Early in the days of the Donald Trump presidency I decided to do my best to stay out of the fray. Too many discordant and boisterous voices. Too much noise, I thought.
And, I thought, the sides have been chosen and there is not much a writer could say to further the debate or open minds that were already closed, either in favor of Trump or opposed.
Besides, the Trump victory showed that he had opened a vein of alienation and deep dissatisfaction among the electorate. Many of his voters were just plain angry, and in effect were echoing the words of the crazed anchorman and his fans in the 1976 movie Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Reluctance aside, there are times when an individual who has a platform to opine simply has to do it. This is one of those times and it’s really not about Trump, whose presidency, let’s face it, is dysfunctional and whose antics are not even good entertainment.
Racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance toward gender differences or sexual orientation – bigotry of every stripe – have no place in this country. And while I have internally debated the old saw, “It takes two to tango,” what happened Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, was wrong and it was provoked, instigated, by that hate-spewing band of white nationalists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and race-baiting misfits known as the “alt-right.”
Peaceful protesters do not arm themselves with shields, clubs and helmets.
What we need in this country at the moment are some Gandhi-like proponents of nonviolent activism, or an inspirational leader such as Martin Luther King Jr., a courageous advocate for civil rights and social justice who rejected violence and urged his followers to do the the same.
But that’s not where we are in 2017 America. We are a nation divided, and violently so.
And we have a president who fuels the hatred and violence. He lacks self-discipline and the ability to bring people together in times of turmoil. He promotes fear, not calm. His inclination is to heighten the division, not to heal it – which is exactly what he did when he assigned a share of the blame for the violence in Virginia to counter-demonstrators who marched in opposition to the neo-Nazis.
Trump and his agenda, fuzzy as it is, now are being abandoned on an almost hourly basis. Many of the president’s most prominent supporters in the business community have been tripping over each other heading for the exits and even Trump’s once-trusted campaign adviser, chief White House strategist (and alt-right booster) Steve Bannon, resigned Aug. 18.
Gloom hovered over the White House in the wake of Charlottesville as the president’s shocking statements inflamed not only his usual critics in the media and politics but also leaders of his own Republican Party.
If there is any notion that might give us comfort it’s that the government still works. The nation’s bills get paid. Social Security payments arrive. The Supreme Court sits. The military is intact and we are still the most powerful nation in the world. Outside of Washington, signs of a healthy economy abound. Real estate is booming. The stock market recently hit record heights, although the Wall Street revelry stalled a bit as the Charlottesville fallout rumbled across the political landscape.
But whatever good news there is keeps getting lost in the tweeting cacophony of President Trump, who would surely go down as the silliest president of our lifetime if only his behavior were not so alarming. How could the first act of business for the alleged leader of the free world each morning be a Twitter tantrum of petty insults directed at anyone and everyone who might dare to disagree with him? Surely, more important duties await the head of our country.
Or do they?
Maybe we are watching a Washington whirligig, a spinning top where ultimately the head of the top will twist off and pinwheel into space while the internal wheels keep churning and working.
Despite the bureaucracy, the waste and the daily Oval Office Twitterstorm, perhaps the process and procedures of the people who actually do the work of running the country are sufficient to keep our world and our nation on track while the loose cannon roars out of control.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at email@example.com