Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Divisiveness of Donald J. Trump

"A House divided against itself cannot stand."

Abraham Lincoln,  June 16, 1858

How in the world can a US President feud with the widow of a fallen soldier and then send out his chief of staff to defend him?   Trump continues to demean and sully the reputations of those who surround him, even a four star Marine General, whose courage and service to his country eclipses the draft evader in chief, showing his grit by trying to keep this lying, evil, narcissistic scoundrel the straight and narrow?

What does it say about the country that elected him?   Are we all naifs? Do we have no moral compass?  Are we dupes of a demagogic fraud?  Are we the perennial P.T. Barnum suckers who are born every minute?  We consume the distractions he feeds us like hungry seals waiting for fish at SeaWorld.

The Electoral college has served us up the apotheosis of what James Madison envisioned it protecting us from, a unfit, egomaniacal, incompetent President who slathers us with conflict and infects the entire world stage with derisiveness and vitriol, ripping up global agreements, climate change accords, chaotically promulgating his vision of dystopia.

Our institutions, as strong as they are, have so far survived the onslaught, but other nation states with strong institutions did not.  Weimar Germany, for example.  We are being tested.

Our boy-king is playing chicken with "Little Rocket Man," a dangerous and insane undertaking, feuding with allies risking millions of lives and flouting all normal conventions of diplomacy. 

Tony Benn, the British diplomat said, "War is the failure of diplomacy."

But Trump understands why people are so angry, having seen their jobs disappear, a snake oil salesman who offers an easy bromide to cure the global and cultural changes that test the country and the entire world.  These are the greatest changes since the early 20th century and the industrial revolution.  But Trump uses these changes to incite divisiveness, the seeds of the destruction of our republic.

Years before Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech, stating that a "House divided against itself cannot stand," the great orator and senator Daniel Webster arose in the US Senate and looked upon the issues that he knew would tear the Union asunder and said, in his most stirring oratorical feat on a cold January 27, 1830 (and recounted in John Meacham's brilliant biography of Andrew Jackson.)

Read these elegant words carefully:

I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty, when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this Government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union should be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the People when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in Heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance, rather behold the gorgeous Ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured— bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as, what is all this worth? Nor those other words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, and Union after- every where, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole Heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart— Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!


The greatest statesmen of our past understood that division would tear the Union asunder.  And it did, costing 700,000 American lives in a bloody, tumultuous civil war.  Now our Union is torn asunder in a great cultural war between the classes and not the states.  A war that can only be won by compromise, integrity, and understanding.  A war that needs to be fought at home, providing security to those who are undereducated, and deprived of gainful employment by the unalterable economic forces now happening throughout the globe, not only here at home.  A war that will not be won by dismantling the increasingly necessary safety net by those who take wing on taxpayer money, and removing the protections that have evolved from the early days of the twentieth century.  A war that will not be won by inciting racism and hatred in order to distract the public from the crucial issues of our time.

Learning the lessons of History instruct us that the divisions roiling our nation today need a leader who understands not only history but the healing aspects of providing hope, not "American carnage".  Whether it is slavery or economic displacement that have divided our nation, leaders must unite, not divide, and in this case, Donald Trump has failed every test.