Commentary: Kindness vs. cruelty — the 2020 decision

Of all the horrible scenes in the movie, “Schindler’s List,” the most horrible is the child separation scene, where the Nazi guards load the camp’s children onto trucks to be driver to their deaths. When the parents see their children being driven away, a riot ensues. After suffering starvation, beatings, murder and slave labor, the Jewish prisoners must endure an even greater indignity — seeing their children ripped away forever.

When you watch that scene, you wonder what kind of person can be so cruel to a child.

Well, in Donald Trump’s America, we are becoming those people. Thanks to Trump and his Republican enablers, America now commits Nazi-like crimes against humanity: ripping babies from their mothers; putting kids in cages, and returning sick kids to their country of origin to die.

Watching the movie, you wonder how a people can become so depraved. Well, it’s a slow process and people descend into it gradually.

Hitler came to power in 1933 but didn’t start mass killings right away. The first thing he did was dehumanize the Jews. He blamed them for all of Germany’s problems: its low self-esteem as a country, the depression and the defeat in World War I. He made them scapegoats and awakened the “haters” who liked his message of Aryan or white supremacy. He compared the Jews to vermin who were invading and infesting the Reich. And what do you do to vermin? You exterminate them.

When you convince people that another people are sub-human, it’s easier to be cruel to them. At first, Jews lost their jobs, homes and businesses, and were denied a part in German society. Then they were encouraged to leave Germany. Once the war started, however, they couldn’t leave. Eventually, 6 million were slaughtered.

Trump has awakened the haters in our country — the white supremacists. He scapegoats people of color who live here or are seeking asylum from what he calls “—hole” countries. He also uses words like “infest” and “invade” to describe them.

He has that demonic combination of hate, cruelty, lack of empathy, ignorance and narcissism that has inflected pain and suffering to millions over the centuries.

And he has now unleashed his cruelty and hate in America. What makes this so hard to fathom is that Trump was handed the world on a silver platter. How can a man who has been given everything be so cruel?

With all our faults, America strived to be a kind and compassionate nation over the years. We welcomed the world’s poor, hungry and huddled masses to come here to live a better life. Under Trump, we terrorize and abuse the poor, hungry and huddled masses.

President Truman defined Abraham Lincoln, who many believe was our greatest president this way: “He had a good head, and a great brain and a kind heart. He was the best kind of ordinary man and when I say that he was an ordinary man, I mean that as high praise and not deprecation.

“That’s the highest praise you can give any man — that he’s one of the people and he is known for the service he gives people.”

Our best president had a good head, a great brain and a kind heart and was known for the service he gave others. Our worst president has a big head, a warped brain and a cruel heart who serves no one but himself.

Lincoln’s kindness also extended to his enemies. At the end of the Civil War, Lincoln could have hanged General Robert E. Lee and his general staff. He could have done the same to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet and it would have been in his right because treason was a crime punishable by death. But Lincoln believed in “malice towards none and charity for all”. It allowed the nation to begin healing.

For the remainder of the 20th century, America was always the first on the scene to help, supplying emergency aid and fighting poverty while expecting nothing in return. Not anymore. Now it’s America first and the hell with everyone else. All the goodwill built over the years has been destroyed during Trump’s presidency. It may never be restored.

Many in Trump’s base are Christian evangelicals who frequently quote the Scripture when trying to make a point. They’ve been mostly quiet about the physical, mental and emotional abuse of babies and toddlers on the border because these kids aren’t American or white. But their savior, Jesus Christ, was pretty clear in how he felt about anyone who harmed a child, regardless of their race or nationality. “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

America is at a crossroads in 2020 and has a crucial decision to make. Our choice is simple — do we take the high road or the low road. We have been on the low road for the past three years. The low road is a dark and dangerous place, occupied by a sick, cruel, and corrupt man. He is trying to lure us further down that road with lies, fear and deceit.

The high road is paved with love, kindness and compassion, with malice towards none and charity for all. The person leading us down that road is an ordinary person who has a good head, a great brain and a kind heart.

There is an easy way to tell that you have taken the high road:

You won’t see any babies — cold, hungry and terrified — locked in cages and screaming for their mommies.

Saddle up America. It’s time to show the world that we chose kindness over cruelty in 2020. Let’s make a 74-year old toddler go to bed without his supper and cry himself to sleep on election night. Then maybe he will understand how it feels.

Jack Hoban is a resident of Lewes.

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