On Civility and a Sick President
(From UNOFFICIAL Heather Cox Richardson Resource and Discussion Room on Facebook)
This group strives to provide a forum for civilized discussion of social issues, history and politics. There is always a bit of venting on hot button topics, but profanity is kept to a minimum, ideas are encouraged, personal attacks on other members not tolerated. Well-argued disagreement is a great thing. Slapping a “laughter emoji” after someone’s opinion to show disagreement may be the coin of the realm elsewhere on Facebook, but not here.
So, how to discuss the implications of President Trump’s illness? With thirty-days left until the election, do we owe the President critical restraint while he is ill?
Trump has a miserable record of mismanaging the pandemic. Rather than govern, he has tried to keep the severity of the threat out of sight. At first he deliberately concealed the facts from the American public. More recently he has tried to to promote, for campaign purposes, the image of “open-for-business normalcy” including, especially, his campaign rallies and, a week ago, the jam-packed, mask-free Rose Garden announcement of his SCOTUS nominee.
Chickens may have roosted.
Trump may or may not be quite sick. There is no reason reason to trust the White House on any of information concerning his health.
If we back off and “Go High,” do we tie our own hands and risk losing ground in the election?
David Frum, writing in The Atlantic has set the right tone I think:
You cannot expect Trump to gain any wisdom, empathy, or compassion for others. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has disdained the hardships suffered by sick and dying Americans, by their families and neighbors, by those who have lost jobs and homes. When NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Trump on March 20 what the president would say to Americans feeling fear because of the disease, he upbraided Alexander: “I’d say you are a terrible reporter.” * * *
It was only three days ago that Trump on a debate stage dismissed Biden’s dead son, Beau, and falsely claimed that Biden’s surviving son, Hunter, had been dishonorably discharged from the Army. * * * ” Now, though, we will hear a lot about how people are not being respectful enough to a president in his time of illness.
Trump has all his life posed a moral puzzle: What is due in the way of kindness and sympathy to people who have no kindness and sympathy for anyone else? Should we repay horrifying cruelty in equal measure? Then we reduce ourselves to their level. But if we return indecency with the decency due any other person in need, don’t we encourage appalling behavior? Don’t we prove to them that they belong to some unique bracket of humanity, entitled to kick others when they are writhing on the floor, and then to claim mercy when their own crimes and cruelties cast them upon the floor themselves?
Americans are dead who might have been alive if Trump had met the challenge of COVID-19 with care and responsibility — or if somebody else, literally almost anybody else, had been president instead. Millions are out of work, in danger of losing their homes, living in fear. * * *
Trump should never have been allowed anywhere near any public office. Wish him well, but recognize that his deformed spirit will never be well — and that nothing can be well for the country under his leadership.
Although attributed to him, Mark Twain did not actually say this — it may have been assembled from some things Clarence Darrow said — but it seems apt here, even in its anonymity:
I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.