In the Washington Post blog “PostPartisan,” Jonathan Capehart describes Donald Trump as “the Big Apple billionaire” who “gleefully dances through the nativist, racist, misogynistic slop as if he were Gene Kelly in ‘Singing [sic] in the Rain.”
Donald Trump’s toxic comments about immigrants and women are completely counter to the spirit of my late husband Gene Kelly and his brilliantly-conceived and executed dance numbers. A true Renaissance man, Gene grasped the complexities of our cultural heritage. He spoke multiple languages, had a firm understanding of history, literature, economics (his major in college), politics and of our fundamental human rights.
A child of the Depression, Gene grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood in Pittsburgh that he described as “polyglot,” with surnames ranging from Goldvarg, Lefkowitz, Litschge, Magidson, Madden, Edmonson, Tillery, Quinn, Klein, and Snee. His own father emigrated from Canada, his grandfather from Ireland. His grandmother’s family, according to lore, joined Charles Carroll of Carrollton in the more Catholic-tolerant colony of Maryland. His mother was a progressive advocate for women’s rights, who, despite WWI fears of all things German, believed in early education and sent her young children to “kindergarten.”
An Irish Catholic, Gene felt the sting of prejudice for his religion as the Klan burned crosses on the hillsides to protest Al Smith’s campaign in 1928 and fraternities excluded him from membership. Rebuffed in high school and college because of his economic status, he saw himself as an “outcast,” a feeling that governed his actions — including his choreography and unique style of dance — his entire life. Knowing what it was like to be at the bottom of the heap, he repeatedly stood against discrimination, and always rooted for the underdog and those less fortunate than he.
Not only would Gene be appalled by Trump’s deplorable words and actions, he would be stricken that such depravity could be tolerated — and, sadly, even celebrated — in a race for President of the United States.
Mr. Capehart is spot on in his assessment of Trump’s destructive “deviancy” and, surely, he intended Gene no slight. I only wish he had found a more suitable simile for Mr. Trump and his “slop” than to link him with one of the brightest and most decent artists of the 20th century; a man of great integrity who devoted his life to creating a particularly American art form that now, more than 60 years later, continues to bring joy around the world.
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