Legacy Bylines: A Letter to Young Citizens
Editorial by Elizabeth Temple, SU Professor of Piano Emerita
Young Citizens, please register and vote, but, before you vote this November 8th, be sure to read The Rise and Fall of Adolph Hitler, by William L. Shirer, and Narcissists Among Us, by Joe Navarro, both available in e-book format. The extremes on the right of our political scene, especially represented by Donald Trump, are expressing similar hate-filled, divisive, deceitful ideas employed by Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc., in their rise to power in the 1930’s. Your grandparents and great-grandparents may remember personally the horrific events of World War II that ruined nations and cultures all over the world and killed many millions of innocent people. It will, of course, be said “that can’t possibly happen in our country,” but many Europeans and most Americans thought the same during those times. In fact, very few could imagine or foresee the horrors that were to come….and those few voices were drowned out, even viciously annihilated; eventually it was too late to change course and what followed was the Holocaust.
We must step back and look deeply into the basic character of those clamoring for power through the use of insults, deliberate lies, half truths, posturing and fear-mongering. Trump’s behavior is that of a rude bully, a pathological liar and narcissist, a greedy self-serving megalomaniac, always proclaiming his greatness and saying nothing of any reason or substance that could possibly solve the problems that face our nation and our world today. In fact, he has little understanding of what the fundamental problems are, only that he wants to have power and to be the center of attention at any cost.
Trump’s claim to “make America great again” actually is an insulting and blatant denial of how great our nation really is today, compared to those days just a generation or two ago when Catholics, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, women, Jewish people, etc., could not possibly dream of becoming president. Does Trump mean those “good old days” when there was no Social Security to help people have a reasonable chance at income in retirement? Or does he mean that “great America” when any ‘foreigner’ or minority could legally be prevented from purchasing property in restricted areas? E.g., my parents had to sign a deed that included a covenant restricting even their right to sell to those “others” (specifically “Negroes,” “Jews,” “Catholics,” “Italians”) in order to purchase the little farm in western Pennsylvania where I grew up (a covenant I’m proud to say my parents ultimately ignored). Is this the ‘great’ America we want to bring back?
There is, of course, serious work to do and there ALWAYS WILL BE; life itself is “a work in progress” for each of us, and so it is for the nation. But we must work together responsibly, respectfully, in a spirit of true cooperation (tempered with kindness and self-discipline) within our entire human family, without the name-calling, fear-mongering, divisive, irresponsible rhetoric that so many of the rightwing extremists are putting forth.
Building walls will solve nothing—throughout history many demagogues have failed with that strategy. In fact, walls, purges, pogroms, concentration camps, mass deportations, etc., are symptomatic of nations that are weak and losing their way, and are typical strategies of leaders who are interested only in their vicious, ego-maniacal grasp for power. We cannot risk becoming a nation of “lemmings” being lead over the cliff of disaster by following the dangerous messages of Trump and his “alt-right” neo-fascist inner circle (while they fly off to safety in their private jets).
Our nation IS GREAT because of our rich diversity, including indigenous peoples, the original inhabitants of this magnificent land, who have so much to teach about wise stewardship of the earth’s beauty and resources, and to whom this nation is enormously indebted. (Explore the writings of Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer.) And remember, throughout our nation’s history, our most beautiful historic architecture, our vast infrastructures, our most productive industries, businesses and natural treasures were largely established and maintained on the intelligence and backs (both male and female) of slaves, indigenous peoples, and immigrants from all across the globe–-and who are now OUR OWN ANCESTORS. Rather than expelling those who look or sound a bit different and creating “scapegoats” for our various problems, our acceptance and respect for diversity will continue to build for our nation true strength and world-wide esteem.
Young People—please read, study, think and listen carefully. Charm, flattery, charisma, bluster, bullying and simplistic solutions can be extremely seductive and exciting, but BEWARE. And please share (with your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, partners) what you learn.
Elizabeth A. Temple
SU Professor of Piano Emerita & Concerned Citizen