Trump turns America back to its shameful past

Story highlights

  • Author: My parents, immigrants to the U.S., were discriminated against in mid-20th century
  • U.S. has made great strides, but the open bigotry of Trump threatens to throw us backward, he says

Sreedhar Potarazu, an ophthalmologist and entrepreneur, is the founder of Enziime, a software company focused on providing data science applications to assess health care delivery. He is the author of "Get Off the Dime: The Secret of Changing Who Pays for Your Health Care." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN)The rhetoric of the 2016 election has turned into an overflowing toxic brew of anger and rudeness that is staining the fabric of America, and there's a simple word that best describes it.

Sreedhar Potarazu
That word is Trump.
An eponymous term derived from the name of a billionaire businessman, it's a five-letter verb that has evolved from its dictionary definition into a word with an entirely new meaning:
Trump (verb): To ridicule or demean another person as a way of expressing one's superiority; to express the opinion that I'm better than you, I'm smarter than you, I'm richer than you and I'M MORE AMERICAN THAN YOU.
To trump is to bring out the worst in us. It enables us to demean Latinos and women, to mock people with physical disabilities, to advocate discriminating against immigrants on the basis of their religion, and to bully and belittle those who don't agree with us by labeling their decency "political correctness."
There was a time not too long ago when rage and rhetoric of this sort were commonplace: a time when people had to sit in the back of the bus because of their race; a time when they were forced to accept that they would always be second-class citizens because of their gender, their national origin or their sexual orientation.
I remember those times. My parents came to our country in the mid-1950s as some of the earliest Indian immigrants to America. Because of their national origin and their dark skin, they were thrown off of buses and denied service in restaurants. On one particularly awful day, they were arrested for playing tennis on a public tennis court.
It took the vision and leadership of many great souls, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life we celebrated Monday, to overcome those awful times.
Half a century later, when Barack Obama was elected president, there was a genuine sense of hope. A bold statement was made to the world: Americans were shedding the shackles of discrimination and accepting a new era and direction. Our country was poised to break through one glass ceiling after another.
But now, only seven years later, we have to wonder just how ready America really is to accept change, and whether all the progress we thought we made in the last several decades might turn out to be little more than an illusion. It feels as though we're making a U-turn toward that familiar dark place we left just a short time ago.
One has to ask: How can people who aspire to become the leader of the free world speak so rudely and with such contempt for their fellow citizens and, in many cases, the man they hope to replace in the White House?
Since the day he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump's remarks have been enough to make blood come out of our wherever. But what compels Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to insult the 8.5 million people who live in America's largest city by issuing a blanket condemnation of their "New York values"? What compels New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to call Obama "a petulant child" and promise "to kick (his) rear end out of the White House come this fall"?
Those aren't the words of statesmen. Those are the words of bullies, guys who think talking tough makes them tough.
But it doesn't. Mature politicians who aspire to set up shop in the Oval Office need to respect the dignity of the presidency and to refrain from trumping the office, because what they say is heard everywhere in the world. If you hope to be held in esteem as president, then show some respect for the current one.
It disgraces all Americans that the world now sees our runup to the November election as a battle among bickering candidates who are using trumping techniques to try to reach the highest office in the land. It appears that the clearest path to the top of the "shining city on a hill" is blazed by insulting, demeaning and belittling your opponents.
Consider for a moment that the British Parliament debated a petition to ban Trump, the GOP front-runner, from visiting the United Kingdom because of his inflammatory rhetoric. It won't happen, but it's an embarrassment that someone would even suggest it.
It's high time our candidates fought to avoid being sucked into a vortex in which only the loudest and the brashest and the most insulting get heard.
I've seen my country grow by shedding divisiveness. But now it's at a critical juncture. We need to look in the mirror and reflect on what we see. Are we people who succeed by trumping others, by being angry and knocking down everyone who doesn't think as we do? Or can we eradicate this hideous tendency and show some respect and appreciation for all people?
Trumping is contagious, and it threatens to cause the fabric we've woven over the last half century to come apart at the seams.