Opinion

Opinion

Out of the president's heart, the mouth speaks

Posted January 18, 2018 2:48 p.m. EST

ATLANTA -- Here we go again.

President Donald Trump makes incendiary remarks, and the rest of us -- well, a good majority -- are outraged.

What did he do this time? What he always does. Open his mouth and let his tongue, ever void of compassion, spew evil, evil, evil, deepening the racial divide.

Sadly, there is an undeniable history here, dating back at least to the 1970s, when Trump settled with the Justice Department over accusations of housing discrimination. He has called Mexicans rapists. According to a New York Times article, he once said Haitian immigrants "all have AIDS" and that Nigerians live in "huts." He recently retweeted misleading anti-Muslim videos from a racist British activist.

And we all know what happened last week at a DACA meeting when he became frustrated with efforts by lawmakers to protect immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" the president asked.

According to news reports, he then suggested that we bring more people from other countries like Norway.

You can't make this stuff up. What's worse is you can't even be surprised anymore.

"Day after day, week after week, as we have heard Trump make blatantly hateful remarks, or when he wants to put into law things that will further oppress whole groups of people, it is labeled a new low each time," said Deborah J. Cohan, an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.

"Each comment conveys more jingoistic flag-waving and the illusion of a common enemy, which contributes to some people instinctively and protectively guarding themselves and their sense of identity. Rather than foster any sense of community, Trump instills in the nation a sense of suspicion of people who are not fully known to us. His attitudes, behaviors and messages are the epitome of xenophobia."

Cohan said the president's frequent faux pas are starting to remind her of the various mass murders and school shootings that we've seen over the years where with each one we thought, well, this has to be the one that changes things and mobilizes us. And then another one happens and it's the same thing all over again.

"The same feels true of Trump's comments," Cohan said. "One just seems more unusually cruel and morally wrong than the previous one."

The criticism and condemnation were swift as people lined up to call the president and his comments racist.

Trump seemed to deny making the comments. One lawmaker, Sen Richard Durbin, D-Ill., confirmed he was in the room and called the president's denial false.

"I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday," Durbin said last Friday.

Durbin called the president's comments "hate-filled, vile and racist."

The United Nations flat-out called Trump a racist!

It's hard to know what's in the president's heart, but he's said and probably believes he's the least racist person in the world.

This is what I know for sure: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

If you've spent any time in Sunday school, you might remember that verse in the book of Matthew. And this one: "Life and death is in the power of the tongue."

We teach our children that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us, but the truth is words can hurt and hurt deeply.

Often when I hear the latest from Trump's mouth, I remember these words from poet William Wordsworth: "the child is the father of the man."

In many ways, Trump operates like a bruised little boy still trying to prove himself. And despite his obvious success, he's in a lot of pain.

And I'm worried. Hurting people hurt people.

Gracie Bonds Staples writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Email: gstaples(at)ajc.com.

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