“Have you been following all the big, crazy stuff coming out of Washington? Truth isn’t truth?” My friend asked as he waited for a sandwich at a downtown shop.
“When has truth ever been truth in politics?” I asked. “I steer clear of the big crazy stuff and focus on small sanities, like the New Hanover County mobile compost program. As of July, we can take food waste to the landfill on Rte 421, or to the HazWagon on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Nothing more exciting than using garbage to fertilize the future.”
“Washington doesn’t interest you?”
“All politics is local,” I countered.
“Campaign chair Paul Manafort: guilty. The president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen: guilty. Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn: guilty. Former Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos: guilty. Former deputy campaign chair Rick Gates: guilty. POTUS revoking security clearances, issuing frivolous pardons, constantly delegitimizing journalists, engaging in nearly constant racism, and distracting rage tweets doesn’t interest you?”
My friend grabbed his veggie wrap and headed back out to the sweltering heat on Front Street.
A man standing behind me in line wagged his finger. His hair was whiter than mine, and he wore a red t-shirt. “It’s all garbage!” he said. “Mueller is garbage! You either love our president or you hate him. Haters, that’s all you are! I love our president. He is doing a damn fine job. Is there nothing that poor man can do that you haters won’t hate on?”
“He canceled the military parade on Armistice Day,” I shrugged.
“I love it! More money for fighter jets!” he said. “I’m a Marine! Vietnam ‘68!”
“So is Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” I noted. “He was a rich, white kid like the president. He could have gotten out of the service. Instead, he waited a year for an injured knee to heal, then volunteered for the Marines. Hotel Company, 2nd of the 4th Marines, ‘The Magnificent Bastards.’ He led a platoon at Mutter’s Ridge. Quang Tri province 1968. Airlifted out after taking an AK round through his thigh after a firefight in ‘69.”
“A Magnificent Bastard? Mutter’s Ridge?” His eyes momentarily softened. “America’s great again. No thanks to hate.”
“When America’s great,” I echoed, “it ain’t about the hate.”
My fellow citizen walked off brusquely, silently, with a beef-brisket sandwich.
After I picked up my spinach salad, I walked outside. A blue bumper sticker shouted at me from the back of a Prius: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!”
I’m paying attention. And I’m not outraged.
I agree with my POTUS-loving Marine friend: Hatred doesn’t help. I don’t hate or love the president. He’s just a guy. In fact, he’s the same guy he was back in the bone-spur days, back in the days he was suing grandmothers in Atlantic City to get his casinos off the ground.
Hillary Clinton (another polarizing political figure I neither love nor hate), cautioned in an August 25, 2016 campaign speech:
“I know some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. They hope he will eventually reinvent himself—that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere … But the hard truth is, there’s no other Donald Trump. This is it.”
Even if Madam Secretary is the devil incarnate that some maintain, she appears to be right. The fact our POTUS is now surrounded by chaos, craziness and a cadre of convicts should surprise exactly zero Americans—or Russians.
I don’t hate our POTUS, but I am disappointed in him and in the one-of-four Americans who will defend and vote for him if he does shoot someone on 5th Avenue. And I don’t hate myself either, but since November 9, 2016, I have wondered, Did I do enough to help prevent this?
Hating on the POTUS, his apologists or ourselves won’t help. Action will. Our POTUS hasn’t changed, but, in a weird way, he has given us a chance to grow beyond hate. This fall I’m working to be less reactive to daily hate-mongering from every corner, and more active in promoting candidates and causes that may generate a little less garbage, solve a few problems and fertilize the future.