By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — The Trail of Tears. Slavery. The Civil War. Jim Crow. Women’s rights (or lack thereof).
Chapters of American history many would like to sweep under the rug.
Just like those pesky witch hunts, first in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 17th century and in post-World War II era when Sen. Joseph McCarthy tried to galvanize the country, and raise his political profile, with hearings – modern-day witch hunts – against Communism, real and perceived, on these shores.
McCarthy enjoyed some popularity at the outset. Warning about a “red under every bed,” he was seen as a bit of an American hero. The thinking: If he ruined a few innocent lives along the way, eh, so what?
By June of 1954, his star was beginning to fade a bit. Television was just taking its place in American culture and ABC — broadcasting to what was its largest audience — put itself on the map with a live broadcast on the 30th day of Army-McCarthy hearings (the senator was taking aim at some Army lawyers).
Under questioning about a lawyer at his firm named Fred Fisher, Army lawyer Joseph N. Welch had enough of McCarthy’s hateful act. When McCarthy brought up Fisher’s name, without warning, Welch lashed back.
After some banter, we are left with this sound bite that proved a turning point in the public consciousness.
“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator,” said Welch. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
McCarthy persisted, but Welch stood firm on his moral high ground.
“Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you,” he said. “You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”
How and why is this relevant?
Depends how much you believe in learning the lessons of history, whether tragic or triumphant.
Because of Donald Trump, the guy with the bad hair who is sitting in the driver’s seat of the clown car that carries the hopefuls – and hopeless — from the Republican party.
After a three-hour debate, during which he was rightfully a marked man by those eating his dust in polls, Trump went on to New Hampshire. There, one his backers – wearing a Trump tee-shirt – engaged in the typical psychobabble about President Barrack Obama being a Muslim who was not born in the U.S.
Trump fostered this notion, of course, when he spearheaded — and financed — the sickening “birther” movement that wanted to know where Obama was born, refusing to take a valid birth certificate as an answer.
After taking some heat in the media for his lack of a coherent response, the other GOP challengers have turtled.
And only Jeb Bush — perhaps Trump’s only legitimate competition, when it is all said and done — came out and refuted those claims, instead saying it is about Obama’s progressive policies (as if progressive, instead of regressive, is a bad thing).
Trump kicked off his campaign with Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ In The Free World” in the blasting in the background and then launched into a tirade about illegal immigrants.
Young, a Canadian anyway, yanked the song from Trump and willed it to my candidate of choice, Bernie Sanders, but the mantra about the illegal immigrants not only stuck, but gained traction – especially with those who attend tractor-pull competitions (and wear Trump tee-shirts to political rallies).
The use of hate speech to become a demagogue should not be taken lightly.
I really don’t want to call Trump another Adolf Hitler, but his attempt to cite one ethnic group to galvanize his base is eerily like ripping Page 1 out of the Nazi playbook.
And if he is running off-tackle with a swastika on his helmet, he is going to a play-action pass with Joseph McCarthy in his heart.
So who is going to put an end to it?
Who is going to play the part of Joseph N. Welch and expose and publicly pull down Trump’s pants and expose his wayward sense of decency?
It’s not going to be any of his fellow candidates, like the milquetoast Bush or comatose Dr. Ben Carson, because they all need to gather steam with some of Trump’s hot air about plans to “ship them all home” and rip families apart based on false claims of them all being rapists roaming the streets at night looking for your daughters.
The Democrats are so polar opposite in this hopelessly divided country that nothing they say, from their own well-worn playbooks, will have any sway.
But someone else just might.
This lapsed-beyond-repair Jew is putting all hope in the pope – Pope Francis.
And he just happens to be on his way to our shores — like a superhero, fresh from a phone booth — right now.
Instead of bemoaning the inconvenience posed by his visit, consider listening to his message.
He just made may save the soul of a country.
Pope Francis has spoken passionately about the plight of those who have come here, like the ancestors of many of us, in search of a better life.
America has never fully cured itself of xenophobia, as every group as faced the hate. But workers were needed during the industrial revolution, as were conscripts for the Union during the Civil War, so grudging exceptions were made.
These days, if you look different and speak different, there is no easy path – or even a doable path – to citizenship like in times of yore.
There are plenty of undocumented souls here – from all over the world – who overstay their work or student visas.
Many are seen with a blind eye because, well, they blend in with the scenery. Like comedian Chris Rock says, “If you’re white, it’s all right.”
Asians have been brought up by some candidates, including Trump, but that rhetoric doesn’t seem to feed to electorate beast the same way as the bull’s eye on Hispanics does.
And if you are from an Arab country, where they often burn American flags, you mystically seem to fly under the radar – at least in comparison to Hispanics, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala.
Pope Francis, born in Argentina, is seen as a beacon of hope for those being outright persecuted for political gain on the American landscape.
During a recent broadcast – ironically on ABC, the same network that made its name back in 1954 when Welch took McCarthy out to the woodshed – the pope fielded questions, via satellite, from many of the misunderstood (and miscast by Trump) and responded with tender and insightful answers.
All eyes – and cameras – will be on the pope during his time here. It will be a healthy shift away from Trump coverage, 25/8.
He will surely speak about his key issues, like climate change and income inequality – you know, the taboo subjects (along with gun control) at the GOP debates – but also on the Trump-inspired wrath on other human beings seeking to make the words on the Statue of Liberty come alive with coherent meaning once again.
And I suspect, he will target Trump — although maybe not by name — about his sense of decency.
That will be enough to take him to school — Bible School.
And I hope – we Secular Humanists don’t pray – it turns Donald Trump into another piece of American history that our children’s children will live to regret.