I am baffled by the increasing tensions, anxiety and anger that, like a menacing storm cloud, hovers over all Americans. What’s going on? Can we blame Donald Trump solely for this upheaval? The short answer is no. Trump simply tapped into the unresolved contradictions that have plagued this great nation since its inception.
This was a nation born of contradictions. The founding fathers articulated a vision that belied the reality of a heinous slave-based economy. The American Constitution is a remarkable document that even eclipsed the historic Magna Carta, signed in June of 1215. The Magna Carta was an assertive action taken by the feudal barons to stop, in this case King John, from abusing his power.
Because it established the “rule of law” that even a king would be forced to obey and follow, the Magna Carta remains one of the most profound documents in history. Moreover, it articulated enduring principles such as guaranteeing rights to individuals, including the rights to justice as well as the right to a fair trial.
Yet the American Constitution and Bill of Rights went further than the Magna Carta. In addition to incorporating the fundamental principles of justice and individual rights, the American document was both visionary and aspirational.
Even with the Magna Carta as a historical reference point and the Constitution in place, America’s first president, George Washington, still warned against making the highest office a surrogate king. However, today we seem to have elected a man who fancies himself a king. The rule of law appears to be something that can be ignored or used, when convenient, to increase the power of our current president.
“We the People” have become “We the Warring Factions.” There was never real closure to the “War of the Rebellion,” known more widely as the Civil War. Despite subsequent legislative and judicial proclamations designed to realize the vision articulated by the Founding Fathers, our ongoing civil war continues to pit brother against brother and divide families. The lack of closure to this war continues to prevent the American people from realizing their full potential as a great nation. Instead of promoting unity, the current president seems intent on fanning the flames of division still smoldering since Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865.
As a result of Trump’s appeal to our lesser angels, the nation has reconfigured itself into three camps when it comes to his ideology and style of governing. We find ourselves having to join one of the three groups — either the Affronted, the Perplexed, or the Apologists. What all three groups have in common is the deterioration of trust in our government and increasing tensions among and between American citizens. Each group seeks to claim the moral high ground and mantle of righteousness.
It feels like we’ve given the keys to the nation’s car to an inebriated teenager who relishes driving fast and recklessly without keeping his eyes on the road. The American people are passengers in a car careening dangerously on an unfamiliar road. The Affronted are aghast at the behavior of the President; the Perplexed are still trying to figure out what happened; and the Apologists are often forced to put forth unbelievable rationales to justify the President’s behavior and words.
Everyone is cynical.
Where do we go from here? Is impeachment the right course of action? Or should we rely on the electoral process, hopefully unfettered by foreign governments? I don’t have the answer. I am merely raising the questions. Still, I believe in the vision articulated by the founding fathers in the Preamble, which unequivocally states, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”