Andy Schmookler: Why do Trump’s followers welcome his posture of hostility

Andy Schmookler

Andy Schmookler

If a person has a hostile relationship with a neighbor, we don’t know if the problem is with one of them, or the other, or some of both. But if someone has a hostile relationship with all his or her neighbors, would you not agree there must be something amiss with that person?

And so it is with that part of the American electorate that is rallying to the support of Donald Trump as he — the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president — expresses hostility to one major group among us after another.

First, he began his campaign by characterizing our undocumented Mexican immigrants as criminals, and saying that he would uproot 11 million of them, expelling them from the country.

Then, in his campaign rallies, Trump has shown antagonism toward African-Americans who seek to tell the nation — in the wake of the surfacing of so many videos showing police violence against unarmed black men — that “Black Lives Matter.”

Most recently, and perhaps most flagrantly, he’s gone after Muslims generally, seeking to bar any of that faith from entering the country.

What are we to make of the roughly one-third of the Republican base that has welcomed this posture of hostility and conflict with all these groups?

If the hostility were directed at but one group, we could imagine that their antagonism was called for. But with so many groups involved – and we might add “librels” to the list of “others” at whom hostility is continually directed – we are compelled to ask:

What’s gone wrong with people who show enmity toward everyone who isn’t like them? Why is there no apparent determination to working problems between groups through to a harmonious, mutually acceptable solution?

With the undocumented Mexican immigrants, surely it is legitimate to wish that people only entered our nation by legal means. But when millions of people are present among us for years, building lives in the shadows of second-class citizenship, other important concerns need also to be taken into account.

Why not seek a solution that addresses all the legitimate concerns in a constructive way? (That’s what Ronald Reagan did 30 years ago, and what George W. Bush tried to do in his second term, and what the Senate voted by a 2:1 margin to do just a couple of years ago.)

With the “Black Lives Matter” movement, surely anyone with eyes to see must know, from the various videos, that there is a problem regarding the treatment of African-Americans by police. There’s a long history of this, known by anyone who cares to know. But now — with videos showing actual indictable murders by police (e.g. in South Carolina, in Chicago) – it has become hard not to know.

Why not sympathize with people who have suffered things we who are white do not suffer, and lend support to efforts to make a reality of what we say in our Pledge of Allegiance about “liberty and justice for all”?

With Muslims, clearly threats to our security and our values that have arisen in the Islamic world. But only a minority of Muslims constitute this threat, while the majority oppose the murderous jihadists who victimize them as well. A good strategy for our own security would involve building a strong and positive relationship with that majority, who are best positioned to influence the young minds vulnerable to extremism.

Why reject and antagonize all Muslims, rather than build that relationship?

One thing seems very clear: the choice to be antagonistic toward all these groups is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus taught “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and, when asked “Who is my neighbor?” he told the story of “the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10: 25-37).

To Jesus’ audience, the Samaritans were the despised “other”–the equivalent of the groups among us that Trump has been attacking. In the story Jesus tells, one of “Us” is waylaid and beaten by robbers on the road and left half-dead. Two respectable members of the in-group – a priest and a Levite – walk by without helping. But then a Samaritan comes to his aid, doing much to restore him to health.

Jesus clearly implies that it is the member of the despised out-group (the Samaritans) who is the neighbor–the neighbor we’re called to love as ourselves?

Anyone who cares about the question “What would Jesus do?” should recognize the hostile stance being rewarded by Donald Trump’s supporters as un-Christian.

Andy Schmookler’s newly published book is “What We’re Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World .”

 

 

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