Trump presence shows a weakening in nation

To the editor:

When Michelle Bachmann appeared on the political scene in 2007, I wondered how a person that ignorant could be popularly elected to anything. At the time, I thought that it doesn't get any worse than this.

Shortly thereafter, Sarah Palin proved me wrong. A growing number of Americans were clearly losing their grip on reality. Palin made Bachmann look like a Rhodes scholar.

But don't focus exclusively on the individuals: follow the arc.

The vacuous mind of Palin pales in comparison to that of Donald Trump, and his popularity is disturbing. What is causing the decay in this fragile experiment we call a constitutional federal republic?

Living under our form of government places extraordinary responsibilities upon each citizen. It's easy to look after one's own interests, but this unique form of government — and our society — requires that people look after each other's interests, especially those who often don't have a voice: the homeless, the unemployed, the aged, the indigent, vulnerable children, the hungry, the refugee, those without health coverage for themselves and their loved ones.

This level of awareness of "other," and caring, accounts for the disdainful use of the pejorative adjective "bleeding heart," which presumably refers to a person's humanitarian instincts. Those instincts are disappearing. We are becoming a sated, complacent nation enjoying the fruits of our ancestors' struggles and labors for social justice and economic stability, but we are not carrying on those traditions.


Benjamin Franklin was prophetic when, at the close of Constitutional Convention in 1787, he offered his opinion of the new document and structure of government:

"I agree to this Constitution with all its faults because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered and I believe, further, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."

Dictators can coerce but people must eventually compel themselves, and in this compulsion is their highest freedom. It seems, though, that a growing number of American citizens are willingly surrendering their right of self-determination to someone who promises them the world, along with the many opportunities to express their anger and prejudices.

"King Lear," Act 4, Scene 2: "Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile. Filths savor but themselves."

Jeffrey Reel, Great Barrington