Graves Registry: Keeper of the flame

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"We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.' – Edward R. Murrow, 1954

Remember when it was Communists? They were everywhere. In the government, under our beds, and plotting to derail trains full of happy kids on their way to summer camp. It was rumored that they cast scornful looks at the Statue of Liberty and that their pulse didn't quicken when Kate Smith began warbling "God Bless America" on the radio.

The threat provided people who routinely mistook paranoia for patriotism with an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. Citizens blessed with a high threshold for boredom closely watched houses of suspected Party members. The Reds had to be rooted out and subjected to the wrath of the just.

The crusade to expose them was led by a bullying alcoholic from Wisconsin, whose name frequently appears alongside Teapot Dome, the Little Big Horn, and Richard Nixon in compilations titled "America's Biggest Mistakes." The words most closely associated with Sen. Joseph McCarthy were not actually spoken by him. They were directed towards him by Joseph Welch, an attorney during the infamous Army/McCarthy hearings. Mr. Welch asked the recalcitrant senator, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Sen. McCarthy didn't, at least in public. And the alcohol that probably numbed any internal sense of decency he may have harbored would eventually kill him at the age of 48.

The right wing's eternal flame of intolerance still burns over half a century later – it has just substituted "Muslim" for "Communism." The purveyor-in-chief is another man whose sense of decency seems to be, at best, elusive. Donald Trump's first pubic statement following the largest mass murder in the country's history was an unabashed self-tribute to his own gift for prophecy.

If Joe McCarthy's zealotry was inspired by a fatally misguided interpretation of the precepts that provide the foundations for American freedom, Trump's only concern for anything at all is rooted in its potential to service his own bloated ego. The people who support him claim that he represents a turning away from traditional "politics as usual" in Washington. They are right. He does. But turning away from something necessitates a turning toward something else. The only thing we can be certain of with Mr. Trump is that whatever he turns toward will directly benefit Donald Trump. There is no other constant when megalomania reaches the degree it has in his character.

The information that is coming to light about Mr. Trump and his checkered, convoluted personal and business relationships should prompt a serious reevaluation amongst his supporters. What, exactly, are they supporting? From the moment of his cornball decent on a Trump Tower escalator to the applause of a hired audience, his candidacy has been pockmarked with petty spitefulness, deception, and hypocrisy; further evidence that Trump is merely a performer, a vacuous celebrity by virtue of a big bank account and a bigger mouth, not a statesman.

He crouches his most outrageous rants in clumsily obvious, but easily deniable verbiage. (The judge is Mexican, not that he is implying anything by bringing it up.) He has the colossal nerve to call Hillary Clinton "crooked" while he raked in money from a bogus university that bilked vulnerable people, who were simply trying to better their lives, out of thousands of dollars. His gargantuan ego is largely predicated on his being worth billions of dollars, but he won't release his tax returns to verify the boast.

And the biggest con of them all: He's going to morph into a more presidential mode once he has flimflammed enough people into thinking he is fit to be president. Expecting that Donald Trump will ever really change is like asking the faces on Mount Rushmore to switch places. And the damage he has done to the credibility of this country is already incalculable.

— Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist


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