Trump

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump speak to first responders as they visit the El Paso Regional Communications Center after meeting with people affected by the El Paso mass shooting, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ORG XMIT: TXEV350

Donald Trump isn’t the problem.

Yes, he is morally unanchored, almost totally self-centered, ignorant of history, devoid of curiosity and lacking in the capacity for self-restraint. But he isn’t the problem.

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The problem is that there are two Americas. One is the America symbolized by Lady Liberty. An America committed to the principle of spreading freedom by welcoming the oppressed. An America that ended its most divisive war by invoking mercy toward all and malice toward none. An America that sought to heal the calamitous damage wrought on its enemies by World War II with a Marshall Plan. That is the America that makes hearts sing.

But that America has another side. Another America called slavery “peculiar institution” and counted black slaves as three-fifths of a white person. That America stripped native Americans of their lands and sent them on a trail of tears. That America panicked over the “yellow peril” in the 19th century. That America conducted Palmer raids in the 1920s, used to “ship or shoot” immigrants.

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That America idolized Father Coughlin and his anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi ranting in the 1930s. That America sent white nationalists to Charlottesville in 2017 to chant “Jews will not replace us.”

Trump did not invent that second America. It has been there a long time, an underside, simmering in the dark, a side we don’t like to think about.

Trump’s presidency, born in birtherism, and nourished by self-interest and self-aggrandizement, has fueled that dark side. We, you and I, all of us, are responsible for deciding which America we want to live in.

Alvin Burstein

retired

Mandeville