By L.D. Freeman, Letter to the Editor
I commend my esteemed, learned colleague, Bob Barter, a renowned and dedicated Social Studies teacher for having the passion and concern to speak out through a Blueprint Letter to the Editor to address the post-election dismay and disbelief that hammered so many students.
I think I can answer his core question, with all due respect, as to his bewilderment and what explains the “teary or vacuous eyes” that met his and mine and ours.
Put simply, the students could not believe that a person with so many overt, egregious character flaws as Donald Trump would merit the approval of tens of millions of voters in traditional red states, swing states and blue states that tilted for him.
For years, our young have been taught by schools, most parents (one hopes), and maybe through their faiths, that off the cuff, insulting, rude and discriminatory statements about Mexicans, Muslims, people with disabilities, or lack of height are not to be excused or embraced.
Trump’s wide open public mouth and tweets were rife with such slurs, setting him apart from the vast majority of presidential candidates for at least a century.
In short, our students were dumbfounded that a man of such foul temper who will soon take the highest office in the land could be so offensive and deeply flawed in terms of character.
Character resonates deeply with students, more-so than other elements, such as politics, policies, constitutionality and even credibility.
Commendable character, or at least character that is acceptable, nominally composed and decent, is something Americans have come to expect as part of the package deal of being White House worthy.
We have– perhaps at least until recently– come to expect that a presidential candidate would never characterize women he doesn’t like as “fat dogs and pigs.”
When challenged by a journalist after referring to women’s menstrual cycles in a slap at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, Trump flunked the test again, saying, “I don’t have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either, and honestly Megyn if you don’t like it, I’m sorry.”
Voters over the years have rightfully taken umbrage at presidents whose foul mouths and temperamental outbursts go public, even when they are not nearly as serial and scathing as Donald’s.
Trump voters, on the other hand, often call that kind of insult and degradation ‘refreshing, or genuine or honest.’
When the Watergate transcripts were published, Nixon’s fusillades of f-bombs and other profanities were sanitized with “Expletive Deleted,” in keeping with the ethic that presidents should not be profane.
Trump, so far, has at least shown enough of a filter to leave out the big seven cuss words, but his sieve lets out so much more.
Americans were equally, if not more, repulsed by Nixon’s comments about “the rich Jews”, “the bums” (referring to anti war protesters) , and going after the owner of the Washington Post “and all those people right down the line,” to seek vengeance on those on his enemies list.
When President Truman, (a prodigiously, privately profane president) lost his temper at a Washington Post music critic’s gentle panning of the president’s’ daughter’s singing performance at Constitution Hall, Truman went into a Trump-like tempest, and pounded out an angry letter.
He threatened that the critic “would need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below!”
The letter, though short of the mark for Trump type tirades, leaked to the press, shocked the nation and deeply embarrassed the president and his family.
Unlike Trump’s lack of regret at his comments about Megyn Kelly, The Khan family –whose Muslim son, Humayun Khan, died in Iraq fighting with the U.S. First Infantry division– his recent scoffs at the CIA – or countless other, un-presidential pop-offs– Truman later stated that he never should have written the letter in the first place given his position as a national leader.
He got himself in hot water again and again saying that a union leader was not fit to be “dog catcher” in his administration and by calling the Marine Corps “the Navy’s police force.”
Truman paid a price for all of this, as did Nixon.
Trump, by contrast, won an election in spite of it, and that is a great part of why the vast majority of Acalanes Kids reacted as they did.
Truman, his family, his staff and the nation realized that presidents do not have the luxury of behaving as though they were common citizens, show biz celebrities. locker room braggarts or boors in the boardroom.
Truman recognized that the private Harry Truman should not be the public Harry Truman, President of the United States.
This key boundary is lost on Trump and so many of his supporters whose views on his deplorable character are deeply obscured by the barely translucent, partisan bubble of bias that lets them see only his grandiose promises or his persona and policies as the anti-Obama or anti-Clinton.
Granted, today we have looser standards with respect to the frequency of profanity and offensive language in society at large, but we do not, and should not, lower the bar when it comes to prejudice, put downs and broad-stroke stereotyping by one who has won the great privilege to occupy the White House.
So, you many Trump supporters need to ask yourselves this: would you allow your kids in the dining room or your students in the classroom to talk or tweet like Trump? Would you just look the other way, or would you draw the line where it should be drawn and condemn the behavior?
The upside of this post-election, demoralized reaction by our students is that they actually see better and know better – if only intuitively— than the bulk of those who voted for Trump.
They know who flunked the test.
-Social Studies Teacher Larry Freeman