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Donald Trump's continuing attack on civility

| Saturday, July 9, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

After tweeting a Star of David and a head shot of Hillary Clinton against a background of $100 bills last week, Donald Trump and his minions swore his intended message was not anti-Semitic.

The Anti-Defamation League saw it differently, calling on Trump to condemn the messages that the racist wing of his political base has been spewing throughout the campaign. “It is outrageous to think that the candidate is sourcing material from some of the worst elements in our society,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL's national director.

It turns out that the Star of David tweet had appeared on an Internet message board used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and it was re-tweeted by Trump. Still, Trump and his staffers objected to the racism charges, calling the religious symbol a simple star or a sheriff's star. No one was fooled.

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski led Trump's standard defense, saying “The bottom line is, this is political correctness run amok.”

Anytime ignorance, rudeness and coarseness raise their ugly heads in Trump's campaign, his anthem is that he is simply refusing to be politically correct. But it is really the death of civility that Trump stands for, and that has nothing to do with political correctness.

Trump's mocking of a disabled reporter at a rally shows a lack of civility, not a rejection of political correctness. It disrespects the disabled and their families and friends.

It was a rejection of civility, and not political correctness, when Trump dismissed Sen. John McCain's Vietnam War record, saying, “He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.” It minimizes the sacrifice of veterans and hurts them.

When Trump attacked a judge, claiming that his heritage should disqualify him from hearing certain cases, he hurt us all. That was nothing more than incivility — an unfair indictment of everyone whose family started elsewhere, not a bold and refreshing rejection of misguided political correctness.

Unmerited hostility towards the weak, poor and those who are different in any way easily generates resentment and is sure to garner the support of those who believe that their place in America has been unfairly diminished. But it is dangerous talk.

For more than 200 years, our political process has been marked by robust civil discourse and it has served us well. Vigorous debate in the political arena has been a reliable alternative to the violence that can be spawned by hatred and ignorance.

Civility is an American virtue.

Perhaps Trump is not a bigot. Perhaps he respects veterans and those who have been tortured for our freedom. Perhaps he understands the burden of those who are powerless through no fault of their own.

But his incivility shows us something else.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (joemistick.com).

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