Not even a victory, but an affirmation. On a morning like this it’s easy to imagine we’ve won something. We haven’t.
We made a goal-line stand and kept the other team from scoring, but we didn’t get any points and we’re still losing the game. We can make goal-line stands forever and still never win.
As long as we all understand that.
Even worse, playing defense is hard. It’s exhausting. I don’t know if we can stay in it for the long run.
We, and by that I include myself, have been a softer country since George W. Bush advised us, after the attacks of 9/11, to go shopping. You can blame him, but we’re the ones who listened. Even when wars erupted in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were never told we had to bite the bullet. Forty-five hundred American deaths in those two wars while we traded up to new smartphones, waited for more Apple stores to open, and read The Greatest Generation without grasping the irony. And again, I include myself.
And then, to show how jaded we had become, we even removed ourselves from the political process. We complained that all the candidates were the same, that politicians were crooks, that we needed to drain the swamp—all this while our standard of living rose, jobs came back, gas prices dropped, and soldiers came home. And then in one final paroxysm of contempt we elected Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him, but I helped create the climate. And so again, I include myself.
This morning we feel a little better and we should—if only briefly we have at least reaffirmed some semblance of an America we remember—one that’s filled with good, generous people, one that’s embodied by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and at least hinted at in the Constitution. Because of that goal-line stand, we even have the ball, but our field position remains tenuous.
This past weekend’s mess occurred because we bestowed America’s highest honor on a person totally unfit to receive it, who listens only to his most radical confidants, who seeks no legal or constitutional advice. Experts (even an amateur) could have warned him that such an act would not secure the nation but instead vitiate everything America stood for, that years of litigation may now ensue in cities where judges made the right decision and denied his executive order, that individual American citizens and their families would suffer. This was all preventable to any right-thinking person, but we chose to elect the opposite.
Knowing that, we must keep our celebrations restrained and brief. If we do have the ball this morning, we won’t for long. And forgive my mixing of metaphors—but the next wave is coming and behind it there are more with ever-increasing heights and ever-decreasing intervals. I wonder if the America that went shopping in the fall of 2001 is ready for this.
Again, I include myself.