“Others may hate you, but they don’t win unless you hate them. Then, you destroy yourself.”– Richard Nixon
The number of things that bothered me about the last regime are too numerous to count. However, an underrated one was the horrible writing that came out of the speech writing department. We made our way to Disney World this past summer and we missed out on one of the minor sites I have always enjoyed.
The Hall of Presidents brings all 45 presidents to life as atomtronic robots. The fascinating thing as a writing junky is hearing the quotes attributed to the presidents they choose. Whoever the current president is at the time gets a prominent blurb. We went to the Magic Kingdom during the Trump administration and it was not open. Now, we’ve gone at the beginning of the Biden administration and it still wasn’t open.
I’m sure that we were there too close to the beginning of both presidencies, but it wasn’t difficult to let my mind wander to the vision of the planning meetings for the Trump atom Tron. What in the bloody hell were they going to have him say? Children go into these exhibits. Even when he was speaking to literal boy scouts he couldn’t keep himself from delving into the X rated nonsense.
As a young man I never imagined I would become one of those writing snobs or grammar Nazis, but here I am. Every once in awhile I find myself going off on someone online. The one that grates on me the most is the misuse of the word “loose.” It conjures up images of wrenches and screw drivers. I just can’t help myself.
The Nixon quote above is either graduate level introspection or higher level irony. Nixon had some terrific speech writers, but this came from his farewell address, so I’m not sure if anyone prepared it for him. I choose to believe that he innately understood his downfall in the moment. That kind of personal understanding is rare in anyone much less a powerful man like Nixon.
Nixon has always been a complex historical figure. As time has gone on, we have found out that he very well might have committed genuine treason. As you might suspect, the details of that story still need to be flushed out and since he’s gone you have to wonder about the motivation. All that being said, he still understood that it was important to at least try to lift the public discourse and encourage people to be the very best version of themselves. He just may not have been able to do so consistently enough because of his own personal failings.
Still, I can’t get around how odd it is that someone could be so vile, hurtful, and petty and yet here I am getting hung up on the writing and speaking end of that equation. It’s funny how people remember the words. It’s funny how a little known exhibit at Disney World might give us a clue to the lasting impression of one of the worst Americans in our nation’s history.
We don’t go to Disney every year, so I have no way of knowing whether they even bothered to try. I could probably hear the talk in the board room. They likely assumed he would either get impeached (and convicted) or resign. Besides, they probably couldn’t think of a single thing he said that would sound presidential. Why risk a lawsuit from a family that objects to toilet talk in front of their six year old?
The presidency is like a fun house mirror. When you listen to the president speak you see yourself amplified. Maybe you see the very best of humanity. Maybe you see a flawed but decent human being doing their best. Maybe you see a morally flawed man that still manages to do good in spite of himself. We’ve seen each of these men over the years and each of these men describe each of us in equal measure.
We’ve also seen the very worst. We’ve seen someone desperate to divide Americans for whatever reason. We’ve seen someone hell bent on being as vulgar and tactless as he could possibly be. We’ve seen someone basking in his own ignorance and arrogance in equal measure. We’ve seen someone that inspires more hatred than any politician in modern memory.
Hatred is a complex emotion. I’m not sure it even qualifies as an actual emotion. There’s anger, joy, sadness, and fear, but hatred seems a combination of the worst of those feelings. There’s some self-loathing in it. There’s shame in it. There’s the uneasy feeling that we shouldn’t feel this way and we used to not feel this way. Like most mirrors, when we see the reflection we don’t always like what we see. Nixon learned that lesson a little too late apparently. I can only hope it isn’t too late for us.