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Local View: Trump's demagoguery, rhetoric contrary to our community's values

June 20 was full of emotion for us at Loaves and Fishes with a visit to Duluth by the sitting president and an outpouring of response by our neighbors.

We were inspired by the thousands of people from all walks of life, abilities, ethnicities, political beliefs, and faiths who came together to hold up our core Duluth values of unity, kindness, and cooperation. With less than a week to plan, local people took to makeshift stages from City Hall to Leif Erikson Park to speak to their fears and hopes for the future. They marched past Amsoil Arena, filling Railroad Street for more than six blocks, chanting "We Are One!", "We All Do Better When We All Do Better!", and "Immigrants Are Welcome Here!" The neighbors who stood up and spoke out gave us hope in trying times.

For those of us who attended the rally in the Amsoil Arena for President Donald Trump, the day's emotions were quite different. What we saw and heard was not normal or OK. We witnessed masses of people falling in line behind a constant barrage of attacks on other groups of people, mocking indifference to human suffering, and embracing half-truths and outright lies.

This wasn't a matter of political differences; we in Minnesota have navigated that space well and respectfully for generations.

Rather, the base of Trump's support is something new in the modern era: a far-right nativist movement that has grabbed hold of the hearts and minds of millions of people, including some of our neighbors. Its unifying principle is that other people are the problem. It follows, as we were informed by many Trump supporters via social media, that problem people like us need to be silenced or eliminated.

The politics of division and hate can never lead to good outcomes. Blind and fanatical allegiance to a leader is what historical nightmares are made of. Our nation is in for a rocky road ahead, regardless of the outcomes of the next few election cycles.

We at Loaves and Fishes don't align with a political party, but it must be said to Pete Stauber, who seeks to represent our district in Congress and who invited the president to Duluth, that he cannot at the same time claim to uphold our community's values and promote Donald Trump's demagoguery. We in northern Minnesota care for one another; welcome the stranger; speak kindly; and value the land, water, and air around us. No amount of verbal gymnastics or political dodging can defend Stauber's decision to gleefully campaign alongside the current president, a man who brags about being a sexual predator and who willfully distorts truth to a level unrivaled by leaders of democratic nations.

Trump jokes about killing people and encourages violence. He mocks people who are different and those who disagree with him. He boasts about his ability to enrich himself at the expense of others. His rhetoric, policies, and personal choices run counter to everything our parents and grandparents taught us about fairness, respect, and good citizenship. For his own political gain, Stauber chose Trump's depravity over our common values.

We are aware, as we hope everyone is, of the gravity of these times. This is a pivotal moment in our history that challenges the very foundations of our democracy. Going forward, may our choices spread truth not lies, love not hate, solidarity not selfishness, hope not fear. These are our region's values; and if we hold to them, regardless of our differences, we will weather this storm together.

Joel Kilgour wrote this as a response from the entirety of Duluth's Loaves and Fishes Community.