This is America

The mind-boggling thing about Trumpworld is all the people insisting that “this is not America.” People are chanting it in the streets and pleading with the world to believe it.

But, this is America. Though he lost the popular election by nearly 3 million votes, Donald Trump did get millions of votes — enough to tip the Electoral College. The Russians hacked and partisans parsed. Important facts, but not nearly as important as we live in a nation where a Donald Trump presidency was possible let alone realized.

There’s no amount of erasers or whitewash that will eradicate 400+ years of oppression based on race and religion. This is an America that our society cycles back to every so often. This time, though, the world has left America behind and more Americans are self-aware of our inherent ethnocentrism. The difference now is it’s harder to hide behind an increasingly tattered flag that reveals a naked emperor desperate to cling to a national origin story that doesn’t square with historical facts.

Donald Trump, as horrendous and repugnant as it may seem, didn’t make American Great Again. He simply restored America to a version of its past that we haven’t found a way to confront, fess up to, and move on from.

Donald Trump isn’t Adolph Hitler. Donald Trump isn’t Richard Nixon. Donald Trump isn’t Andrew Jackson. Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

In some respects, the world has never before had a Trump and if we all survive this, I hope humanity learns from it and never repeats this monumental mistake. Trump arrived at the right time and in the right place to exploit people (and be exploited [by Russia, by white nationalists, by the Republican party desperate for a win at any cost]) to be elected President of the United States of America. It is the perfect political storm for which we don’t have a scale to measure its strength and predict its damage.

© 2017 D.S. Rotenstein

Grandpa Joe was an immigrant

Joseph Steinhart in his orphanage uniform. Undated photo.

My grandfather, Joseph Steinhart, arrived at Ellis Island October 6, 1920. He was 16 years old. He loved the Unites States despite the anti-semitic discrimination that he faced throughout his entire life. Unable to attend the college of his choice. Unable to be an engineer in the Navy. And, witness to many acts of enthocentlrism towards others during his life before dying in April 1994.

Were it not for my grandfather’s stay at a Warsaw orphanage before coming to the United States, the world might never know parts of the amazing story of the institution’s founder, Dr. Janusz Korczak. Survivor accounts describe Korczak leading a column of orphans from the Warsaw ghetto to the death camp at Treblinka. My grandfather’s memories and drawings have informed generations of historians writing about the Holocaust and Korczak biographers.

Orphanage. Undated sketch by Joseph Steinhart.

I would like to think of my grandfather as a hero for what he gave me — a thirst for knowledge and a drive to fight for what’s right — but that would be insufficient. My grandfather is a hero for bearing witness to the worst and best of humanity. If he were alive today, he would be sitting at his desk with a stack of white typing paper composing by hand in his distinctive engineer’s block script letters to the editor and letters to government officials decrying the inhumane and un-American actions by the new American president. I desperately wish he were here today to share his wisdom, his courage, and to be a witness yet again to the best and worst humanity has to offer.

1978 St. Petersburg Times photo of my grandparents showing some of his memorabilia related to Janysz Korczak.

Joseph Steinhart’s clipping binder.