know Nothings in the mid-1800s, but is rather a permanent change to our basic nature as a country. I don’t see how we put this genie back in the bottle, but I suspect I would have said the same thing during those earlier days. I just know that if we fail to do so, my country will be lost forever.