My Turn, Fred Corriher: The trouble with Trump

Published 8:32 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016

In Canto III of “Inferno,” the opening section of Dante Alighieri’s epic 13th century poem, “The Divine Comedy,” Dante alludes to “the melancholy souls of those who lived without infamy or praise.” This is a phrase which has been oft quoted by notable personages including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, but with a 20th century twist.

In Roosevelt’s case it took the form of the following quotation:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much or suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

JFK’s allusion to the punishments of Hell is more succinct:

“The darkest places of Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”

It is this latter interpretation that is the basis for my following comments as it relates to the current election cycle.

The candidacy of Donald Trump has turned our electoral process on its ear for all the wrong reasons, and with dire consequences for our nation. Putting aside his crude pronouncements and his tendency to use vulgar and demeaning language when referring to women, minorities, other nationalities, and the least among us, I will comment only on his fitness and preparedness for the highest office in our land.

He has an abysmal lack of a working knowledge of the American system of government; no knowledge of basic American history — not to mention world history; and a deplorable lack of intellectual curiosity. He denies scientific evidence which is acknowledged by the vast majority of the world’s scientists. He seems to revel in the know-nothing philosophy which denies established fact, but also reconfigures fact into a distorted, self-serving narrative which has not only divided our country, but threatens to severely damage our credibility as the leader of the Free World.

Trump is a chameleon who claims not to be a politician, but has become the instrument of some of the most divisive and devious political machinations ever seen in the United States. His FOX, Breitbart, and Alt-Right advisors have turned off even the most loyal and greatest public servants from his own party, Abraham Lincoln’s Republican party.

His inflammatory rhetoric has aroused in his supporters a fanatical zeal which threatens to make our system ungovernable, regardless of the outcome. His refusal to categorically agree to abide by the results of the election represents an arrogant affront to the noble American tradition of over 240 years of a peaceful transition following each election. And finally, his pandering to those very voters who would immediately be forgotten were he to be elected is nothing short of the incredible in light of his history of leaving the “little guy” holding the bag in so many of his shady business dealings. Were he to be subject to the same level of scrutiny that has been focused in Secretary Clinton over a long period of time, I have no doubt he would wilt like a flower out of water.

The choice America faces is unequivocal. Some have called it a binary choice, so clear are the differences between the two candidates. To me, it is no less than a choice between an America which lives out its role as a paragon of global leadership or one which retreats within its borders; an America that celebrates its diversity and renews its historical welcome to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free, or as an arrogant, self-serving world power respected by few in the world community and feared by none.

My own afterlife might indeed include a time spent in one of the dark corners of Hell, but if so, it would be because of my own iniquities while on earth. It would not be because in a time of moral crisis, I remained neutral or silent. This election is such a time of crisis in the history of the United States. For that reason I can enthusiastically support the candidacy of Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Fred Corriher lives in Salisbury.