A few months ago, a reader called to challenge something I’d written in a column amid the fallout of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act passage, boycotts, fix, etc.
Which specific words he took issue with are lost to me now. I just remember he was pretty riled. At one point, he stopped me midsentence, wanting to know if I went to church on Sunday. Actually, he didn’t ask so much as he converted assumption into a challenge: “I bet you don’t even.”
He still was steaming as I confessed about being the shakiest of Sunday school teachers, trying to decipher the sort of grace the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 5. That’s when I made my next mistake: I asked where he worshiped.
“That’s my business!” he seethed, not far from hanging up. And he was right. It was his business. And really none of mine, no matter how hard he chewed on my ear over a column, that went down sideways.
I thought about that guy Monday as the next logical conclusions of Donald Trump’s no-Muslims- allowed rallying cry started burning the wires.
Not that the reader was in Trump’s camp. And not that his concept of religious freedom meant denying the rights of those who put their faith in something else.
But where this version of Trump America is headed, it won’t be long before the none-of-your-business line of questioning becomes a sorting test: Where do you worship? (Thank you, now please attach this symbol to your outer garments for all to see.)
Trump earned a round of condemnation from fellow Republican presidential candidates and the Washington establishment — not to mention fine, spit-taking Americans, everywhere — when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Not as if that’s done much to Trump in the past. The billionaire’s stock continued to rise proportionately with every attempt to say he and his campaign had reached the last straw.
Has it really been since July that Trump stepped up a feud with John McCain, calling out the U.S. senator and former prisoner of war for his service to the country? (“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said then. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”)
Since then, Trump’s bits of the outlandish have stacked up along campaign stops, the billionaire’s red-meat trail for the disenfranchised to follow. Since then, his poll numbers have refused to fade, adding fuel to an outrageous, reality TV parade.
Just Trump being Trump. As he said Wednesday: “Probably not politically correct.” Followed by: “I. Don’t. Care.” The cheers in the crowd were strong. (Perhaps rivaling the ones Trump imagines thousands of Muslims doing in New Jersey on 9/11.)
So at what point does Trump hit a wall, a human corollary to Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies?
You know the law — maybe not by name, but at least in practice. Conceived by Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Mike Godwin in the early days of the Internet, it’s the idea that the longer an online discussion goes, the more likely it will wind up with a comparison involving Hitler or the Nazis. And when that happens, the conversation is over — and the one making the Nazi reference is the automatic loser for resorting to a comparison that simply is too outlandish in any context.
At some point, when your ideas start resembling those of the Nazis, your campaign is done.
Trump has to be getting close, as he singles out an entire faith for exclusion. This has to end sometime. No really, it does, right?
Then again, it’s Trump being Trump. He might just be getting started.
Pray for us. How and where, that’s your call — for now.
Dave Bangert is a writer for the (Lafayette) Journal and Courier. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.