Chan Lowe: The right way to make America great again
PITTSFIELD — As our president continues his lurching progress away from reality, those of us obliged as informed citizens to remain engaged in current events look on with varying degrees of incredulity and horror. It would not be jumping the gun to start thinking about repairing the damage he has done to the office of the presidency and the country after he leaves.
The only reason we tolerate President Trump's ravings is that, whether we like it or not, he occupies a hallowed position in our national psyche. We view the presidency as the repository of centuries of cumulative national reverence and the collective efforts of 44 predecessors who, regardless of their own faults and misdeeds, at least paid nominal fealty to their constitutional restraints.
The passing of Trump — whether it is by Big Mac, impeachment, resignation or peaceful end-of-term departure (one can only hope) — will not mean the end of Trumpism and its associated anti-American elements. That is a long-term problem. More immediately, if we have any hope of ever restoring the dignity of the presidency, we will have to begin by replacing him with someone whose personal character projects integrity, humility and does not inspire ridicule at home and abroad.
A WOMAN OF FAITH
Like many others, I have wondered how our nation will ever return to a semblance of the pre-Trump era after the damage the man has wrought, much of which we cannot even comprehend at this juncture because we require the perspective of hindsight. I take solace in a conversation I had with a Jamaican woman, a naturalized American citizen, during the interregnum after the 2016 election and before Trump's inauguration.
A woman of deep faith, she said to me, "I voted for Clinton, but I believe God has given us Trump for a reason." I asked her what on Earth could be God's reason for giving us Trump, but her answer was to wait and see, that He always knew what He was doing.
Two years later, I begin to divine the wisdom in her words. Our president has, through the cowardice of Congress, laid waste to the principle of checks and balances, undermined the freedoms of religion and the press, and most recently assaulted the last independent branch of government left standing (until the newly elected House is sworn in) — the judiciary. Those are just the most obvious and general of his offenses. In so doing, he forces us to look anew at principles and institutions we have come to view as little more than barely relevant chapters in a social studies textbook.
The U.S. Constitution is a contract between the government and the people who crafted it. Without buy-in from those who govern and those governed, it comprises no more than fancy words on a piece of parchment. Those words can be interpreted by originalists who try to put themselves in the buckled shoes of the Founding Fathers, or by those who believe in their elasticity — but ultimately their shared belief is in the primacy of the document and the concepts it embodies. Again, unless everyone agrees and believes that the Constitution is to be universally revered, it is meaningless.
This nation has never experienced such a direct frontal attack by someone who gave his oath to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution. As the president becomes more desperate to keep his grip on power, even his erstwhile defenders have begun to shed their slavishness to political expediency (the midterm election results certainly helped stiffen their spines). Tyranny, as many have observed, does not occur as the result of a single act; it is an aggregation of small offenses, tolerated for the moment, culminating in a people's belated realization that they surrendered their freedoms piecemeal.
As we progress further into this national nightmare, I realize that my Jamaican-born friend was right. As Americans, we have weathered many crises throughout our history, but lately we have been forced to reexamine the underlying principles that people fought and died for to a magnitude not demanded since they were originally crafted. We can either learn from that self-examining process and emerge stronger than before — with a renewed commitment to the preservation of those principles — or we can remain on a course into the abyss.
Should our love and respect for this nation's imperiled ideals impel us to choose the former path, we may come to realize that Trump was, indeed, given to us for a reason. In a way he never could have imagined, he will have had a hand in making America truly great again.
Chan Lowe is the deputy editorial page editor of The Eagle and a syndicated editorial cartoonist.
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