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Why Even Superman Would Fear Donald Trump
Originally published 11/29/2016
Baby Boomers know that Superman, the world’s most famous superhero,“…fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!” These words opened the 1950’s Adventures of Superman TV series that ran from 1952-1958. The introduction on the 1940’s radio series of the same name, however, was a bit different, “Superman–defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who….fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice.” The words, “the American way” were added to this phrase as part of the animated Fleischer Studios Superman serials in 1942, when the U.S. was deeply embroiled in WWII. The three extra words were dropped from the radio broadcasts when the war ended, but were revived in the TV show as well as the 1978 Superman film.
Those familiar with the Superman mythos know that he was actually an illegal immigrant in our country. He arrived as an orphan without benefit of either passport or visa. Not only is he undocumented, he underwent no vetting process on his way to America. Even though he has super powers, the adult Superman would likely be very worried by Donald Trump’s plan to deport illegal aliens (and Superman explicitly fits that definition). Deporting him back to his home planet Krypton isn’t an option; it was destroyed when he left. It’s unclear where Trump would have him sent. Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, would be appalled at the increased levels of xenophobia and anti-Semitism that Trump’s election campaigning produced. Siegel and Shuster were both first generation children of Jewish immigrants from Europe. As such, many believe that their creation of Superman reflected a desire for Jews and other immigrants to be welcomed, and then successfully assimilated, into the American melting pot.
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Let’s see how well Donald Trump lives up to the Superman’s famous ideals:
Donald Trump, as has been well documented, has an aversion to telling the truth. He fails in this regard in two distinct ways. First, as George Bernard Shaw warned, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” What Trump often cites as facts have been widely discredited, such as his claim that global warming is a Chinese hoax, and his whopper that millions voted illegally in the recently concluded election. This pattern of prevarication is distinct from having an opinion, though even these often challenge credulity as well, such as his boast “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” Secondly, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Trump may really believe that “no one has more respect for women than I do”, but again that’s simply him expressing an opinion. However, even after being told by government officials that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic campaign emails, Trump said during a debate that he didn’t know who was responsible. Trump has a history of repeating mistruths and untruths at a record rate (even knowing that whatever he says will be vetted by multiple fact checkers). In just one day on the campaign trail he managed to lie 37 times. And when the truth was brought to his attention, Trump simply chose to ignore it. He’s quickly become the poster child for the post-truth world, where facts apparently don’t matter anymore. “Post-truth” was recently named 2016’s word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. It defines this word as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Fighting against injustice, whether it’s racial discrimination, fraud, or sexual harassment is something Superman and all of us should be proud of. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Donald Trump has a well-documented reputation for stiffing contractors working for him, as well as failing to pay the minimum wage or overtime. Mr. Trump and his father were accused back in the 1970’s of discriminating against African-Americans in housing. He wound up signing a consent decree and numerous stipulations that would help ensure that his rental properties would be desegregated. More recently, Mr. Trump was accused of fraudulent business practices with his self branded Trump University. Once again he settled the case without admitting wrongdoing, this time for $25 million. Mr. Trump claimed he would have been victorious in court, but only settled because he is too busy to deal handling the nation’s affairs to deal with this. Trump’s charity admitted to violating IRS regulations by spending money not on charitable enterprises, but on things that were solely for the benefit of Mr. Trump and his family. Mr. Trump also promised during his election campaign that he would sue the women who claimed that he had groped them. This won’t happen either; he’d likely lose nearly every one of these lawsuits. Instead, he’ll claim once again that he’s too busy repairing our nation’s infrastructure to take the time to go to court. This is the same Donald Trump who bragged about walking into a dressing room of half-clothed teenage girls at the Trump-owned Miss Teen USA beauty pageant as well as sexually assaulting women in the now infamous Access Hollywood video.
The American Way
There is, of course, no standardized definition of exactly what this phrase refers to. Given the current political climate, different groups are going to have distinct interpretations of what this phrase means. I’ll take a stab at some characteristics that a wide variety of Americans might agree on. Many of Trump’s actions and proposed policies are not in keeping what many of us think of as American ideals:
We strive to be respectful of each other. Trump’s attitude towards women is anything but respectful. He has mocked the handicapped in his campaign speeches, referred to Mexicans as murderers and rapists, and dishonored a Muslim Gold Star family that lost a son in combat.
We believe in fair play, and treating others the way that we would like to be treated. Mr. Trump said during the campaign that he wanted to reinstate waterboarding, a practice widely decried as torture and that is banned by the Geneva Convention. In fact, Mr. Trump has stated publicly that even this technique does not go far enough in extracting information from America’s enemies.
We believe that everyone should do his or her fair share. This would include paying taxes, and it appears that Mr. Trump was able to avoid doing so for as long as twenty years. It’s hard to say for sure since he has never released his tax returns.
We don’t take what doesn’t belong to us. Mr. Trump has advocated taking over the Iraqi oil fields and helping ourselves to their oil.
We strive to set a good example for our children. Many parents were dumbfounded during the campaign how they were going to explain Mr. Trump’s actions to their children. Senate Republican Kelly Ayotte’s was one of the few politicians who asserted that Trump was a good role model, even though she later reversed course on this, saying she “misspoke”.
We don’t think that “might makes right.” No issue was likely more difficult to explain to kids than the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, saying, “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Our people are compassionate. This is why so many communities have welcomed Syrian refugees. Contrary to what Mr. Trump has said, these folks are extremely well vetted, and the vast majority of them are women and children.
We champion equal rights, and fight against hate and prejudice. Those on the alt-right seem to be strong Trump supporters because they embrace the hostility to minorities and immigrants that Trump railed against during the presidential campaign.
We want to help those of us who need a hand. This is the antithesis of repealing Obamacare, which would take away the health insurance from up to 22 million Americans. It would be a disaster. It would leave many of us hurting both physically and financially, because medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in our country. Virtually all of the ideas circulating for replacement plans are going to harm those who lose their insurance, with most of the burden falling on the old and sick.
America is a land where if you work hard, you can succeed. Mr. Trump’s proposal to round up and deport up to 11 million illegal immigrants will tear apart many hard working, tax paying families. Many of these folks are college students, who are trying to get ahead and help support their families.
We are generous to those who need help. While it’s admirable that Mr. Trump set up his eponymous charity, it’s clearly a shoestring operation. It has no paid staffers and has never had more than $3.2 million in assets. Mr. Trump hasn’t donated to it since 2008. He also effectively solicited charitable donations from other charities, then turned around and gifted them without adding any of his own money.
Conclusion: Trump Fails the Superman Standard
He’s not very truthful, doesn’t appear to have much interest in following laws and regulations, and sets a pretty poor example to those in our country and beyond. We can only hope that once he assumes the Presidency, Mr. Trump will grow into the role and will learn to control his temper. He needs to become more of a statesman and leave behind his petty complaints and boorish behavior. I would love to see his Presidency be a great success, and I am rooting strongly for that outcome. However, if he continues down his current path, it will quickly become clear that we have actually elected Lex Luthor, not Superman. It's just another example of life imitating art, because Lex Luthor actually became President of the United States in one of the Superman comic plot lines.
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