“I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it’s true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it it’s the end of paradise.” — Dennis DeYoung
We were driving home from a volleyball tournament on Sunday and came upon a vehicle that looked like it had the stereotypical Trump flag. You know the one. It’s the flag that is somehow bigger than any American flag nearby. Often these flags are flown above the American flag if there even is one. That’s a whole different conversation. Below is what we actually saw.
So, obviously we chuckled for a few seconds as we considered the expert troll job that had been done on us an everyone else. Then, it hit me as it has before on numerous occasions. The last five years have been the lowest point in our nation’s collective history. I know that’s saying a lot but it is unfortunately true.
Good leaders lift us up. They make us reach for the stars and if we can’t take hold of the stars we at least can grab the moon. As Lincoln said, they appeal to the better angels of our nature. They manage to somehow inspire us to be more than what we are because they have moments where they are more than what they are. They do this at the worst of possible times. They are at their best when everything seems dark and gloomy.
To say one thing is the tragedy of the last five years is to insult all of the victims of numerous tragedies. You have hurricane victims on Puerto Rico that never got the aid they needed. You have families at the border who were forever separated. You had victims of forest fires that saw aid delayed. We have had over 600,000 victims of the Coronavirus and probably 500,000 of those could have been avoided with simple competent governance.
His trade wars impacted workers in numerous industries and the tax giveaway to the rich also impacted lower wage earners negatively. Meanwhile, people of color, those of various sexual orientations and gender identities suffered as well. So, for me to come on here and say the tragedy of the last five years was anything other than those things could be the height of insensitivity. Yet, that is exactly what I’m going to do.
That is because all of those things could be wrapped into a simple bow. The style of leadership that inspired some to offer more fealty to him than to the country is a dangerous style of leadership. It has made us collectively worse than we have ever been. The flag above is a perfect example. It takes an awful amount of hate to get someone to fork over the dough to buy such a flag and then mount it on their truck. It shows that they want to give out a collective FU to their neighbors that may have supported the ex-president.
There has always been vitriol and tribalism in the United States. The framers didn’t envision political parties in the midst of immediately forming two factions. While the names have been different, you could claim that the two factions really haven’t changed all that much. Yet, these last five years there has been a tremendous change.
Think of the arguments in favor of the “rigged election.” Biden’s crowd sizes were so small. No one flies a Biden flag. How could he have possibly won when there are so many Trump flags out there? How could he have won when so many attended the Trump rallies? It just doesn’t makes sense to them.
I never saw a flag for any other president before this. Republican or Democrat they just didn’t exist. Sure, there were political rallies and sure sometimes candidates got riffing and started spouting stuff that wasn’t true, but with only a few notable exceptions (George Wallace or Spiro Agnew) no one was inciting violence. That is until now.
The tragedy of the last five years is that everyone of us has become the worst version of ourselves. More that death, destruction, economic ruin, and horrible discrimination, that statement is a powerful one that has to be soaked in. We have been made worse. While each of us must contend with our own consciences to grapple with the cold, hard reality it is also a reflection of really bad leadership.
In the most difficult moments of our nation’s history there was always a unity that was established at least at the end. The civil war was dreadful and yet the country found a way to reunite. Natural disasters have inspired moments where we saw the worst of humanity and yet the best of humanity prevailed. Beyond COVID, I’m not even sure what the singular moment of the last five years will bring other than the man himself.
It isn’t even so much deciding whether we are for him or against him. Those decisions were made a long time ago for almost everyone. If you are still on the fence about Trump I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that. The decision we have to make is how we will choose to move forward. Will we hold those grudges against those in the other camp or try to find the piece of humanity that exists in everyone? It’s a hard road to travel down, but we’ve travelled it before and up until now we have always come out on the other side.