President Donald Trump
Last week, I heard on National Public Radio a discussion about the strife among friends and family engendered by the tumultuous political events prior to and following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
It reminded me of historical situations in other countries I’d read about, by which longtime friends turned into enemies, and family members became estranged from each other. When strongmen and politically opposing parties took over the government in the genocide that engulfed Rwanda in 1994, friends and neighbors reported each other to government officials, who slaughtered them in unspeakably brutal fashion. The autobiography An Ordinary Man, by Paul Rusesabagina, relates the horror. A similar situation exists today in North Korea, as revealed in the brilliant, telling novel The Orphan Master’s Son, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner by Adam Johnson. It was a frightening portrayal of a dictatorship in which parents lived in fear that their brainwashed children would report any perceived slight against the Dear Leader to the Communist authorities.
Will it come to that in the United States? I don’t think so, with our form of government in which the executive, legislative and judicial branches are checks on each other. But it is frightening, nonetheless, to hear the president continually declare as “fake news” any truth uncomplimentary to him presented by the press. That’s unsettling enough, but much worse is that a sizable segment of the population supports, and echoes, these outrageous lies, even though any rational person with a grain of common sense would easily divine how preposterous they are.
These attacks on the press are dangerous. They appear to be having an intimidating effect on journalists, as shown in Trump’s shocking press conference last week, where members of the Fourth Estate laughed along with his deplorable comments in obvious efforts to avoid chaos and rancor. When Trump mentioned “fake news,” then corrected himself and said “very fake news,” the questioner, Jim Acosta of CNN, chuckled along with the rest of the press gallery. The press is the last defense of a democracy against dictatorship. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that, if he had a choice between government and a free press, he would choose the press. Without a free press serving as a watchdog, government officials can get away with any kind of corruption and abuse of power.
But I digress. The remarks of one articulate woman in particular on the NPR program encapsulated the dilemma facing so many people these days. She said she simply disassociated herself from people she had considered to be friends before Trump entered the political scene. Why, she asked, would she want to be friendly with someone who endorsed a person whose values she despises and goes against her moral compass? Someone who bullies, who treats women like chattel, who cheats and swindles, who admires despots such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who mocks a handicapped person, who champions the wealthy and cares not a whit about the poor and disadvantaged, who manifests racism in various forms, who lies virtually every time he opens his mouth?
It was refreshing for me to hear this woman and others speak, because I have struggled with the same vexing problem. A few people whom I’ve counted as friends are Republican conservatives, most of whose values I am similarly disenchanted with. It was difficult for me to be cordial toward a woman in my writers group who, I felt, held an attitude of superiority by the rich as opposed to folks of more modest means. In a conversation, she defended the salaries of corporate CEOs, which typically were about 350 times that of those earned by their average employees. My goodness, those CEOs had to have incentives to fill their positions. I countered sarcastically that, true, if you’re making only a couple million dollars, it’s hardly worth it to come to work. When I tried to explain to her that, 40 or 50 years ago, the ratio was only about 20 to 1, and companies did very well, thank you, she shut me off. Didn’t want to discuss it further. This elitist outlook on life fills me with disdain. I have low regard for such a person, and cannot enjoy his or her company.
Mary Matalin & James Carville
But every now and then, I hear of romantically linked couples who are in opposite political camps, and am amazed that they can co-exist. How in the world the staunch conservative Mary Matalin and passionate liberal James Carville can get along in marriage is beyond me. But I heard her remark on some subject a number of years ago, and was struck by how compassionate she sounded. Maybe they both have the same goals, but differ on ways to get there. I’m sure there are Republican conservatives whose hearts are in the right place, but they surely must be willing to overlook the lack of empathetic compassion in the majority of their compatriots.
Suffice it to say that I find it incomprehensible how those passionate members of The Resistance to Donald Trump and his crop of socially reactionary Cabinet leaders could ever form any kind of bond with people of the ilk they are opposing.
Mention of The Resistance calls to mind a book that I recently read: Jackdaws, a gripping novel about the French
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