My son is 10 years old and was not born in a shithole. He was born in Ethiopia. Like any parent, I could never find the words to describe the impact his life has brought to me. His friends have an automatic bond with him. He excels in school. He is kind. His community loves him. My wife and I are so blessed that he helped create our family. The love he has instilled in me is a feeling I never experienced before, and just thinking about him or having him enter a room energizes my heart.
It has been a challenge to be a parent in the age of Donald Trump. As our kids are tucked in bed, cable news reports almost nightly on his latest offensive comments, and we watch as swear words now become commonplace on news tickers. Some of us react by posting our disagreement or disgust on social media, and all of us hope our children are not listening.
Now, with reports that the president referred to various nations and the whole continent of Africa as a “shithole,” our challenge is in new, unimagined territory — and it is time, as parents, to demand that our country respond to his words.
For two years now all of our children have been witness to weekly reports in the news that simply have been unheard of for generations.
A sitting modern-day president has mocked the disabled and defended anti-Semitic white supremacists. He has referred to great women leaders in our country as “nasty,” “sneaky,” or “lightweight.” He has publicly marginalized ethnic groups, from American Indians to Hispanics to African Americans. He tried to get a credibly accused child molester elected to the Senate.
By representing the Office of the President, Trump’s words have had impact — not just in news reports or foreign lands, but in our neighborhoods and schoolyards. Hate crimes have spiked since Trump began his campaign, particularly in our cities. We can’t ignore what’s happening to our country: Each day the bar for how our nation treats and talks about people seems to inch lower.
I am not saying we should take some broad, elite, moral high-ground, the way Hillary Clinton ineffectually ran president. But we must use a stronger tone and a much stronger voice to make it clear that the words of Trump do not reflect the values of our country. If an ally as close and special as Great Britain can speak so forcefully that Trump cancels his trip there, surely we can do more.
We have had our moments. What may have been the largest political demonstration in U.S. history occurred the day after Trump was inaugurated. On Election Day 2016, nearly 11 million more people preferred another candidate to Trump, and he lost the popular vote by the largest margin in decades — evidence that he never represented the majority of the country.
But each of us needs to do more.
Some of the most faithful Christians in our country have compromised their own great beliefs of kindness and service to support a man who has no history of attending church or ever citing a biblical phrase in public. Some of the most die-hard, freedom-loving Reagan Democrats chose not to question a man who has defended a communist like Vladimir Putin. Elected Republicans have compromised their own party’s values and have chosen to defend or ignore his behavior. Even most elected Democrats have kept their mouths shut — waiting, I assume, for the right political moment before the mid-terms.
Yet the Trump problem is not political. It is about right and wrong, the same lessons we all try teach our children. We can no longer just wait it out for special counsel Robert Mueller to file his report. We can no longer just wait it out until 2020. We must call on Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to censure the president.
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
My son is now of the age where he loves his beautiful curly African hair. This morning he showed me in excitement how he could use a pick to brush it out. Right now he is reading with reverence the amazing graphic non-fiction series called March, about American hero John Lewis and our country’s civil rights movement.
Parents of our country should not have to struggle any more than necessary. As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. this long weekend, we should ask ourselves how he would respond to Trump’s words. I believe he would help us find a way to peacefully, but forcefully, strengthen our collective voice. It is time for action. Censuring our president now would signify a great moment of patriotism in our country.
Matthew Frankel, a former spokesman for Democrats in Washington, is a New Jersey-based communications consultant and president of MDF Strategies. He and his wife adopted their son from Ethiopia.