By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
Before the “former guy” won the presidential election in 2016, I was sitting in a country club, waiting for a friend to show up. Full disclosure: he was a member of the country club, not me.
I was sitting at a table near four White women, obviously out for an afternoon with the girls. Our tables were very close to each other and they were talking loud enough for me to hear them. In retrospect, they may have been talking loud intentionally, to make sure I heard them.
They were going on and on about Donald Trump. He had apparently mesmerized them. They talked about how Obama had ruined the country, and about how they were sure he was a Muslim. With what sounded like genuine sadness, they talked about how “their” country had slipped to a place from which it would never recover, and they talked about how they loved Trump and about how he was “so patriotic.”
I was flummoxed, not about their disdain about Obama, although I did not see the ruination of the country that they did. No, what I was taken aback by was their declaration that he was such a patriot. I had to do a quick search of all I had learned about him – but nothing in my memories corresponded or led to a conclusion about his patriotism. Yes, he talked about making America first, but I was not sure what that really meant. For these women, however, he was not only a patriot but one to be highly respected.
The would-be president had avoided the military draft five times – four times as a college student and one time after graduation for a physical impediment: bone spurs, according to Business Insider. During his presidency, he insulted families of soldiers killed in Niger, including La David Johnson and insulted the Gold Star parents of Humayun Khan, who was killed in action, Vanity Fair reported. He insulted the late Sen. John McCain by disparaging his military service, including being a prisoner of war, saying he didn’t consider McCain a hero and explaining that he liked soldiers who didn’t get captured, as reported by NPR and VoteVets.org.
I thought patriots were those who respected the United States military because they fought to save democracy, but what is clear is that though the “former guy” and many of his adorers, their conception of “our country” is not necessarily that for which the soldiers fought. It seems that “our country,” to them, should be an authoritarian government, led by one man, with the traditional characteristic features of democracy – i.e., the three branches of government – all collapsed into the hands of one totalitarian leader.
The disenchantment with democracy that is being felt in this country is not isolated to the United States; governments all over the world are choosing autocratic governments over democracy. The question is, why? In a survey taken by the Pew Research Center, 51% of people living in democracies are disenchanted with their government because of the state of the economy, the surge of immigrants and troubling health care. There is also disgust with what is perceived domination of the government by “the elite,” and in this country, a belief that “the deep state” is the enemy of the people.
What is confusing, however, is that the people who said they loved democracy had no issue with “the former guy” who was systematically dismantling of this nation’s institutions. They were mostly silent as he erased America’s footprints off of the path of global solidarity by breaking relationships with its allies and sociopolitical institutions like the World Health Organization, according to CNBC News, and the Paris Climate Agreement was why Americans would go along with his agenda.
How can one be a patriot, and how can a country be a democracy, if the leader is systematically tearing it down in plain sight?
Authoritarian governments have long been the preference of many world leaders. Even the founders of this country disapproved of “too much” involvement “by the people” in running the government. Their presence and their voice would disrupt the balance of power, which the founders worked deftly to form and to protect, as reported by the Medium.com. People, it seems, do not like too much diversity or too much liberalism. In this country, the fact that we are an ethnically diverse nation bothers some lawmakers and citizens to their very cores. What they want is familiarity and a return to a time when things and people could be controlled, kept in their place, and frightened by the power wielded against them to keep them quiet.
Cable news hosts are saying that democracy persisted, but the truth is that democracy is hanging on by a thin thread. This government seems like it is on the down side of a hill it has been climbing for some time, and when they/we get down that side of the hill, what we see and experience will be much different from the life we have learned to appreciate.
We will echo the song of the Israelites, we will be in a strange land, and we too, will weep when we remember Zion.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at email@example.com.