Will we be great without being good?
So he was elected. I wish him, his supporters and all the rest of us well.
Allow me to grieve for a moment. I did not think he demonstrated the character traits I wanted in a leader. However, he is the perfect version of an “Ugly American.” Loud, brash and completely self-centered. That is how much of the world sees us. We often describe ourselves this way in our literature, our music, our TV shows and movies. So we might as well live down to the stereotype.
I had hoped that I would see that racism, bigotry, misogyny and intol- erance were fading into the dustbin of our history. Obviously not. We are now free, even encouraged, to feel and act superior to others. We welcome the KKK into our tent, while we build walls to keep others out. Tolerance and compassion are not to be American values. We have no need to “just get along” when we can put others down and take advantage of their differences. I want my leaders to be honest and true. I want to be able to take their promises to the bank. I expect their word to be their bond. Now, it is clear that lies are the currency of the new American public discourse. Our leaders are free to say anything they want, and there will be no one to hold them accountable. We have a good look at his closest associates, those who will be wielding power over us. Rudy Guliani, who as mayor of New York, attempted to appoint a criminal as police commissioner. Gov. Chris Christie, whose top staff was just convicted. Other folks who have made money cutting deals with the Russians, including helping them take over the Crimea and threatening the independence of Ukraine. Newt Gingrich, one of the pack of serial philanderers who have made a career out of not much more than attacking the Clintons. We can trust these people, right?
I have never liked bullies who make fun of others who were weaker. I resent those who persecute those less well prepared to defend themselves. I guess I should have realized that bullies are to be admired and emulated. Of course, I can just get a gun. A large one. Better yet, several. Then I can intimidate anybody I want to, as long as I am a part of the dominant group. Oh, yes. Let’s not forget the role of religion in the new regime. We care far more about embryos than we do about the mother or the child, once born. This is the only Christian value we care about. Neither are the poor our concern. It is a good thing that Christ cares about them, since we do not. We worship the golden calf, and cheer at greed and strong leaders who can help us exercise power over all others. Our charity, such as it is, is to be done loudly so that all can see how generous we are. That is all right, since we have edited humility out of our scriptures and replaced it with the new virtues of pride and arrogance. We have no need to ask forgiveness of anybody, even God. Our American religion is dedicated to gaining power over others, to make them worship our way, according to our beliefs. There is no room for any other religions beyond that shouted from tax subsidized pulpits by wealthy political preachers for hire and their bosses. After all, you can buy anything in this world with money. You can buy up armies and police to oppress, and reign with blood and brutality in the name of God. Of course, we will not sacrifice on the battlefield, or anywhere else. We will send someone else to fight, bleed and die for us. And, from the comfort of our richly appointed churches or sports stadiums, we will have a moment of silence for those sacrificial lambs. We will honor them in our boardrooms, so long as we can make a profit from defense contracts. We will even wear little flags on our lapels to show how patriotic we are, even if they are made in China.
Well, at least we taught the establishment something. What we have learned is to listen to the mob. Politicians without principles will join with them, for they fear that someday the mob will come for them. We do not care for the rule of law, for checks and balances, for complex compromises and difficult processes that take time. We have no desire to be limited by standards, rules or good manners. We have our demagogue, and we now look forward to finding out if we can be great without being good. Kent Smith, Waldorf