Trump Should Show Moral Courage
by George Wolfe
It’s time for Donald Trump to show moral courage and speak out definitively against anti-Semitism, white supremacist rhetoric, and their corresponding acts of vandalism that have become increasingly prevalent in the United States since his election.
Most recently, swastikas and anti-Semitic phrases evoking the horror of the holocaust have been sprawled on the New York Subway and in Houston on the statue of the founder of Rice University. Bomb threats have been called in to Jewish community centers in major U.S. cities.
This past November, the Ball State University Freedom Bus which is a traveling museum documenting the African-American struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement, was vandalized. And less than two weeks after the November election, so-called “White Nationalists” meeting at the Reagan Building in Washington D.C. to celebrate Trump’s victory, ended their meeting with the Nazi salute and the words “Heil Trump.”
Such expressions of hate run deeper than mere “enthusiasm,” a word Trump and others have used to dismiss questions from the press about anti-Semitism. Graffiti and vandalism in the form of hate speech are hate crimes that have no place in American culture. Moreover, they run counter to genuine humanist and religious values.
It is time for Donald Trump to confront the recent expressions of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. He should do so not in a tweet or in a two-sentence statement in the Huffington Post, but in a well-publicized presidential address.
In a recent news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a reporter asked the president about anti-Semitism in the U. S. since the election. But instead of condemning the recent acts of anti-Semitism, he avoided the question by merely reiterating his administration’s hollow commitment to the Jewish people and the support of Israel.
Racism and religious prejudice are at the heart of what divides America and eats away at the moral leadership role the United States must play on the international stage. If Trump is a man of moral courage, he should take the lead in addressing the racist epidemic his election has unleashed.
Trump also should apologize for announcing his Travel Ban against immigrants and refugees on January 27, which was also the 2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis set sail, carrying over nine hundred European Jews seeking entry into Cuba or the United States. The U.S. State Department turned the boat away, leaving the St. Louis no choice but to return to Europe. Most of its passengers were eventually taken to Nazi death camps where they perished. Had the United States government responded in 1933 and opened wider its doors for the years ahead, thousands of Jews could have been saved.
How many Syrian and Iraqi refugees, most of whom are women and children, would lose their lives if sent back to ISIS infested cities under Donald Trump’s travel ban?
If the president doesn’t have the moral courage to apologize and speak out directly against white supremacy, then Vice President Mike Pence, who is not shy about expressing his religious faith, should step up and carry the mantel of moral leadership. This is the type of leadership needed to re-establish respect for the Republican Party, our democracy, and our nation.
George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.