Over the past week or so, there has been endless outrage and debate among pundits and everyday Americans alike about whether or not the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is a racist.
When asked about it by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, Andrew Young preferred to deflect the question, instead quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying "nothing is more dangerous in all the world than sincere ignorance and enthusiastic stupidity."
Juxtaposed against Trump's remarks about shithole countries in Africa, Young's use of King's quote was an inspired attempt to steer the conversation away from labeling Trump a racist and toward dealing with the more pervasive underlying issue of ignorance in our country. And while I agree wholeheartedly with Andrew Young, I can't help thinking that, at least in this case, Dr. King got it wrong.
King was reflecting on the insidious power of deeply held beliefs, especially when those beliefs turn out not to be true. But while there is certainly no shortage of "sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity" (King's actual words) in today's tribalist, choir-preaching, constantly-connected, narrow-casting world, I'm afraid there is something far more dangerous: feigned ignorance and strategic stupidity.
Donald Trump is not a racist. He just plays one on TV.
Now, there are plenty who would argue the opposite (and they do, on a daily basis) -- that Donald is simply an idiot, that he is showing the same racist stripes he has shown for decades, that the reason he is constantly putting his foot in his Trumphole is because he just can't help himself. I contend, however, that drawing this conclusion dangerously misses the point, precisely because it is the conclusion Trump wants you to draw.
You see, being a racist implies that you are morally misguided, but guided morally none-the-less. Take the subset of evangelicals for whose ears Trump's dog whistles are so finely tuned. They couldn't be more righteous and indignant, even though they couldn't be more wrong. But Donald Trump is not equipped with a compass, moral or otherwise. He doesn't love evangelicals any more than he hates blacks or immigrants. He doesn't care about coal miners or Carrier plant workers or farmers -- or even Russians, for that matter.
Donald Trump is an equal opportunity divider, a walking house of mirrors built around an echo-chamber where his soul should be. He shows people what they want to see, tells them what they want to hear, lies and then lies about the lies and then lies some more, all to destroy reality, fracture opposition, leverage influence, garner votes, assimilate power, and swindle fortune. He blows on dog whistles, grabs pussies and exploits loopholes (legal or otherwise) pillaging the world and everything in it. If he could pit stars against wormholes, Donald Trump would plunder the universe.
So what to do?
Stand united. Look away. Do not listen. Cover your privates. Don't believe anything. But most of all, do not be outraged, because it is your outrage that he wants, so he can use it against you with your opponent.
Come to think of it, maybe King was right after all. Trump may be strategically feigning ignorance, but we are the ones being conscientiously stupid: too easily distracted and too quickly outraged to see Trump's true motives. The time has come to see things as they are, and to stop the master manipulator before he makes off with democracy.