The Braying Ass

In the basement of the house I grew up in, near the tool bench constructed of scrap wood, the oil tank, and the furnace, sat an old steamer chest my Italian grandparents used to carry their belongings with them from Magliano Sabina, in central Italy, to the United States in the first decade of the last century.

On the other side of town, in the two family home where my Polish grandparents raised seven American children, including two who served in World War II, sat an old kitchen table. If you looked through the many coats of clear varnish on that table you could see the reverse print of old newspapers on the surface of the wood left behind by my grandparents who read the daily news as a way of learning English.

Both the chest and the table are symbols to me of the courage it must have taken for my grandparents to leave their home countries, with very little money and few belongings, to start a new life in a country where they did not speak the language and had no guarantee of success.

President Trump is not the first president of the United States to use foul language or vulgar terms in the White House. There is audio tape of Presidents Kennedy and Nixon using insulting descriptions of people of different ethnic backgrounds as part of routine policy discussions. That was then and this is now. Expectations have changed. Standards have changed. Trump should know better, but in Trump’s case his insensitivity is clearly much more than crass language, it confirms his base character.

Most people in leadership positions try to build on the progress made by those who came before them. When it comes to setting an example, this means a president of the United States in particular, should strive to be more inclusive, less divisive and more sensitive to the plight of others as a way of advancing society as a whole. This is not too much to ask. It is in fact the bare minimum.

Trump’s remarks, which he denies despite the fact there were witnesses, are made worse because once again they came in the context of making comparisons between black people and white people. Once again Trump showed he thinks black people are inferior to white people. He said he wanted to limit immigration from African countries and Haiti and attract more immigrants from places like Norway.

The communications team at the White House, lacking in moral character as a whole, tried to clean up by issuing a statement that requires the country to accept the president’s vulgarity as a sign that he is protecting us from outsiders. The statement implied the president’s controversial stand on immigration limits was meant to protect Americans from terrorists. It is bad enough that the president is a racist, it is even worse that government employees, whose salaries are paid by American taxpayers, would work so hard to protect him with such sophistry.

The dishonesty of this White House has reached a point that demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the American people. The president, and his publicly paid protectors, are willing to lie to us directly, use other forms of deceit, purposeful omission and reflexive denials with no sense of guilt or shame. It is sociopathic behavior. President Trump has no respect for the American people. Zero. He thinks we can all be played. He thinks we are all suckers and he is the world’s greatest con artist.

Trump’s appearance Friday morning at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was as vulgar and despicable as the words he used the day before. The willingness of Vice President Pence to stand behind the president with a saccharine smile meant to communicate pride in his leader was equally appalling and demonstrated the hypocrisy associated with Pence’s use of religion for political purposes.

President Trump is the epitome of someone born on third base who thinks he hit a triple. He has no appreciation for the suffering of others, because he has never seen desperation in his own life. When he does see suffering up close it registers as tough luck or a sign of weakness.

Khizr Kahn was right when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 and said the president has “sacrificed nothing and no one.” The words rang true just as the observations in Michael Wolff’s book ring true today. Trump is incapable of empathy, he has no moral compass, he is not fit to lead anything, much less this country.

People who have held far less powerful positions have been removed from their jobs for far less than using the offensive language used by President Trump. His racist remarks are just another count in a bill of particulars citing him for conduct unbecoming a U.S. president. Americans often claim the United States is the greatest country on earth, but how can that be true when we are being led by a braying ass?

My grandparents came to this country from Italy and Poland in the 1900’s for many of the same reasons people from the continent of Africa and Haiti come here today. They are seeking opportunity for themselves and their families. Taking that risk shows they have more courage in their hearts than President Trump has ever shown in his entire life. When the president attacks foreigners seeking a better life in the United States he is attacking the ancestors of every American citizen whose family originally came here from somewhere else. That is most of us. He is not protecting the country he is destroying everything it stands for and everything that makes it great. If he is attacking my ancestors and yours he is attacking me and you. We should not accept it and we do not have to accept it.



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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.