Russell Rowland

The Great Orange Hope

September 16, 2016

After months of puzzling and study, I think I’ve finally figured out what the Republican candidate for president and his followers have in mind when they say they want to make America great again, and it’s way more simple than I imagined. What they want is to go back to a time when women and minorities suffered in silence. When white heterosexual males ruled the land and everyone else was careful and afraid.

The Colin Kaepernick controversy has really brought this to light in a way that wasn’t clear to me before. Here we have a thoughtful young man who is risking a very lucrative career to express an opinion about what’s happening to people who look like him in this country. Despite what his detractors claim, he has never once said he’s been mistreated, never once said that he’s against the flag, the military, or America itself. He simply took on the responsibility as a young man who is in the public eye to start a healthy conversation about an issue that is clearly a problem.

The fact that people find this un-American is about as clear an indication of hypocrisy as you’ll find. Because it comes from people who have been screaming for months that our Republican candidate and those who follow him have a right to say whatever the hell they want. That people are too thin-skinned if they find it offensive that he calls Mexicans rapists. Or wants to prevent Muslims from coming into our country. It’s a pretty simple formula they’re operating from. They want white men to be able to scream about everything that’s wrong with America, but anyone else who does so will (and in their mind, should) be seen as un-American.

The biggest issue that Kaepernick has focused on is accountability, and this is where he stands up as a much more of a responsible adult than the great orange hope ever will. For one thing, Kaepernick comes from a culture that has coddled these young athletes, often overlooking their worst behavior. Covering up cheating in school, domestic violence and sexual assault is common in his world, so for him to focus on this issue really goes against the code of his peers. He has not only risked his career, but it has become clear in recent weeks that he has put himself in a position as an outcast among his tribe. Thankfully, others have stepped forward to support him. But Kaepernick has endured whatever criticism has come his way for this decision with quiet dignity. He has made a couple of missteps for sure, especially wearing the pig socks. But he hasn’t ducked taking questions about his actions, or his intentions.

Meanwhile, our candidate bats every criticism away by insulting those who offer it, calling them losers or other juvenile insults rather than considering the possibility that he might actually be wrong from time to time. It’s a sad, childish way to live, with no sense of accountability whatsoever, no sense of empathy for others, and especially no room for the complications that most of the real issues in our world demand when it comes to finding solutions. It’s not hard to imagine why this approach appeals to people. Because it’s very very easy. It requires little thought, no homework, and very little discussion.

I used to think people were going too far when they compared the Republican candidate to people like Hitler, or Mussolini. But I no longer think it’s a stretch. Those guys also started out sounding fairly reasonable for a time. They actually managed to find a way to hide their real intentions behind a nationalism that appealed to people who were looking for a reason to believe. But just like now, much of the public was unable to recognize how much these men were focused on a singular goal, which was more power for themselves. In our case, this man has never even made a secret of the fact that everything he does is designed to make his life better. You can’t point to a single enterprise that he’s been involved with whose goal was to make the world a better place for anyone other than the orange guy. The idea that he would suddenly give a damn about that is not only absurd, it’s completely naïve. There’s no reason to think anyone could change that dramatically, nor does he have any reason to when his approach has gotten him this far.

These stories never end well, especially for the despots. Mussolini hanging in a public square. Hitler a suicide before they could kill him themselves. Joe McCarthy’s career ended in disgrace. But let’s hope this one ends before this egomaniac can hurt more people than he already has. The stories have been out there for months, about him screwing over contractors, employees, innocent bystanders who don’t want to sell their land to improve the view for his golf course. Not to mention rape allegations. He hurts people. On purpose. And takes no responsibility for any of that. That’s not what ever made America great in my mind, and it sure won’t solve any of the problems we have now.