Apparently this is what we’ve come to.
On Friday, as I was working to fill the weekend pages and Donald Trump was being inaugurated, I got a call. When I answered, I heard a high-pitched cackle, followed by “Donald Trump says go f*** yourself!”
Seriously? This is what counts for civil discourse? At the very least, try a hearty chuckle instead of the witchy cackle, dude. I thought someone was strangling a goose. I hope any other calls you or your compadres made to other people in the media were a little better thought-out.
Yeah, no hope there; just the usual “sore winner” who wants to do his part to increase divisiveness.
Oh, wait … you thought the divisiveness is all on the media? While some in the media (especially the partisan sort) have culpability, I believe the bulk of the onus is on those of you who refuse to listen to anything with which you don’t agree, who believe that straight-line voting is a mandate that must be followed, and who never see themselves in the insults they fling at others.
And now we have those who seem to think that anything other than praise and positive news about the current president is evidence that the evil, evil media are nothing but biased liars. That’s tantamount to treason! Hang ’em all!
Ahem. I shouldn’t be so hard on these people, though, since they’re obviously suffering from some sort of trauma that has affected their memories. (I had a stroke; what’s your excuse?) I’m pretty sure that many of those who complain about criticism of Trump are the same ones who’ve done nothing but criticize Barack Obama for the past nine years. Hell, I know some of them are.
But no matter what party a president—or any elected official—is from, criticism is part of the job. It is not only our right as Americans to call out a leader on things he’s done or said, but a duty. Former President Theodore Roosevelt said it best in a column, “Sedition, a free press, and personal rule,” in the Kansas City Star on May 7, 1918:
“Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where the people are themselves free. Our government is the servant of the people, whereas in Germany it is the master of the people. This is because the American people are free and the German are not free. The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.”
As my mom says, Ol’ Teddy knew what he was talking about. Methinks Ol’ Teddy, a true straight-talker, would approve of the criticism that our newest president is facing, just like any other president.
No one who ascends to the office should ever think that only positive things will be reported. It’s not like this is the Soviet Union with state-owned media and state-ordered ego boosts for leaders.
With that in mind, I offer a few suggestions for our new administration.
♠ Find better euphemisms.
I dislike euphemisms in most circumstances, and the newest—“alternative facts”—sets my teeth to grinding. Considering the way it’s being used, it seems a word is missing … it should be “alternative to facts” … you know, those things that people who know what facts actually are call “lies.”
I do love, though, that Merriam-Webster is trolling the administration by pointing out actual definitions of words its members have been (mis)using.
Though no one should have to look up “fact.”
♠ If you’re going to lie, don’t make it so laughably easy to prove you wrong. If it takes only minutes to prove something is a lie, it’s not worth telling.
In just a few seconds, just about anyone could Google parking capacity, Metro ridership, and aerial photos of the National Mall that would quickly show estimates for in-person attendance at the inauguration were way under the most outrageous claim of 1.5 million. And television ratings are just as easy to find, showing that this inauguration appears to be the fifth-most-viewed, not the first. (But hey, he beat Bill Clinton’s ratings, and that’s what’s important, right?)
♠ Ease up on the defensiveness.
Learn how to take a joke, because you’re going to be the center of a lot of them. It’s all part of this wonderful thing you chose to be a part of.
Besides, when you talk about the size of various body parts at a presidential debate, insult pretty much anyone who looks at you funny, and have an insane Twitter compulsion … you kinda brought it on yourself.
There’s also this thing called journalism, and one of its tenets is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” (a favorite quote, by Finley Peter Dunne, of one of my colleagues). If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from responsible journalists.
Wait, do you have something to hide? Like maybe tax returns? Surely not.
♠ The campaign’s over; calm down.
Stop antagonizing people you don’t like just because they exist and don’t worship you (but they hurt my feelings!). Calm is what’s needed when you speak to the people (and I mean all of the people). There’s no need to keep shouting about what you’re going to do; just do it already.
Ohhhh … that shouting’s not just a distraction, is it?
That last one can just as well apply to everyone. Some out there want to keep the opposition off balance, so they keep up the disinformation, the outright lies, and the taunting (like that wonderful, anonymous, cowardly phone call, and buddy, my mom has a few choice words for you).
Don’t give them the satisfaction. Just ignore them if they refuse to allow actual debate. You know—that thing where you act civilly and listen to both sides.
And if they keep it up? Since so many are acting like petulant toddlers, how ’bout we set up a chair in the corner and take away their toys?
Start with the biggest toddler’s phone.