Picture yourself in a nation of oppressive conformity.
The leader verbally assaults those who asks questions - calling them the enemy of the state.
The leader and his surrogates dictate what is factual - what is real.
The leader encourages retribution against those who disagree with the state.
The leader encourages violence against those who report the actions of the state.
The leader invents enemies and leads by fear and ignorance.
The leader, while debasing those and demanding apologies from those who
insult and denigrate the ruler, insults and denigrates those who disagree with the state.
Upon moral grounds the leader stifles opposition.
At rallies the leader encourages violence.
The leader, by claims of divinity, economic or political needs declares his rule to be supreme.
All of those events have occurred under a variety of regimes in the history of man. Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and many other examples, none of them good, have manifested themselves in the past.
According to historian R.B. Bernstein, an adjunct professor of law at the New York Law School, who authored the introduction to Fall River Press’s 2002 handbook to the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the generation of men and women who drove the U.S. move for independence not only understood these problems but, “. . . thought more deeply and argued more vigorously about these challenges than any generation after them, leaving us a series of unprecedented experiments in nation-building and constitution-making.”
Bernstein claims we often “forget just how revolutionary the creation of the United States was.”
Nowhere and at no time in our history as a nation has our ability to forget our own past been so obviously displayed than at a Donald Trump rally.
In El Paso Texas Monday night published video shows a Trump supporter attacking a reporter.
While this nation is not as far gone as some of the other regimes previously mentioned, and while badmouthing the press isn’t unprecedented, the vitriol and violence leveled is something we haven’t previously seen in this country. I can find no other example of it in the history of the Republic and I damn sure haven’t seen it in my lifetime - even during the Nixon years when he also claimed “The press is the enemy.”
Our nation runs the risk of becoming as dark as some of those previously mentioned, but we do have the saving grace of a built-in revolution every four years: An election with which we may throw the bums out of office.
The White House Correspondents Association and the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association both condemned the acts of violence against the press in El Paso and late Tuesday afternoon the White House also joined the condemnation with a statement. “President Trump condemns all acts of violence against any individual or group of people - including members of the press. We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner. For questions around security at Trump campaign events please contact the campaign directly,” said press secretary Sarah Sanders.
For what it is worth, I believe Sanders meant it. I do not doubt the White House staff regrets it. I have my doubts about the president himself, but not those who work for him. It is important to make that distinction. You cannot and I will not condemn those on the communication staff who are painted with the same brush as the president. You can condemn them for working with the man if you want, but their individual choices about this subject are overwhelmed by the man in charge. Trump’s actions trump anything they may say or do - even if they’re issuing a statement in his name.
So even if the president means what Sanders said, the statement - if not displaying an alarming lack of disingenuousness - does display an alarming lack of understanding on the part of the president.
Since the president emerged on the campaign trail and made fun of a disabled reporter, Trump has not refrained from calling reporters the enemy of the people and used the term “Fake Media” whenever it pleased him.
He has not refrained from fomenting anger against reporters - even after five community newspaper employees in Annapolis were gunned down by a mentally disturbed man with a shotgun.
The presidential disconnect is alarming, frightening and dangerous - unless you like a totalitarian government.
In addition, the president apparently does not understand and apparently doesn’t want to understand that such violence by its nature cannot be controlled.
There are those on the far left who are as prone to stupidity and violence as those on the far right who support the president.
In the end, FOX news and CNN are in the same crate with the AP, Playboy Magazine, The New York Times and the Washington Post.
If you work for the Daily Caller and Breitbart you can be targeted as easily as someone working for the Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune. There is no immunity from violence.
The question is how do we avoid the mistakes of the past and forge a path forward where we embrace one of the founding principles of our Republic: “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it.”
Bernstein touched on the issue and I’ll be blunt about it; It will take a great effort and it requires the type of deep thought and intelligence that helped in forming a more perfect union that became the United States.
We are at a precipice and have been - Trump is not an aberration of our system. He is the embodiment of what we get when we do not take the time to educate ourselves and engage in self-government. If we do not get involved in the process then we cannot be surprised when the government is overcome by those of lesser minds but of greater energy.
For our government to work we must work at it.
Devo, a band I really never liked that much because I just couldn’t get behind a bunch of guys wearing flower pots on their head - plus their music was techno babble to me - did have a lyric that rings true then and now: “Freedom of choice is what you got. Freedom from choice is what you want.”
If that doesn’t ring a bell with you, then I refer you to the quote form the Bridge on the River Kwai’s Major Clipton: “Madness. Madness.”