Every so often in my job, I am on the receiving end of an emotional haymaker. A punch so powerful it reminds me that the political world isn’t nearly as important as we pretend it is.
One of those moments occurred last week, when I met a group of Louisville students who were visiting Washington. They attend Nativity Academy, a private middle school in eastern downtown Louisville that educates vulnerable kids from our community.
I met the group of about two dozen students on the steps of the Capitol. They were all minority young people with great attitudes and abundant curiosity. During our question-and-answer session, one student asked me what I would change about Louisville if I could change one thing. After a brief thought, I said I would end the gun violence that has dramatically escalated in Louisville over the past two years.
Then one of the chaperones asked the group, “How many of you have lost a family member or someone close to you to gun violence.” Every kid but two raised their hands.
Every kid but two!
One of the students said that he had lost his girlfriend.
Almost every day another member of our community is lost to guns. Unfortunately, many of us barely notice, unless it’s a total innocent like Dequante Hobbs Jr., the 7-year-old boy who was killed by a stray bullet while eating cake at his dining room table.
But when you stare at the reality of an entire class of children who have experienced these tragedies, you have to question the sanity of our society.
Which regretfully brings me to President Trump.
Like many Americans, I have tried to use humor to cope with the ten-ring circus that is the Trump Administration. In fact, I regularly begin speaking engagements by saying that I now know the real reason Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has given up the circus business: It couldn’t compete with Washington.
I mention that there is an epidemic of sore necks in the country because we are all constantly shaking our heads in bewilderment at the Trump dumpster fire.
But it’s not funny anymore.
It’s not funny because we have an emotionally-unstable president with the attention span of a toddler and a lack of understanding of his job or the basics of American government. We have a president who disrespects not only the people he serves — especially the Americans who voted for him — but the people who serve him. We have a president who doesn’t read, but who can say, without realizing how absurd he sounds, that he had learned everything about healthcare in a couple weeks, and that he knows more about the military than the generals.
It’s not funny because he changes his mind and his stories without even realizing he is doing it. He is not a president on whom anyone can depend, because he is like a compass at the North Pole, searching hopelessly for a magnetic field to draw him in the right direction. A recent poll of Germans indicated that less than a quarter of their citizens consider the United States a “reliable ally.” That’s down from 60 percent last year.
It’s not funny because we have a president, as described by conservative columnist David Brooks, whose thoughts are like “six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.” We have a president who is only interested in the applause and has no idea what to do when the clapping stops.
It’s not funny because this country has real challenges that are not being addressed, including how to prevent 14-year-olds from having their girlfriends shot dead.
Whether it’s healthcare, education, transportation, energy, housing, national security, veterans, immigration, criminal justice, the opioid epidemic, or probably more important than all of them, climate change, we are paralyzed in Congress and Washington because of the all-consuming reality show that is Trump.
Yes, I am a partisan Democrat. Yes, I voted for Hillary Clinton.
But I, like most people, am an American first, and I am truly fearful about what Donald Trump is doing to our Democracy.
It is profoundly significant that virtually every national columnist, from the most liberal to the most conservative, has written the same column. And now I have written it too.
I understand that many Trump supporters have not given up on him yet, and I respect that. But our system of government is in grave danger, and the rest of us have a moral responsibility to resist with as much energy and passion as we can muster. •
John Yarmuth, founder of LEO, has represented Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District since 2007.