Willing: Take slow, deep breaths, America; this too shall pass (column)
August 31, 2017
Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
"Take slow, deep breaths" could be the most uttered phrase in medical practice. With most minor medical procedures, the anxiety can outweigh the actual physical discomfort, and deep breathing is known to elicit a relaxation response. It's considered poor form, as well as sexist, to tell a patient to "man up." The preferred advice is to "take slow, deep breaths."
Now is a good time for Americans of all persuasions to take some slow, deep breaths.
This January saw the unlikely inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. Before he was even elected, the comparisons to Hitler had begun. This, of course, was utterly predictable. Every Republican president of the past 50 years (and at least one Democrat) has been compared to Hitler — evidence only of historical illiteracy and knee-jerk partisanship.
Seven months into the Trump administration, the capitol has not been torched; Jews, Poles, communists, the handicapped and un-submissive Christians have not been thrown into concentration camps and the judicial and legislative arms of government continue as always. Take slow, deep breaths, America.
Trump now has the lowest approval rating of any modern president in his first year of office. Should anyone be surprised? He's an obnoxious, arrogant, polarizing man with a limited grasp of history, science, economics or world affairs; in other words, a somewhat cruder version of Barack Obama (who at least had the survival instinct to play to his own political party). Considering this year's contributions to the Vail Daily, it appears that every week for the next 3 ½ years we will be treated to yet another tedious screed reminding us — lest any could possibly forget — that Trump is not a nice person. How original. Shooting fish in a barrel would be exponentially more challenging.
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For a week, the national spotlight shone upon lovely Charlottesville, Virginia, where I once spent a year as a pediatric intern. A clash of protesters would have been ignored, except that one particularly deranged individual — borrowing a page from the jihadist playbook — drove his car into the crowd, killing one protester and injuring others.
In the ensuing days, the media was saturated with sweaty commentary on the existential threat of white supremacists. Never mind that their influence has been declining for about four centuries, and they are even scarcer than the audiences for Al Gore's doomsday sequel. Take slow, deep breaths, America. (Tellingly, the ringleader of the Charlottesville alt-righters — Jason Kessler — is a repeat offender, an avowed atheist, supported Obama and camped out for several weeks with the Occupy Wall Street loons.)
Many think Trump didn't condemn the neo-Nazis with sufficient fervor. Fair enough. But at least he did. Better, I think, than a president who for eight years could not mention by name the ideology of a terrorist movement that enslaved and murdered hundreds of thousands since 2001 — a movement whose supporters number in the millions and sympathizers in the hundreds of millions.
Obama could only call them "extremists." Extreme about what, exactly? Golf? Broadway musicals? Quantum mechanics? I think we all know the answer. (Pop quiz: which U.S. president actually pardoned a convicted terrorist in 2017?) Still, it is refreshing to see commentators who spent the past eight years in Obama-worship suddenly mutate into unabashed moralists. Welcome to the party — better late than never.
The earliest, most consistent and certainly most reasoned criticism of Trump originated not from preening left-wing commentators but the intellectual bastions of conservatism: National Review, The Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, the American Enterprise Institute and a sizable number of Republican officials. There also was — and is — plenty of criticism coming from so-called "Evangelicals."
These groups and individuals, who spent years criticizing Obama, at least demonstrate the moral integrity to apply the same standards to one supposedly on their side. Those on the right who dismiss Trump's character flaws are but a pale reflection of liberals who winked at Bill Clinton's sexual predations or openly cheer racists and Islamo-fascists. (If hypocrisy were gold, then we could retire the national debt and buy Italy with the change.)
When moralists only see flaws on the other side, that is crass political opportunism. True integrity is characterized by moral consistency, regardless of party affiliation. There are few such persons on either side of the political aisle.
Take slow, deep breaths, America. Our Republic, and our planet, will survive even Trump. Those rare individuals and organizations that hold our elected officials to standards of civility — regardless of party affiliation — should be emulated and applauded.
Steven J. Willing is an Edwards resident.
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