When my father was a very little boy–I don’t remember how little, but I believe that his age was in the single digits–his parents decided to host some friends at their home in Tehran. My paternal grandfather, took the opportunity, during the gathering, to tell all of his friends about his very clever eldest son, and invited his friends to ask my father questions to test his intelligence and knowledge. They did so, and my father showed himself to be unusually bright for his age in answering the questions posed to him.
One guest, who doubtless felt threatened by the presence of a precociously bright boy, decided to utter a completely nonsense phrase to my father, filled with nonsense words. He then asked my father to decipher the meaning of the nonsense phrase, and smirked to the other guests after posing his allegedly Sphinx-like riddle. “At last,” the guest must have thought to himself, “the alleged tiny genius will have met his match!”
Properly unimpressed, my father replied with a Persian saying. “Javābeh ablehān khāmooshees.” “The proper answer to an idiot is silence.”
For speaking the truth about my grandparents’ dimwitted friend, my father was spanked by my grandfather, who later that evening visited my sulking father in his room and told him that although my father won that day’s game of Spot the Imbecile, it did not do to insult adults in public, and to their faces.
I have sought to absorb the advice of the Persian saying my father ironically violated by announcing out loud that he was following it. When confronted by dumb people, dumb statements and dumb actions, I have tried my best to remain silent–or at least to restrain my responses to “bless your heart” kinds of statements. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have failed disastrously in this endeavor, but I do swear to all of you that I am trying to be better.
But there are times when the proper answer to an idiot is not silence. Indeed, there are times when the proper answer to an idiot consists of loud, sustained, intelligent, unceasing, insistent, rage-rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light denunciations.
Donald Trump is such an idiot. And this is such a time.
Although Trump’s crimes against intelligence and decency are well known by now, it is worth repeating them yet again:
- Donald Trump idiotically claims that he will build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and claims that somehow, someway, he will get the Mexicans to pay for that wall. How any of this will happen is anyone’s guess; Trump has refused to give any details whatsoever as to how the wall will be built, and how Mexicans will somehow be convinced to pay for the wall. Additionally, Trump wants to forcibly deport 11 million illegal immigrants, a horrendous idea that would cause a humanitarian crisis of sickening proportions.
- Donald Trump has repeatedly and openly condoned violence at his rallies directed at protesters. Additionally, he has inspired and condoned violence away from his rallies, directed at the entirely innocent.
- Donald Trump wants to ban all travel of Muslims to the United States. Trump has also “said he was open to establishing a database for all Muslims living in the U.S.” Additionally, “Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN on Monday that the ban would apply not just to Muslim foreigners looking to immigrate to the U.S., but also to Muslims looking to visit the U.S. as tourists.”
- When presented with the opportunity to condemn David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan–it should be noted that Duke endorsed Trump, in a splendid example of birds of a feather flocking together–Trump initially failed to do so. Denouncing Duke and the KKK ought to be the easiest of calls and the no-braineriest of no-brainers, but Trump was not up to the task. At all. Trump claimed that he knew nothing about Duke and the KKK, but that claim was, and is garbage. No, seriously; complete garbage. This, alone, should disqualify Trump from the presidency.
- Donald Trump knows nothing about foreign policy, and when that fact is pointed out, his response is to attack in personal terms anyone who has the courage to state the fact.
- Indeed, Donald Trump is ignorant on all sorts of policy issues, and regularly flip-flops on the issues, because he has no core beliefs, and lacks the intelligence and education with which to form core beliefs.
- Donald Trump would order the American military to commit war crimes. Yes. You read that right: War crimes. When told at the most recent debate that the military would refuse to obey such orders, Trump’s response was to double-down and (surprise!) insult his critic. To be sure, Trump now pretends to have walked back his promise to order the American military to commit war crimes, but let’s not be fooled by his latest remarks on the subject.
- Donald Trump is a horrible excuse for a human being, who regularly spews vile and vulgar insults at anyone and everyone who has the temerity to disagree with him. To have this awful person-resembling-thing represent the United States of America would be utterly embarrassing and humiliating. A great nation deserves better than Donald Trump.
- As Mitt Romney points out, Donald Trump is a con man and a fraud. And I don’t care what you think about Mitt Romney. He is right:
Dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.
- Specific examples of Trump’s lies include Trump University and real estate deals with Trump’s name attached to them, among others.
- Trump claims that his alleged successes as a businessman qualify him to be president. In truth, Trump is a terrible businessman.
In short, there are a great many reasons to loudly and insistently denounce the idiot that is Donald Trump, the idiocy that is Trumpism, and the threat that Trump would pose if he were president. And it is worth noting that the threat Trump would pose to Western civilization itself is nothing short of existential. Anne Applebaum:
Back in the 1950s, when the institutions were still new and shaky, I’m sure many people feared the Western alliance might never take off. Perhaps in the 1970s, the era of the Red Brigades and Vietnam, many more feared that the West would not survive. But in my adult life, I cannot remember a moment as dramatic as this: Right now, we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it.
In the United States, we are faced with the real possibility of Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump, which means we have to take seriously the possibility of a President Trump. Hillary Clinton’s campaign might implode for any number of reasons, too obvious to rehash here; elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle. That means that next January we could have, in the White House, a man who is totally uninterested in what presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan — as well as Johnson, Nixon and Truman — would all have called “our shared values.”
Trump has advocated torture, mass deportation, religious discrimination. He brags that he “would not care that much” whether Ukraine were admitted to NATO; he has no interest in NATO and its security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually.” In any case, he prefers the company of dictators to that of other democrats. “You can make deals with those people,” he said of Russia. “I would have a great relationship with [Vladimir] Putin.”
Not only is Trump uninterested in America’s alliances, he would be incapable of sustaining them. In practice, both military and economic unions require not the skills of a shady property magnate who “makes deals” but boring negotiations, unsatisfying compromises and, sometimes, the sacrifice of one’s own national preferences for the greater good. In an era when foreign policy debate has in most Western countries disappeared altogether, replaced by the reality TV of political entertainment, all of these things are much harder to explain and justify to a public that isn’t remotely interested.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This quote is often–and mistakenly–attributed to Edmund Burke, but the fact that the quote should not be attributed to Burke does not make the quote any less true. Donald Trump is a threat to the values on which the American project was founded. Under no circumstances should he be president of the United States. And to keep Donald Trump from the White House, it would help if all of us temporarily ignore a certain Persian saying, and instead, loudly and insistently denounce the nation’s–and world’s–Most Attention Grabbing Idiot. Loud and insistent denunciations are, of course, not sufficient to stop Trump and Trumpism. But they do help, and the future of the republic may well depend on them.