Ty Rewolinski doesn’t look like a loser. Or a sucker.
Standing on a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, street corner outside the headquarters of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Rewolinski looks like what he once was: A U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who served his country in Iraq. He’s tall and broad and self-contained. His eyes are alert. A silver cross dangles from his neck.
A few minutes before we started our conversation, I’d heard him mutter under his voice, “I’m no loser.”
It seems like an entry point. So I ask him him what he thinks of the story in The Atlantic, since corroborated by several other news organizations, that the current commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, believes soldiers are “losers” and “suckers.”
“It makes me feel horrible,” he said in a quiet and even voice that might as well be shouting out loud.
I keep coming back to the quiet directness of his answer. A Marine sergeant, who’s likely seen terrors that none of us will ever see, feels “horrible,” because of what Trump is alleged to have said about him.
And right there, that’s the human cost of living in Donald Trump’s America.
Like all bullies, Trump has dehumanized the people behind his insults and jibes. And it’s exacting a price on their — and our — souls.
During a news conference from the White House’s South Portico last week, Trump pushed back hard against his critics, growling that “only an animal” would say such things about America’s service men and women, and our fallen soldiers.
“The story is a hoax, written by a guy who’s got a tremendously bad history,” Trump said, of The Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, the story’s author. “The magazine itself, which I don’t read, I hear is totally anti-Trump …
“He made up the story, it’s a totally made-up story.”
But is it so hard to believe? Really?
In nearly four years in office, and on the campaign trail before that, Trump has smashed through one norm after another.
He mocked the appearance of former Republican Party presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, saying “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”
He referred to onetime White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog.”
He’s called Mexican migrants “rapists.” He’s invented a playground nickname for each of his political rivals. He’s used a racial epithet to refer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. He once mocked a disabled New York Times reporter.
Trump, who has never served in the military, trashed former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as “the world’s most overrated general.” Former national security adviser John Bolton was alternately “incompetent,” a “wacko” and “a disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
So is it really inconceivable that Trump, who has compared avoiding sexually transmitted diseases to fighting in Vietnam, and who derided the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who endured unspeakable torture during his time as a prisoner of war, would really talk that way when he thinks the world isn’t listening?
Destiny Brown doesn’t look like an anarchist or looter. But if Trump saw the grandmotherly black woman in the bright yellow Black Lives Matter T-shirt, that might well be how he’d describe her.
After all, he’s done it before.
“Look at what happened in New York, look what happened in Chicago,” Trump said during a rally in New Hampshire last month. “All Democrats. All radical left Democrats.
“You know what I say about protesters? Protesters, your ass. I don’t talk about my ass. They’re not protesters, those are anarchists, they’re agitators, they’re rioters, they’re looters.”
Brown was emphatic.
“We’re not violent,” she told me. “It’s so sad with race and how it is in the world now.”
Brown says she’s looking to Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden to heal a badly fractured country. Biden, she says, “will smother the flames.”
“I believe the president that’s in there now, he’s responsible for it,” she added.
She’s not wrong. Try as he might to shift blame, that’s Donald Trump’s America.
— An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. He can be contacted at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @ByJohnLMicek. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.