Just Settle Down!

I have a good friend who is kind of crusty. Whenever I, or anybody else, runs off at the mouth in his presence – interrupting someone or saying something that is ill-considered or expressed too stridently – he is liable to jump in with an abrupt “He wasn’t finished!” or “Just settle down!” He enforces his own rules of discourse.

When I am the one he calls out, I feel like a teenager being reprimanded by my elders, which is a neat trick considering that I am nearly sixty.

We could use a few guys – or gals, no reason it couldn’t be gals – like him as, oh I don’t know, editors-in-chief, executive producers and better angels sitting on the shoulders of our politicians and celebrities. They all need to tone down their rhetoric by several notches.

A couple of days ago, in conversation with some leaders from Congress, our President allegedly used a vulgar word – shitholes – to describe certain impoverished nations from which, he was suggesting, we are accepting too many immigrants. The media, which loathes him, had a field day repeating the word shitholes – to them, it amply demonstrated that Trump is a bigot and a vulgarian, unworthy of his office.

Trump’s alleged comments, like his frequent tweets, are a kind of Rorschach test. His supporters and opponents come to them with diametrically opposed understandings of his general intent, and hear/read them accordingly.

To his supporters, such comments showed only a rough-hewn candor about the countries that such prospective immigrants, after-all, wish to leave – and, implicitly, a fully legitimate concern about whether those leaving such benighted lands can be expected to come as contributors to our society or dependents on our social safety net.

Those who consider Trump to be the embodiment of evil, “literally, Hitler”, gleefully make their cases based on their own readings of his various comments and tweets.

To me, such Trump-haters are coming across as shrill, hypocritical and fact-challenged. Shrill and hypocritical because the same organizations that this week see unmitigated evil in Trump’s allegedly having characterized such countries as “shitholes” saw none, for example when, in 2013, Senator Graham (a noted media favorite whenever he is criticizing Trump, as he often does) characterized many of the same countries as “hellholes” (https://nalert.blogspot.com/2018/01/senator-lindsey-graham-who-attacked.html); is there really a big difference between those characterizations? And what exactly is wrong with pointing out, however inelegantly, that some countries from which people would like to immigrate are truly awful places?

Are we really supposed to pretend that other leaders haven’t used vulgar words and phrases among themselves to make their points colorfully? History tells us that many of the best did, and no doubt others still do.

As to being fact-challenged: how has President Trump behaved dictatorially? He has been President for over a year now, and not only have his acts not been implemented in an authoritarian or unconstitutional fashion, or reflected any race or sexual-preference -based bigotry that I can see, he has scrupulously obeyed the limitations imposed on his administration by even misguided, lower-level federal courts. As to policy, his most important acts – lowering taxes and reducing regulations – have been the exact opposite of what one would expect of a power-hungry would-be dictator.

Regarding Trump’s alleged vulgarity, I see him as far more sinned against than sinning. In the old days, or with any other president, such language – even if it was used exactly as alleged – would have been ignored. The media and Democratic politicians have pounced on it this time because they are trying to craft a narrative that Trump is a terrible person, unworthy of the office. They want to anathematize him as a means of preparing the ground for his impeachment or, failing that, to neuter his ability to affect policy.

And to some extent, they are succeeding. In many circles it is now impossible to praise our President, or to express admiration for his policies, without instantly facing scorn (or, possibly, getting fired if you happen to work for Google).

And yet, when I ask what Trump has done that merits such anathematization, I get nothing other than comments that he is a terrible person. Oh, and a few people will angrily cite particular decisions he has made – withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, say, or cutting corporate taxes, or … saying some pretty mean things about the media that hate him. But do such policy differences and his pushback and tweet-arounds against the heavily biased press coverage he gets really justify the positively tribal hatred that he engenders?

Not unless the goal is to undermine a duly elected President.

The media and other public figures should ease off on the attacks on President Trump’s character and fitness for office, and, in my friend’s great phrase, just settle down. If they don’t, the media’s Trump-hatred and Democratic politicians’ efforts to exploit it to rile up their base may lead us to a very bad place, one where each half of an ever-more divided country will see those on the other side as illegitimate and evil, and act accordingly.

It’s all well and good to disagree vehemently with a President’s policies – goodness knows I did so regularly when Obama was President, and have done so as regards Trump’s stances on entitlements and trade – but ginning up personal hatred for those who differ on policy, and demeaning their supporters, are political tactics ill-suited to a great democracy.

M.H. Johnston

5 comments to Just Settle Down!

  • Anonymous  says:

    On point and balanced from a guy who had open and honest disagreements with candidate Trump. I am skiing with a friend who next month will go to a manufacturing district in India for the 37th time and last time. “That is a shithole that I will never miss again” but, Trump… he’s a racist.

  • DP  says:

    The senior senator from Illinois’ performance was hypocrisy. A bit like in Casablanca: “I am shocked— shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here!” And I did wonder whether in his ardour to denounce Trump he might have been hurting America’s interests abroad. I can’t say I like Trump much and each tweet makes me like him less, but one thing it has pointed out is the absolutism and childishness of leading democrats and their followers. Not people I’d want to play with in the sandbox. The fly-over zone and the “basket of deplorables” aren’t going away and will vote and last I checked it’s still one (wo)man one vote. America needs a President who will also lead these people too. Hilary’s big mistake was to deplore them rather than lead them and that opened the door to Mr. Trump.

  • Tom Byhn  says:

    I think you meant “Rorschach” test, but your point is valid. The anti-Trumpers get baited each time and react accordingly. The pro-Trumpers always find an interpretation that fits with their thinking.

    • M Johnston  says:

      Corrected – thanks!

  • Dennis Paine  says:

    Tribal hatred indeed!
    Mark, you nailed it.

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>