World, Meet Our Crazy Uncle

Dear World,

We were kind of hoping you wouldn’t have to meet him. But, it looks like he’s gone and introduced himself already.

He’s that guy. That uncle that is a part of nearly every American family. (If you are white and from the southern half of the country, you’ve probably got two or three of these uncles…)

He’s the relative that you only talk to once or twice a year, over a Thanksgiving table, or maybe at a wedding. He watches a lot of cable television. He listens to AM radio. He knows a lot of stuff.

He knows that he is a self-made man, or at least his daddy and granddaddy were. He came up from nothing, and had no advantages in life. Except a Y chromosome and white skin, but those don’t count.

He knows that the Constitution was written to guarantee his right to own as many and whatever kind of guns he damn pleases. Even though it wasn’t and doesn’t.

He knows that the US of A is a Christian country. Even though it isn’t.

He knows that all Muslims want to impose sharia law (he isn’t entirely sure what that is) and are terrorists or least terrorist sympathizers. Even though most acts of terrorism—or mass murders of any kind—in America are committed by guys who look exactly like him.

He still can’t believe that America elected a black man as President. He knows that there is something wrong with this picture, but he can’t prove anything, so he makes up theories. Obama is a secret Muslim. Obama is not an American citizen. Obama is an idiot. Obama is coming to take his guns.

He wants to “take the country back.” Way back. Back to the days when white men had everything and called all the shots. Back when people of color and women knew their place and offered little competition.

He is scared. He lives in a bubble of slanted news designed to make him more scared. So he buys as many guns as he can to arm himself against, I don’t know, other guys with too many guns?

In America, this uncle is such a standard family accessory that the Democratic party even created a tongue-in-cheek website with “talking points” for Thanksgiving. It’s called Your Republican Uncle and addresses “the most common myths spouted by your family members who spend too much time listening to Rush Limbaugh.”

Our crazy uncles were kept back in the tool shed or garage for the last few decades. We always knew they were there, but we could mostly ignore them as they cleaned their guns and muttered to themselves about the “gubmint.” We thought they were a remnant: a demographic that would die off before too long. We just had to wait them out.

We may have been wrong about that.

Meet Donald Trump. Everyone’s crazy uncle. All wrapped up in one big, bloviating package. And now sitting right out on the front porch. Where everyone can see him.

donald trump

His latest pronouncement, that he would ban all Muslim immigration or travel to the U.S., “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” was the top story on the BBC news this morning. I am sure it’s getting similar coverage elsewhere—especially in Muslim countries, where it plays right into the hands of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

The Brits, our BFFs across the pond (who pay very close attention to U.S. news), are becoming alarmed. Some have launched a petition to ban Trump from entering the country because he “foments racial, religious and nationalistic intolerance which should not be welcome in the UK.” Can’t argue with that.

Of course, the relatively tolerant British have crazy uncles, too. In the UK, they support the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Other European countries have even larger crazy constituencies. In Austria, they vote for the neo-Nazi Freedom Party. In France they love Marine Le Pen and her National Front party. Here in Poland they have the Nationalist Party among others on the political right. And so on.

But that is Europe. We are America. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and to be honest, the rest of the world does too. For good reason. It’s one thing when a relatively small, overwhelmingly white country with an official state religion has a noisy xenophobic minority. It’s another entirely when one of the largest, most powerful countries on earth shows its ugly underbelly. When it looks like our beloved “melting pot” may be boiling over. This makes people nervous—can you blame them?

As an American living in Europe, I feel like my crazy uncle has escaped from the tool shed and gone on an internationally televised bender. It’s so embarrassing.

I remind myself, he was always there. He’s not a new branch on the family tree, and eventually, he will die off. All evidence indicates that he is demographically doomed. It’s only a matter of time.

But, on the other hand, we can’t ignore him anymore. He’s out there now, running his mouth. We have to own him: even apologize for his behavior. Because is he is one of the family, whether we like it or not. And we have to contain the damage he can do, by calling him out on his craziness (even some of Republican leadership are finally (finally!) doing this) and outvoting him at every opportunity.

So, world, meet my crazy uncle. I’m so sorry he got out of the shed and into the Jack Daniels. Please believe me when I say he doesn’t speak for me, or any of my friends. We’ll do our best to keep him from wrecking your car, shooting your dog, or crapping on your lawn.

Sincerely,

The rest of us.

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