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US President Donald Trump pauses as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, June 1, 2017..(Photo by: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
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The dialogue has moved from banter and debate to hate and incitement justified with tautological logic.
While browsing in a Barnes and Nobel book store the other day I was assaulted. Not physically, not verbally – I was intellectually assaulted.

It happened in the children’s section of this megalith of literature and culture, where I went in search of a recently published children’s book. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a caricature of US President Donald Trump. It was the hairdo that attracted my eye. It was a cool cartoon image of the 45th president of the United States, on the red cover of a book entitled A Child’s First Book of Trump, published by Simon and Schuster.

I thought, how wonderful, children will learn about the new president. Children’s books are the perfect tools for teaching values, history, pride, through an entertaining medium. Children’s books help mold attitudes and feelings and stimulate ideas and creativity.

When I opened the book, reality hit. This wasn’t a book about history in the making, about the majesty of the presidency, about the process through which elections are held. It was a book proposing to children that if we were to rid the world of “Trump” it would be a better place in which to live.

The message was grotesque. To say that this book is only a wee bit shy of pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany thought is not an exaggeration. If “Trump” was replaced by “Jew” the book would fit squarely into the genre of early Der Sturmer-style messages.

The message of this book – this children’s book – is pure hate.

Shame on the author. Shame on the illustrator. Shame on Simon and Schuster. And shame on Barnes and Noble for carrying this book. The author and illustrator may have been driven by political bias and motivated by political passion and virulent anti-Trump points of view, but what about the other adults in this equation?

The adult and dispassionate players in the equation should have been the publishing house and the book store. This material should never have been published.

Adults are supposed to say that our corporation does not embrace hatred, even hatred that is popular and in vogue with an influential segment of society. Adults say our company does not embrace hatred.

Further along on the same shelf another children’s book caught my eye. This one was about Hillary Clinton. It was about hope, about change, about the future and about modeling behavior. Clinton was depicted as a hero, not a detestable, cartoonish buffoon.

Children’s books demeaning Trump go beyond tasteless – they have serious potential to damage. Adult jokes, like the “Donald Trump Out of Office Countdown Calendar” or the “Donald Trump Toilet Paper” with his picture on every square are exactly what they appear to be, classic prank gifts. They might be funny and appropriate to some, distasteful to others, but they are not a tool to shape young and impressionable minds.

To be fair and honest, A Child’s First Book of Trump is not the only book about the president one can buy. There is also a work published by Here and Now entitled Donald Trump: America’s 45th President. On the cover is a picture of the president, standing at his desk, saying “have fun with facts, trivia puzzles and more all about me and my job – President.” Also in the book is background material on Mike Pence and a fun description of the role of vice president.

The issue goes beyond books. Even Shakespeare in the Park – the free, open-to-the-public, annual theater venue, has gone way overboard. This year the first play to be produced was Julius Caesar. But in this performance the central character, the character stabbed to death, is clothed in a modern suit and blond Trump-style wig. And he is murdered by actors who are immigrants, women and minorities.

Some sponsors pulled their support. And then, in the crazy world we live in, they were criticized for denying free speech to this free theater company. During Thursday night’s performance a protester rushed the stage during the assassination scene. It was a planned protest aimed at drawing attention to the vulgar interpretation of this classic play. She was filmed and her protest was uploaded directly to the web.

The dialogue has moved from banter and debate to hate and incitement justified with tautological logic: “I am correct so I can say anything about the people with whom I disagree.”

Friday’s New York Times ran a front-page article, above the fold, positing that the contentiousness and animus has not been this bad since the Civil War. That might be an exaggeration – but not by much.

We need to take a step back and look at ourselves. We need to return to a status where we can agree to disagree and talk about our differences. We used to respect the people we debated. Today, we call them evil ignoramuses.

The author is a political commentator and the author of THUGS. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.
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