Guest Opinion: Why we need to read

The intense duplicity, incompetence and destructiveness of Donald Trump’s presidency should surely teach us needed lessons about the vital importance of reading in creating responsible leaders and citizens. Donald Trump hates reading and therefore avoids it. Because he avoids it — a durable lifetime habit developed in his teens — grave problems have arisen, both for him personally and for our nation.

Let us pity the poor man-child. As a career high school English teacher, I know well the pain of struggling readers like our president. Not being able to read and comprehend the seemingly endless chapters and pages demanded of them, students like our president endure shame and embarrassment.

Hoping to hide their deficiencies, they may even proclaim how brilliant they are, what natural genius and gifted common sense they possess. Who needs to plow through a bunch of confusing words when you’re already so sure you know more than everybody?

Of course, there’s a fraudulence at the heart of this issue that does carry consequences. Eventually, the lack of reading catches up with you. Repeatedly, Trump has demonstrated his failure to understand basic details of critical issues and makes no effort to alleviate his ignorance. When asked to read — even with the help of large letters on the teleprompter, simple vocabulary, and extremely short sentences — our commander in  chief’s semi-competence reveals itself. Did he not sound like a middle-school student as he haltingly read his State of the Union message?

Most seriously, such semi-literacy might be commonplace and somewhat embarrassing in an ordinary citizen, but when the leader of our country, the most powerful person in the world, possesses the widespread ignorance that generally accompanies non-reading, our national predicament becomes both dangerous and tragic. The grave issues we face — including our economic, foreign policy and even nuclear dilemmas — require in-depth knowledge and understanding far beyond the interest and capacity of a non-reader.

Our dubiously elected con-man’s intellectual emptiness touches nearly everything. He thinks our Arctic ice-caps are reaching “record levels.” For years, he proclaimed that President Obama was born in Kenya. He believes millions of our citizens voted illegally (virtually all of them for Hillary) and that thousands of New Jersey Muslims openly celebrated the twin towers’ destruction. He declares absolutely everyone has concluded there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. His tax cuts and inaugural crowds were the biggest ever. He assures us that, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, he’s more “presidential” than any of his White House predecessors, and that Frederick Douglass is doing a great job. Why bother to learn facts or history when you can make up your own?

If parents and teachers need a dramatic example to convince young people to do their homework or push themselves to elevate their reading abilities and accomplishments, they might well refer to President Trump. He will forever remain our national embarrassment and a painful symbol.

Tragically, this man of infinite arrogance and ignorance dumbfounded enough gullible people to believe a serial sexual assaulter, who almost never reads, could somehow turn into a good president and make our country great.

— Ron Hertz lives in Ashland.

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