Donald Trump’s Latest Historical Flub Should Sincerely Frighten You

For his supporters, ignorance is not only bliss, but something to aspire to.
05/02/2017 12:34 pm ET Updated May 02, 2017
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President Trump has spent very little of his 70 golden years of life on this planet studying American history or government. That has become painfully obvious. He clearly hasn’t studied much world history either. And even as he sits in the most important office in the country, he refuses to become a student of history, or to try on intellectual curiosity.

Unlike our last president, Mr. Trump has never been, nor will he ever be, an intellectual. His wild statements over the last few days demonstrate once again that he knows nothing of America’s past, and even more alarming, he does not understand the seriousness of this global moment, and the consequences of his words which reverberate around the world in the seconds it takes for him to tweet them or speak them to a reporter.

And here’s what most upsetting about it all: some 45% of Americans simply don’t care, which means this could go on unabated for four years or more. They didn’t care when they elected him, and they don’t care now that he continues to tell outrageous lies, and showcases his ignorance every time he’s interviewed or gets his hands on Twitter. They don’t care that he doesn’t understand why the Civil War occurred, or that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before that war, and therefore could not have been “really angry” about it.

My cynical guess is that Trump voters don’t care because too many of them don’t know the details or even the outlines of our history either. I’m tired of giving a pass to his supporters. We’ve become a country in which ignorance is not only bliss, but in some circles, something to aspire to. American pride in anything anti-intellectual today is frighteningly palpable. And now that Mr. Trump has elevated ignorance to the highest office in the land, the bar for curiosity and knowledge, and thoughtful discourse and reflection, and research and consultation, has dropped straight to the floor.

My cynical guess is that too many Trump supporters don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the wider world today beyond what they see on Fox “News” and read on Breitbart, and therefore they don’t understand how insane it is that President Trump calls Turkey’s authoritarian President Erdogan to congratulate him on his consolidation of power, or that his invitation to the Philippine’s murdering President Duterte to visit the White House is completely off the rails, or that his description of North Korean President Kim Jong Un as a “smart cookie” is probably terrifying to our Asian allies.

The media is running in circles – interviewing the president, parsing his words, reacting to his statements with shock and the commentary of countless political pundits who argue on CNN like teenage mothers fighting with their baby daddies on 90’s talk shows. The liberal public reacts with shock and fear and sleeplessness, and marches, and memes and GIF’s that have a numbing effect on us all. Democratic politicians don’t react enough, or they focus on the wrong things. And the Republicans in office are essentially dead men and women walking. Even Senator John McCain seems to have thrown in the towel – those missiles fired at Syria have placated him for the foreseeable future.

As long as those unethical Republicans are getting what they want, they can live with a president who is ignorant, unstable and probably worse. They sold their souls to the devil the night the pussy tape was released, and they’ve made no effort to redeem themselves. Somehow, they can live with a man whose every idiotic, delusional and inscrutable thought is telegraphed to a mystified and/or terrified world of foreign leaders, putting us all in danger. The only leaders who can draw any comfort from his tweets and interviews are the dictators and despots whom he reveres, compliments and invites to the White House. If Trump truly aspires to become one himself, as some have speculated, then he is cozying up to the kind of people who will help him get there. All indications are his homegrown supporters would be happy to throw out the Constitution and help him too.

There was a time when Republicans would have been disgusted with such invitations and proclamations, but this iteration of Republicans is determined to protect the emperor and his new clothes at all costs. And nobody in his inner circle is willing to tell him that his naked ignorance is a threat to our democracy and to our sovereignty. Because first they would have to define those words for him, and that might take the kind of nuanced history lesson that our president doesn’t have the patience to listen to, or the intellectual desire and capacity to understand.

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