By me, for The Washington Post. Read the rest here.
Read the rest here.
In 1997, Donald Trump proposed erecting a giant statue of Christopher Columbus on the West Side of Manhattan, where he owned property. Created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli, the statue (entitled Birth of the New World) was huge: 268 feet tall (taller than the Statue of Liberty) and 6,500 tons. Trump was, according to The New Yorker, “absolutely favorably disposed toward” having this sculpture tower over the Hudson. Whether that’s because it had “$40 million worth of bronze in it” or because he felt a kinship with a rapacious, racist, self-aggrandizing, larger-than-life, real estate tycoon, well, we can only speculate . . .
Mr. Columbus, thank you for joining us this evening. There have been some controversies of late that I thought you would want to address.
People love me. And you know what, I have been very successful. Everybody loves me.
Yes. But perhaps you’d like to respond to allegations of cruelty toward the natives of Hispaniola, what is now Haiti and—
I have a great relationship with the [natives]. I’ve always had a great relationship with the [natives]. . . .
the Dominican Republic. In particular the allegations that the men under your rule hunted natives with dogs for sport . . .
I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate.
Mr. Columbus, you have implied that some of the native people you encountered were evil and that they quote “eat human flesh” unquote. Do you have any actual evidence that they were cannibals?
Well, somebody’s doing the [eating]. Somebody’s doing it. Who’s doing the [eating]? Who’s doing the [eating]?
No one. Historians have debunked the rumor that you started. Would you like to apologize to the native population for your racist innuendo?
I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.
Sir, you have admitted to selling women and children into sex slavery—
I did not. I did not. I do not say that.
We have a letter right here to a member of the Royal Court in which you write, “There are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand, and for all ages a good price must be paid”—
That’s called business, by the way. That makes me smart.
But sex slavery? Of children?
As a businessman and explorer, I have legally used [colonial] laws to my benefit and to the benefit of my company, my investors, and my employees. Honestly, I have brilliantly — I have brilliantly used those laws . . . I built an unbelievable company.
And yet although you set out to find a trade route to Asia, you never actually arrived in Asia. And you never admitted that.
Wrong. Wrong. My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose.
An increasing number of municipalities—including Boulder, Colorado, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, plus the states of Alaska and South Dakota—celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. What do you say to those who see you not as a hero but as a symbol of genocidal colonization?
I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness.
OK, well, many people seem to agree, and continue to celebrate Columbus Day. But a large percentage of your supporters seem to be under the impression that you discovered America, when in fact the first humans on North American soil were there about 10,000 years before you existed; Leif Ericson landed there around 500 years before you set sail; and you yourself got no closer than Cuba. Your response?
I love the poorly educated!
Pope Francis, heading home from his recent trip to Mexico, answered a question about Donald Trump’s immigration policy like this: “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Trump replied, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” Actually a religious leader seems uniquely suited to that task. But questioning “a person’s faith” is not exactly what the Pope was doing.
He wasn’t saying Trump didn’t accept Jesus Christ as the son of God. He wasn’t saying that Trump didn’t pray or go to church or read the Bible. The Pope questioned not whether Trump believed himself to be a Christian, but whether he intended to act like one.
That’s “Christian” as in a person “who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.” A quick perusal of the New Testament reveals these to include serving the poor, treating others as you would want to be treated, helping strangers, and forgiving, forgiving, forgiving.
I have mixed feelings about this use of the word “Christian.” If a Christian is, by definition, a good person (whatever your theological beliefs, those teaching are pretty good ones), then a bad person cannot be called—no, cannot be—a Christian.
That leaves one with no way to describe the group of people who call themselves Christian but whose behavior isn’t . . . Christian at all. Under this definition, Westboro Baptist Church members are not Christian; Pat Robertson is not a Christian; Robert Louis Dear is not a Christian. And there can be no such thing as a “Christian terrorist.”
This doesn’t seem quite fair. (Leaving aside whether the Pope would be consistent on this question: surely priests who prey on children are not, according to his definition, Christian. But would he say that? We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt)
On the other hand, I like the idea that in order to be called “Christian” you have to adhere to a set of ideals, not just claim the title. You shouldn’t get to slide based on giving money to the church or knowing the words to the Lord’s Prayer or even accepting that Jesus Christ died for your sins. You should have to follow his teachings, or at least try to.
For a “Christian” that would mean making an effort to show charity, mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t seem particularly interested in sexual morality. He doesn’t care about punishment. He says he is “the way,” but he doesn’t condemn (or ask his dad to smite) people who don’t go that way; he tells his followers to preach to nonbelievers, not to attack them.
None of that sounds like Donald Trump, who could fairly be described as Candidate Least Likely to Turn the Other Cheek. Cheek turning is obviously for total losers.
The Pope is right: you’d have to look elsewhere to find the most Christian candidate for President. You’d have to find the one most pro-immigration, pro-amnesty, and anti-poverty, the one who demands health care for everyone and increased taxes on the rich. Jesus would have taxed the shit out of the rich.
If you were determined to vote for a “Christian,” in short, it appears that you’d have to vote for the Jew.