Civility is the new watch word in the Donald Trump administration. For the first time in my memory the press secretary of the president has been afforded Secret Service protection—this, after Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in rural Virginia in mid-June.
A short time later President Trump, speaking to the civility in his administration tweeted about talk show host Jimmy Fallon, “What a lowlife. . . This guy on CBS has no talent . . . he would stand outside on the sidewalk waiting for me. He would open my door.”
The President is well acquainted with the concept of civility and has demonstrated his deep concern with it a number of times during his candidacy and his ensuing administration. One of the earliest public examples occurred when Trump mocked a disabled reporter. He offered to pay the bail for those supporters who took care of protesters. As a president he has routinely insulted and threatened the media, Democrats, women (“Grab them by the . . .”), and most recently his administration was very civil in the way it separated immigrant families at the southern U.S. border seeking asylum. He was most civil in referring to immigrants as “animals” and even more civil as he had mad man Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gut consumer protections, cut humanitarian aid to Third World nations, our nation’s poorest students and most of the populous outside of the “One Percent.”
His civil policies extended outside of the primordial ooze which spawned his Precambrian gray matter and found a true civil servant – Kim Jong Un with whom he could have a “bromance.” After recently meeting and pronouncing his affinity for the North Korean leader, Trump also noted how much the North Korean people loved their leader. He then mused about the North Korean citizens showing respect to their beloved despot and wondered out loud why people weren’t more civil to him and adoring of his greatness.
We are left with a president who both acts uncivil and howls like a dog trying to gnaw his own leg off to get out of a trap he built when others act toward him in a manner he considers uncivil. Trump has never had the high ground on any issue, much less civility. I personally would not have banned Sanders from a restaurant – I would have served her and having her trapped for an hour I would’ve used the time to try and get some answers to questions I can’t get in the press room.
Trump has routinely insulted and threatened the media, Democrats, women and most recently his administration separated immigrant families at the southern U.S. border seeking asylum.
It is par for the course for this administration. Trump and his minions have been uncivil since exploding onto the national scene like a radioactive stink bomb. They expect everyone to sit still while they pollute the atmosphere figuratively and literally and react violently when they are met with the same actions in kind.
Far from condoning this behavior from either side, I do recognize why we are in the situation we find ourselves in today. These things begin and rest at the top. People are responsible for their own actions, but many are taking their cue from the president—both those who support him and those who oppose him.
As a historian once noted, “The United States was founded not by isolated acts of individual heroism but by the concerted revolutionary activities of people who had learned the power of working together.” It is something we’ve forgotten today in our zeal to blame the other side in a national argument that only brings about more bitterness and divisiveness instead of urging us all to work together. The president has shown no passion for anything other than hierarchical control. He sees himself as a King or dictator sitting at the top and loathes dealing with anyone who doesn’t express allegiance to the crown.
In this world it is therefore okay and expected for those at the top to castigate those being governed while it is “uncivil” for those being governed to return that lack of civility in-kind. While Trump toots his own horn on everything from the economy to North Korea, the one issue he legitimately owns is in stripping away the thin veneer of society and exposing the beasts inside.
Trump thrives on it. Loves it. He can accuse and insult and in the same breath rant and rave about the lack of civility afforded him and those who support him from those who vehemently disagree with him—and while we fight about it, he continues dismantling the federal government with clowns like Jeff Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney, Ben Carson and a host of other minor-league nether region imps running roughshod across the Republic.
The end game to this depressing state of affairs is an antithesis to the foundation of the Republic and its guiding principles.
But the more people retreat into their philosophical cul-de-sacs and listen to the echo-chamber of their own thoughts through the megaphone of tainted social media and slanted news accords, the more we risk ripping our national patchwork quilt of self-government asunder.
There are those who are writing about and some even promoting the idea we are already engulfed in a new Civil War. I pray not.
Trump sees himself as a king or dictator sitting at the top and loathes dealing with anyone who doesn’t express allegiance to the crown.
That was 15 years ago. We have further regressed into a state where the denizens resemble—more than anything—the victims of torture and war I’ve seen in refugee camps across the globe. We’re suspicious of our neighbors. We are eager to fight and take offense and ignore the humanity in those who disagree with us.
That is not the American way – and to fight against this overwhelming madness seems to be forcing the populous to decide which is worse – the disease or the cure?
But it does not have to be that way. Discounting the hypocrisy of the administration, Sanders calling for civility in the press briefing room should be welcomed.
The problem is with all the lying this administration has done, her cries for civility have absolutely no credibility. The president and his minions long ago left the “Big Tent” of American politics and have retreated to the small tent of the faithful base where whatever anyone says in the administration is greeted with cheers and posturing like the rubes of yore who couldn’t wait for the revivalist circus to show up in town and preach salvation for a quarter.
The American public has always been susceptible to such preachers and there is no doubt that had Trump been born in a different time he’d have been a real life Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes from Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd.
Trump would shout the signature line with gusto: “Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. Sure, I got 'em like this... You know what the public's like? A cage of guinea pigs. Good night you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they'll flap their flippers.”
When the public sees the chicken fertilizer for what it is and reacts with the same respect the president has shown the electorate the president and his tent revival assistants scream for civility. It begins at the top. Where it ends? No one knows.
And the Mueller investigation continues.