It just so happens that a message on my personal email on July 4 told me to leave the United States because I was obviously a liberal who doesn't love his country.
This judgment was based on my expressed disagreement with President Donald Trump and his minions. I do not know the email's sender, although I presume that he is an angry old white guy because most other addressees on his email fall into that category. His message to me was: Get on board or get out. Differences of opinion are not welcome in his America.
I decided not to ignore this personal attack--since my personal patriotism was challenged--and launched a sharp response. Angry old white Trump disciple, meet angry old white guy who is appalled by virtually everything about President Trump--from his lack of character to his incompetence as a leader. What qualifies you to question my commitment to this nation? I could easily slip into a quiet retirement, but after more than four decades of military and diplomatic service to this country, including 28 years in the U.S. Army and a tour in Vietnam, I cannot stay quiet in the daily disaster of the Trump administration.
In constant campaign mode, the president's recent racist attack on the four young progressive congresswomen is just a shallow political move to label anyone who disagrees with him an extremist. Trump's liberal-socialist nonsense is a crass political maneuver that looks more like McCarthyism than a political debate among adults.
Today, I think of myself as a moderate Democrat who has voted for a Republican president more than once. I do not support many proposals put forth by the Warren/Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.
As to labels, who knows what a "liberal" means today? If a liberal is someone who supports affordable health care for all Americans, quality public education for every citizen, reduced income disparity, strong national defense based on American leadership of a coalition on nations committed to democracy and human rights around the world, then call me a liberal. If socialism is someone who supports Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, quality public education and equal rights of every American regardless of race, gender or orientation, then throw me in with that crowd as well.
The alternative is to be a thoughtless follower of Trump's hateful and divisive rhetoric. I am astounded that Trump's supporters accept the constant lying, the corruption and the breathtaking incompetence of his government. Separating children from their parents and treating them like criminals on the U.S.-Mexican border was no solution to the immigration issue, but a national disgrace.
Even more puzzling is the willingness of Trump's supporters to ignore the reality that Trump is the preferred U.S. president of Vladimir Putin's Russia, a hostile foreign power which attacked American democracy in the 2016 elections and very likely will be a major Trump supporter in the 2020 election.
What the white nationalists and other Trump supporters refuse to accept is that diversity is an irrevocable fact of life in the United States and the world today. In this age of diversity, the future unity and strength of democratic nations will be determined not by race and ethnicity, but by shared political and social values and by the equality of justice and opportunity for all citizens. Nations that cannot accept and accommodate diversity are doomed to constant conflict, instability and weakness.
I present these conclusions as someone who worked for years to end or prevent the destruction, misery and genocide created by racial bigotry and ethnic division in the Balkans. The divisive rhetoric and the appeal to racial, ethnic and religious bigotry for political goals during the breakup of Yugoslavia were very similar to the words of the U.S. president today. As Trump is proving, America is not immune to the destructive effects of this kind of hateful rhetoric.
Trump has only one thing going for him--the economy. But in 2020, the country will have to decide if American democracy, rule of law and the values that made this country great should be compromised by money. If money prevails over democracy, we will have the country we deserve, and we can kiss the beautiful image of American exceptionalism goodbye.
I am searching for national leaders who can end the chaos and reverse the path that Trump is pursuing for the United States. I support those who are moderate, who are not corrupt, who respect the Constitution and laws of the country and the dignity of every citizen. I want leaders who can find reasonable, practical solutions to critical issues, including the immigration and humanitarian crisis that Trump has created but failed to resolve.
For the haters who want people like me to leave or shut up, I'm not going anywhere except to the polls in 2020--and I will continue to speak out to find an alternative to the current president. I leave the Trump devotee who wrote the Independence Day email to wallow in his own hatred, intolerance and thoughtless loyalty to probably the most destructive, non-democratic U.S. president in history.
Jonesboro native James W. Pardew is a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as deputy assistant secretary general of NATO and is the author of Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans. This column originally appeared in The Hill.
Editorial on 07/26/2019
Print Headline: Divided we fall