Trump: should our behavior only be as good as the worst around us?

The story about the exchange between Michelle Fields (a former Breitbart News reporter) and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has finally reached the mainstream media. This has been a pretty crazy story, and I think the real story is about how Breitbart News handled the situation (firing Fields, seemingly to maintain their blatantly supportive stance toward Trump), which may or may not become a bigger part of the coverage. Either way, I’m happy that this is all getting some attention, and something this morning on the Today Show was enough to get me to dust off my keyboard and post something here for the first time in more than two weeks.

The interview spends a lot of time arguing about what happened, and what the consequences should or shouldn’t be, but at the 3-min mark, Lauer points out that regardless of the seriousness, Lewandowski “didn’t tell the truth” and asks Trump, “If you’re President of the United States and a member of your staff, your chief of staff, goes to the american people and doesn’t tell the truth…would you put up with it?” After a sentence of dancing about how minor it was, he turns to something that really got me: he makes the argument that it’s a minor incident that we shouldn’t be worried about…wait for it…because we have people in the Middle East “chopping off heads and drowning people in cages.”

There are two ways to look at this comment. Either he is saying that we cannot walk and chew gum at the same time (i.e., we can only worry about the chopped off heads, and don’t have time to worry about anything else), or he’s saying that this is minor compared to the horrible things that are happening elsewhere. I think it’s the latter, and this, this relativity of situations and how it should affect us, illustrates a completely different worldview held by Trump (and many of his supporters) and me. For Trump, the horrific acts of others are taken into account when evaluating our own behavior, and when making decisions about how we should act. For me, those horrific acts are certainly horrific, but have zero bearing on how I think about us. I simply cannot accept his argument. What if Lewandowski would have punched her in the face and kicked her in the teeth when she was down? Would we ever say that it was acceptable because at least he didn’t chop her head off or drown her in a cage? Of course we wouldn’t. But that’s how Trump sees the world. He’s said this before. He has complained about our rules of law that prevent us from fighting groups like ISIS on their terms. He said, “We have to change our laws and we have to be able to fight on an almost equal basis.” Really? So our behavior, and our willingness to violate the human rights we find so dear is dependent upon the actions of others? I think that is frightening.

I believe that our behavior should be judged on its own. I do not think that the despicable actions of others should make us feel justified in acting shamefully ourselves. Trump’s view on this makes me sad, and the fact that so many support him on this issue makes me even more sad. A recent Reuters/lpsos poll found that 63% of respondents felt that torture of suspected terrorists was “often or sometimes justified.” Not surprisingly, this had partisan divides, and 82% of republicans supported torture, but a majority of democrats (53%) did also. Either way, it all makes me very sad.

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