MADISON, Wis. - The nation seems to be going through another bizarre argument about whether President Donald Trump is a racist.
Apparently, he would have to wear a KKK hood to the State of the Union address to convince his admirers that his attacks on the citizenship of President Barack Obama, his repeated disparagement of African-American, Hispanic and Muslim Congress members and his continual comparisons of inner city neighborhoods to vermin may might just possibly be racist.
However, I don’t really care what is in the president's heart. This country has been led by racist presidents before. Some of them have even been very supportive of communities of color.
Trump, however, is worse than a racist.
He is using racism as a means of dividing the country, inciting hatred of his political opponents and diverting public attention from the incompetence of the men he appoints to positions of public trust.
We like to say we are “better than this.”
We aren't better than this. We have never been better than this. We have kicked Native Americans off their land. We have shipped Japanese Americans from their homes to what amounts to concentration camps. Sen. Joseph McCarthy destroyed the careers and lives of thousands of loyal Americans.
The question isn’t who we are; the question is who we want to be.
This country also has a rich history of welcoming refugees, being generous to the needy and overcoming its prejudices.
I spent decades as a newspaper reporter and, over the years, I kept writing about "first" developments. There was a recurring story about "first woman" and "first Negro" and "first gay" elections or appointments.
That's who we are, too.
One job of the American president is to inspire the American people to live out their best instincts. When the nation was in turmoil over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, President Bush made a big deal of visiting a Muslim mosque and, in so doing, pretty much put an end to anti-Muslim scapegoating.
Trump spends his time trying to bring out the worst in each of us. He brings out the worst in me. I am far less tolerant of so-called “conservatives” than I was two years ago.
He is worse than a racist. He is deliberately trying to destroy the unity of the country he was elected to lead.
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