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Chris Honoré: Absent even a moment of grace

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

I think after this past year we know who Donald Trump is and we indeed should believe him.

Since Trump was inaugurated (actually months before) there have been moments when what he said or tweeted caused me to cringe with disbelief.

Last week, a ceremony of gratitude was held in the White House for those few remaining Navajo Code Talkers who had displayed undaunted courage during World War II, serving with the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater.

Some 400 to 500 Native Americans were recruited from the Southwest. Their purpose during battle was to send and receive, using their indigenous Navajo language, secret and tactical messages that could not be decoded by the enemy.

The president stood with the veterans, now in their 90s, his purpose to call attention to their remarkable and courageous service which saved countless American and allied lives.

Turning to the three men, one in a wheelchair, the other two leaning on canes, he said, “You’ve been here long before any of us were here.” He paused and then said, “Although we do have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.” What I heard was not just a reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren but a racial slur. I winced.

In the background hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act.

The very next morning Trump re-tweeted three anti-Muslim images, one that was blatantly false, all meant to generate hostility toward a people of a particular faith. His source, astonishingly, was a British fringe group led by anti-Muslim Jayda Fransen, the leader of Britain First. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, responded to Trump’s tweets by saying, “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and tension. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect.”

What a contrast to what we hear almost daily from the White House.

At times it feels as if we’re playing Jenga with our democracy and the Republicans are clearly watching the same morality play and seem capable only of silence: Are they not concerned for our remarkable country? Are they not outraged regarding Russia’s interference in our election? And are they disturbed by the damage being done to our institutions, most especially the State Department, which embodies the very essential art of diplomacy (if there is a path out of a military confrontation, which would be catastrophic, it is diplomacy)?

The GOP also doesn’t seem concerned by the growing closed-door murmur that our president may be fundamentally unhinged. That the only reality he relies on is the one he creates himself. There is talk that he has resurrected the conspiracy canard that president Obama is in fact not a U.S. citizen. He did once declare that the past president was the founder of ISIS. He demonstrates a predilection for authoritarian leaders and is often frustrated by the concept of checks and balances. He remains convinced that 3 million people cast fraudulent ballots in the last presidential election and has formed a commission to prove it. He has actually proffered that the Access Hollywood tape was doctored and the voice, suggesting if you’re a star, well, you can grab women by their privates if so moved, is not his, though her previously admitted to the content while referring to it as “locker room banter.”

And here is the conundrum that our nation faces: What do we do now? We can’t wait for Robert Mueller to throw us a life ring wrapped in Russian collusion or obstruction of justice. To answer the question, “How much damage can Trump et al. do to our nation?", we need only look back at the past 12 months.

Now what? Scratch the 25th Amendment. Ultimately we can only resist, wait, and hope that our democracy possesses a resiliency that is beyond anything our forefathers could ever have imagined.

— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.