Trump, Gianforte lowered the bar, but we don’t have to follow them

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To borrow the words of Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

For two years, Donald Trump did, indeed, show us who he was, who he is, and who he forever will be. Through his words and his behavior, those with ears to hear and eyes to see had ample opportunity to discern this man as the liar, cheat, narcissist, and bully that he is: a man who must “WIN,” whatever the contest and regardless the cost; a man who neither respects nor values anyone but himself; a man who has placed himself above both law and precedent; a man lacking in common decency who would mock the disabled, dishonor our heroes, and boast of his lewd treatment of women. (Examples abound in the months leading up to and following the election.)

Nevertheless, in November 2016, Montanans went to the polls and, by a 20-point margin, helped elevate Donald Trump to the highest and most respected position in the free world. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has inherited neither the grace nor the dignity of his predecessors, on both sides of the aisle. Time and time again, through statements he has uttered and decisions he has made, he continues to demonstrate a complete ineptitude and lack of respect for the high office he has attained. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s ignorance is surpassed only by his arrogance. Watching this man piggishly push aside Dusko Markovic, the leader of Montenegro, in order to gain front-and-center position at the recent NATO meeting in Brussels, was enough to make one cringe! His captured-on-video behavior, available for all the world to see, provided a startling picture of the very character of the man we have elected our president. Any American who values the examples set by our Founding Fathers and the noble ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, must certainly feel shame and embarrassment. (Not to mention a very legitimate fear of where this man’s erratic words and actions may lead us in the weeks and months ahead — as well as real concern regarding the suspicious dealings he and his closest advisers may have had in the months leading up to and following the elections in November 2016.)

In May, Montanans once again heard profane words and witnessed thuggish behavior, this time on the part of Greg Gianforte, running for election as Montana’s one and only representative to the U.S. House of Representatives. The night before the special election on May 25, Gianforte was seen and heard choking, body-slamming and knocking to the ground a “liberal” (the word used by Gianforte’s campaign) journalist who had the temerity of questioning Gianforte on his position on the Republicans’ health-care proposal which, if passed, would deprive tens of thousands of Montanans of basic health care. Regardless of one’s position, this was a fair question deserving an honest answer. His reaction, however, was very reminiscent of comments Donald Trump made on the campaign trail when he frequently urged his supporters to “punch in the face” (or other such crude directives) those who dared protest at his rallies. Who would have believed that a candidate running for the highest office in our land would speak and behave in such a manner? And, even more incredulous, who would have believed that so many wouldn’t even care!

Again, Montana voters have spoken and Gianforte has now taken his place in the once-revered halls of Congress. To think that these two men represent the best that America has to offer — to ourselves and to a world in urgent need of moral leadership — is more than frightening to me: it fills me with great sadness. As I look around me and as I watch and listen to the news, I see a country I no longer know nor understand. Instead of striving toward our highest ideals, I see us surrendering to our basest instincts. Where there was once a spirit of hope, I now see fear and anger; where there was once a belief in our fellow man — regardless of color, creed or country of origin — I now see suspicion and hatred; where we were once ready to reach out to the homeless and the weak, I now see walls, closed borders and hardened hearts.

So I am left with this question: “Is this what ‘making America great again’ is all about?” My answer is a resounding “No.” Instead, my deepest hope is that our country will have a change of heart and come to its senses before it’s too late, not for myself but for my children and grandchildren — and for all those who still believe in the fundamental goodness of our nation. As Americans, we’ll always find reasons to differ in our politics; and, as Americans, we’ll always have our First Amendment right to openly express these differences. However, we must never cease to uphold — and protect — all our country has stood for through its long and glorious history. This means that we must strongly and forever reject and oppose all that is unworthy — in ourselves and in those we elect to be our leaders. In my heart, I know that we are better than this — as a person and as a nation.

Darlene Frahm is a resident of Columbia Falls.

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