Opinion |

I'm Voting Against the Ugliest American – and for America the Beautiful

'Four more years' is eight too many. On November 3, I'm voting for the rebirth of hope, of idealism, of altruism, of America the Beautiful

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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President Donald Trump talking with reporters at Andrews Air Force Base after attending a campaign rally, September 3, 2020.
President Donald Trump talking with reporters at Andrews Air Force Base after attending a campaign rally, September 3, 2020.Credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Early on in elementary school, I was taught – and in retrospect, correctly – never to call anyone ugly. So I’m only going to say this once: Right this moment, the ugliest American alive is asking for four more years.

Ironically enough, considering the man in question, looks have absolutely nothing to do with it. This is about the ugliness at the very core of him, the ugliness which, in fact, constitutes the essence and engine of his soul.

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The ugliness which makes his cruelty so effortless, so destructive, so contagious. The ugliness which makes him the colossal brat that he is, the coddled bully, the tireless super-spreader of hateful, corrosive, at times lethally dangerous fictions.

It is this ugliness, raw and uncut, which oddly enough makes him the magnet that sticks to all of us, adore him or abhor him.

At root, it is this ugliness which makes him what he is: the supremacist of all supremacists. Not a conservative, not a Republican, in no way a public servant, a president only of the disunited red states of America.

President Donald Trump departing the White House in Washington, September 5, 2020, on his way to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va.Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

The supremacist whose American Dream is what he hallucinates it to be: Men are superior to women, white presidents to presidents of color, gun-owners to the unarmed, Christians to non-Christians, evangelicals to everyone else. And on top of all that, successful draft dodgers are superior to heroes fallen in war, wounded in combat, shot down and taken captive and tortured.

Enough. On November 3, I won’t just be voting against all of this. Against all of him. On November 3, I will be voting for America the beautiful.

I will be voting for a true and glorious mosaic, not the makeup mirror of a vain old man.

I will be voting for health care as a right. Not for a man whose response to the worst pandemic of the age is to trumpet the malicious lie that all but a handful of 190,000 coronavirus victims actually died of something else.

I will be voting for an administration which recognizes and works to relieve the concrete fears and travails of Black Americans, whose lives and those of their children and grandchildren are under lethal threat from police, the open ulcer of a centuries-old plague of racial injustice and profound inequality.

I will be voting for an administration which, instead of ridiculing compassion and sensitivity, uses compassion and sensitivity as guidelines for policy, for words, for actions.

On November 3, I will be voting for America the beautiful.

Years ago, when I was in the army, I came across a copy of the 1958 novel “The Ugly American.” In its time, the book had roused a small revolution, defining the ugliness of senior U.S. governmental figures not in terms of physical appearance, but for their callousness, their lack of empathy, their loudmouth self-righteousness, their rudeness, their racism, their parochial arrogance and tunnel vision.

The sort of senior official who, on duty in Asia, nodded only “to everyone who was European, Caucasian, western-educated and decently dressed.” Says an astute local observer, “I know the bastard now. He drives a big red convertible that he slews around corners and over sidewalks.”

In 1959, then-Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy was so taken by the novel’s warnings that he took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to promote the message of the book, a copy of which he bought and had delivered to every member of the U.S. Senate. Later, citing the message and his vision of how to “defend peace and freedom” by addressing economic gaps, Kennedy made the creation of a volunteer Peace Corps serving in disadvantaged areas overseas one of the first policy moves of his new presidency.

A protester draped in an American flag in Portland, OregonCredit: MARANIE STAAB/ REUTERS

On November 3, I’m voting for the rebirth of hope.

I’m voting for the possibility of idealism. Of altruism. Of love of country which is not based on hatreds and fears. Of love of country which does not depend on denial of history. Love of country which is not expressed in fondling a flag.

I’m voting for science.

I’m voting for the honor and the memory of decent men and women who served America and made extraordinary sacrifices for the safety and well-being of its people.

Oh, beautiful,

For heroes proved in liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life…

America! America!

God mend thine every flaw

Confirm thy soul in self-control

Thy liberty in law

I know the bastard now. The one who slews around corners and over sidewalks.

“Four more years” is eight too many.

On November 3, I’m voting for America the beautiful.

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till selfish gain no longer stain

The banner of the free

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