NBA legend and fearless columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just debunked the central pillar of the Trump campaign of fear, racism and religious intolerance as un-American fearmongering with a historical parallel every by one America’s greatest Presidents which each and every Democratic voter needs to know:
Most Americans are familiar with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous 1933 “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” inaugural address. But the full quote was an even starker warning: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Fear, Roosevelt said, causes us to retreat from our duty rather than advance our causes.
This year, we are in danger of retreating from building the America we’re all supposed to be proud of, one that protects all and offers equal opportunity to all. The fact that the fear that sends some of us scuttling away is “unreasoning” and “unjustified” makes us cowards. Cowards abandon principles at the first sign of danger and look for witches to burn — or foreigners to blame.
If there’s one stunning thing about the 2016 general election, it’s the total abandonment of the American experiment by the Republican Party in exchange for the mindless rhetoric of terror and obedience. Normal American politicians ask people to put their faith in our country and its institutions, but Trump told the Republican Convention this year that he alone could solve America’s problems – which is the boldest, least believable, total gospel to his supporters.
Trump’s fearmongering on national television starting last year, coincided with a rapid escalation in hate crimes against Muslims over their religious freedom according to Abdul-Jabbar. In fact, 2015 was the worst year to be Muslim in America since 2001, which university researchers in California speculatively attribute to the “Trump effect.”
However, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t just one of the NBA’s legends, nor is he just a columnist whose clarity of insight and strength of voice continues to grow as he opines on the American experience. Kareem is a peer of Donald Trump who grew up in New York City at the same time, but with regular parents and without the trappings of lots of cash, a rich daddy and enough taxpayer subsidy cash to build a sports arena. That’s why he nailed something essential about the Republican nominee’s fragile psyche:
Trump’s method for convincing people to go along with doing what they know is fundamentally anti-American — and just plain evil — involves scaring voters with a constant barrage of lies and exaggerations. The fact that this propaganda is so effective is especially sad, because the nation that once stood up to bullies like Hitler, Castro and Khrushchev is now falling into goose-step behind a home-grown bully who seems afraid of everything that isn’t part of his entitled life, who responds to his irrational fears the way a child does.
Kareem called out Trump’s fearmongering for what it truly is, the reaction of a child who never truly became a man above the shoulders. The Republican never had to grow up, to sink or swim, to stumble and fall and keep working until you make it or not.
When Donald Trump plunged his casinos into what would be their first of many bankruptcies, he was put on an allowance by the banks. Let that sink in – a 40-year-old person, purportedly a grown up, who needs to be kept on an allowance.
Who paid that allowance?
The many big banks Trump claims to despise today.
Worse, they delivered Trump a reward for failure was after he’d wrecked the fortunes of not only his investors, but also the many small business people who never got paid for building his maniacal Taj Majal. Trump ultimately wrecked Atlantic City itself, whose casino industry never recovered from Trump’s foolishly ego driven business plans that all of his contemporaries derided as lunacy.
Trump can only sell fear, because under the suit, under the fancy airplane, which he wouldn’t have today without daddy’s money and connections, under it all, he’s only got the emotional maturity of a spoiled child. A spoiled child who in the finest Republican tradition like George W. Bush before him has always failed upwards.
Now, Trump wants to bring back the last failed Republican regime’s worst ideas in spades, along with racism, openly visceral discrimination and a new kind of fear America has never seen. After 9/11 the Bush administration openly used fear to manipulate the public and government policy to help their cronies. Trump wants to use the same fear mongering, but without any actual problems happening.
Shamefully, too many Americans are ready to buy into this new Republic of Fear, but as Kareem Abdul Jabbar concluded: “Compassion and courage are what makes America great, not hate and fear.”
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition.