Election day offers antidote to Trump

Henry Schvey


“The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

— William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”


The events unfolding over the past few days have revealed a deadly poison at the heart of our body politic. Like any other infection, this disease will kill its host if left untreated. A terrible symptom of this illness manifested itself Saturday, when a deranged murderer walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and took the lives of 11 congregants. 

But we should not focus all of our attention on this one act of unspeakable horror, the worst mass murder of Jews in American history; we may glance back to Friday, when a white supremacist was arrested in the mailing of pipe bombs to more than a dozen perceived political opponents of President Donald Trump, including two former presidents. 

Or we might look to the ghastly murder of Jamal Kashoggi, a journalist and U.S. resident whose alleged murder and dismemberment by our ally Saudi Arabia was viewed as inconsequential beside the potential windfall of an arms deal.

Over the past two years, the list of degrading and immoral acts has been seemingly endless, but there is one common denominator: the divisive presidency of Trump. Under his watch, Trump has not only abrogated moral leadership, he has encouraged the dismantling of our laws on international human rights and lessened respect for simple human decency. 

Trump’s presidency and his brazen willingness to employ racist, white supremacist and anti-Semitic dog whistles to consolidate and energize his base, has degraded our national discourse in unprecedented ways. 

However, a possible remedy is available on election day, Nov. 6. It is up to every rational, fair-minded American to wake up and realize the profound seriousness of what is at stake for Jews and non-Jews alike. This is not the time for equal-opportunity blaming, pretending that it doesn’t matter which party is in power. It is time to act in support of our core values as Jewish Americans. The case is clear: This current administration is an abomination and an assault on our continued survival as a democracy.

America has always been an imperfect experiment. Our worship of money as our national religion has led us down corrupt paths before. We have permitted our cities to become infested by poverty, enslaved individuals because of the color of their skin, placed Japanese-Americans in internment camps and jailed communists during the 1950s. We have, in short, donsome terrible things. 

But we have never so thoroughly betrayed the Constitution and our core moral principles, kneeling at the altar of autocracy as Republican congressional leadership has done over the past two years, happily relinquishing moral oversight and handing the reins of government to an absolutist ruler obviously devoid of principle, decency or conscience. 

On a daily basis, this president demonstrates that he is utterly lacking in empathy. As a result, we as a nation have become implicated in atrocity: the atrocity of abandoning our great ideals as a country devoted to freedom, equality and the rule of law. 

The ceremony of our American innocence may have been drowned, but let us finally act with conviction instead of cowardice.

It is time to call out Trump’s poison and end this utterly degrading episode before it kills our American Dream of exceptionalism. 

We are no longer the home of the brave or the land of the free; we have become a nation that willingly allies itself with despotism, encouraging acts of extreme violence among its citizens. 

The madness must stop. Nov. 6 offers the opportunity to see the beginning of the end of our nightmare.

Henry I. Schvey is professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis.