While many are appalled by Donald Trump, I find him strangely comforting and familiar. Trump has been a part of me since childhood, a part that has developed and deepened over the decades. Trump is what I expect to find when I travel fifty miles outside of my insulated, lily-white town that has just enough Jews to make me feel safe. Trump is what I expect to come pouring out of all the churches I had seen as I drove through America’s Bible Belt. Trump is what I expect to come pouring out of a Louisiana parish, a dirt poor Texas town, an upstate New York village.
In the Jewish imagination, the one that has been pumped into my head by my mother, my father, my rabbi, my aunts, uncles, cousins, countless books and movies, the Jew is always a visitor and his presence is only tolerated, never accepted, and that the toleration can end at any time. It doesn’t matter how many pairs of cowboy boots I have, how many Stetsons, how many times I’ve been to the Grand Ole Opry. This is all pretend. America, to me, is a narrow-minded, Christ-loving, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic thug. This is the America of Trump. It’s the real America. The one my mother warned me about. The one that’s been living in my imagination for over fifty years.
Images of The Real America
Addendum (added on Oct 7, 2016)
I submitted this piece, minus the images, to the local newspaper. Here are quotes from two responses. For your reading enjoyment, I’ve provided links to the unedited versions of the responses.
Response #1: Readers Write: Defaming the country and Trump
“This letter is one of the most hate-filled rants I have ever seen published in a respectable newspaper.
“He states, ‘America to me is a narrow-minded, Christ-loving, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic thug. ‘The America of Trump. The real America.’
“I will emphatically state here that I am calling Siegel himself, a narrow-minded, Christian-hating, America-hating bigot.
“He is as bigoted as any of the racists and anti-Semites he criticizes.
“It is actually Jews like Siegel that provoke hatred for Jews, and then claim to be the victims.
“As for misogyny in America, I would like to mention a couple of facts. Women live longer in America than men.
“So let me ask Siegel some questions: If this is such a hateful place, why did you stay here for more than five decades?
“You are free to leave. There is no Berlin Wall, iron curtain, or bamboo curtain.
“Where is it better?
“What country is free from racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism?
Response #2: Readers Write: Voicing Hillary propaganda
“Mr. Siegel also complains about America and Mr. Trump being basically anti-Semitic, misogynist and racist.
“None of these things are true, but are often repeated by the lying Clinton campaign.
“As for being a racist, I suggest that Mr. Siegel question Geraldo Rivera who has known Trump for years.
“To quote Mr. Rivera: “Donald Trump does not have a racist bone in his body.”
My Response to #1 Above
Dr. Roth’s lengthy reply (“Defaming the country and Trump”) to my letter of September 30th (“Trump’s an ugly symbol of America”) reinforced my main point — Trump is a nightmare come to life. On some level Dr. Roth knows that and responded with horror. But instead of confronting the issues I raised, Dr. Roth dissected the letter and, in the process, reproduced some of the hate and narrow-mindedness he attributed to me.
First, he restated an old antisemitic trope. He wrote, “It is actually Jews like Siegel that provoke hatred for Jews.” In other words, Jews are the cause of their own misery. To make sure that no anti-Semites were hurt by my letter, Dr. Roth offered an apology, and pointed out that “Siegel is not representative of most Jews.”
Second, Dr. Roth took issue with my characterization of America as a “racist thug.” Perhaps the good doctor is unaware of the systemic racism that is, unfortunately, part of the bedrock of this country. The end of slavery did not mean the end of racism. It lived on through Jim Crow, and has resurfaced in the almost daily murder of African-Americans at the hands of the police, and in the attempt by the Birther Movement to discredit a legitimately elected president.
Third, Dr. Roth stated that, like racism, misogyny is a thing of the past. Thankfully (or not thankfully) a recently surfaced video of a presidential candidate contradicts that assertion.
Finally, Dr. Roth unwittingly affirmed each of my points when he rhetorically asked, “What country is free from racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism?” The answer is simple. No country is free of those things, and that includes America, which was exactly the point of my letter.