Primo Levi, who would have turned 97 yesterday, wrote this about Auschwitz: “We who survived the Camps are not true witnesses. We are those who, through prevarication, skill or luck, never touched bottom. Those who have, and who have seen the face of the Gorgon, did not return, or returned wordless.”
I traveled through western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio on my way to the Republican convention in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. The Rust Belt, once the core of the beleaguered coal-and-steel industry that powered America’s industrial might, is now the heart of Trump country.
“He tells it like it is,” people said when I asked about Trump’s widespread appeal in the region.
Do you agree with all the things he says?
“Of course not. He doesn’t really mean a lot of the stuff he says. It’s like, ‘I’m lying – but we both know that.”
But how is it possible to both tell it like it is and not mean what you say?
“He’s not a politician, so he gets a pass.”
It’s time to withdraw the pass. Donald Trump doesn’t believe in anything beyond his own self-interest. He is so fundamentally dishonest he will say anything that benefits himself. Anything, because for him there is nothing beyond the personal.
He insults prisoners of war for being captured. He compares his “sacrifices” with those of Khizr and Ghazala Khan whose son was killed in Iraq. He defends his mockery of a disabled person by boasting of the millions he spent making his buildings handicapped-accessible, as required by law. He doesn’t care whom he hurts in defense of his owns self-image.
His cruel and empty bombast and pampered existence make a mockery of those who “did not return, or returned wordless.” He has no dignity and he has no decency.
And he is running for president of the United States.
How did we get here?