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Bread and Circuses

cec058799b18b2fc117e722abdcaf8a5--revolt-conservative-politicsThe world is an untidy place. Fractures and fissures appear….to be mended or stepped on or avoided or argued relentlessly over. We don’t always, or even often, agree with each other. On much of anything. We’re about as politically divided as a nation not at war with itself can actually be without…..you know….being at war with itself. To conquer one first must divide. The division creates the opponents. Left/Right. Black/White. Gay/Straight. Poor/Middle Class. Confederacy/Union. You name it. It hardly matters what side you’re on. The divisions are a distraction, of course. Bread and circuses tossed to the masses by rich white men who really don’t care what side wins because, in the end, they get it all. They always get it all. What they love most about Americans screaming themselves hoarse over statues of long dead soldiers and unborn babies and the lesbians across the street is that as long as we’re so busy hating the people fighting over the same crumbs of sheetcake (thank you Tina Fey) as we are… the fact that 20 Americans now have as much wealth as half the population is lazily overlooked. Our nation is currently being led by a man who said at one of his rallies that “I love the poorly educated…..we’re the smartest people.” This line was met not by marauding Tiki torches, but by cheers. And so it goes. Bread and Circuses. And when the news cycle gets boring, toss in a few Nuclear threats and some Nazis right out of central casting. It’s like a media oil change. They’re good for another 3000 miles.

Anybody remember that Russia influenced an American election? How about the dumbest of Trump’s two dumb boys admitting that he committed treason? Ring a bell? Seems like a million years ago. And it’s all disappeared into the ether. Nobody cares anymore. Well, maybe Robert Mueller does, but even that remains to be seen.

A true American hero died yesterday. Where will Dick Gregory’s statue be placed? I think we all know the answer to this one…

We hate to admit it…..”leader of the free world” stuff and all of that. But the President’s job is largely to just make sure everybody else is doing theirs. Much of the duty is ceremonial. Speeches. Protocol. Getting all the facts from all the different sides, and doing what’s right for the nation. Reading a few history books helps. Knowing that Frederick Douglass died in 1882 and that Andrew Jackson could not have prevented the Civil War…..or that taking credit for building the Panama Canal makes you look like an idiot because it was built over 100 years ago. I could go on but you get the idea. Some intellectual curiosity comes in handy at times.

Our greatest Presidents have been the ones with the most empathy. Lincoln and Roosevelt. Our worst, Nixon, once described domestic policy, which he cared so little about that handed off to an adviser, as “building outhouses in Peoria.” When the nation gets its heart broken, it’s the President who begins the healing. Reagan’s Challenger speech ( “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”). Clinton’s soothing words after Oklahoma City and Columbine. Bush’s post 9/11 bullhorn moment. Obama’s tears at Sandy Hook. My favorite story is LBJ visiting a New Orleans shelter in the Ninth Ward after a devastating 1965 flood. He entered with only a flashlight and announced to the stunned gathering, “This is your President, and I’m here to help you!”

Words. They matter. Winston Churchill kept his nation alive in 1940 through the sheer genius of his oratory. Lincoln’s second inaugural somehow willed a bleeding, dying nation back to life……”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds….” Words. That’s all they had left to give.

WWTD?

What would Trump do? Blame Hillary’s emails for the Space Shuttle explosion? Call out all the good people involved in Timothy McVeigh’s militia group? Keep in mind that the President has NOT really been tested yet. Forget the little North Korean dwarf threatening to nuke Guam or a few Nazis in Khakis. These are week long carnivals. I mean a real credible threat to the security and/or moral standing of this nation that will reverberate in the years to come. Clinton faced with Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Bush the elder and the first Gulf War. George W with 9/11. Not to mention the aforementioned homegrown terrorist events, like Columbine and Sandy Hook. It’s not just that Trump’s 4th grade level oratory will make any bad situation worse. That much we already know. It’s the level of defcon his narcissism and imbecility could very well trigger.

But we allowed it to happen. And we allow it to continue.

There has always been more that binds us than divides us. JFK famously said that “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal….”

Can anybody imagine such words being uttered, or tweeted, by our current President?

SAD!

Soon, as Ford reminded us when Nixon was chased out of the White House like a scalded dog, “our long national nightmare will be over.”

One can only hope. Americans do hope well. We’re the best hopers. Believe me.

In a bit..

–tf

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