A week ago Friday, I stopped to watch President Trump’s inaugural address. Halfway through, I was almost expecting machine guns to open up and blow him to bits. How dare he say things like this, when we’re all supposed to be caught up in the moment:
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
But, in fact, he’s right. We are a troubled nation, and the first step in fixing the troubles is acknowledging that they exist.
The next day, I dug up Obama’s address from 2009, and replayed Trump’s version. There were telling similarities: both Presidents were representing themselves as a break from the past and a new direction. But Obama was polite and circumspect, like a politician, while Trump was blunt and forceful, like a new CEO brought in to resurrect a failing corporation.
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Enough with the posturing, already.
Many fewer people showed up to witness Trump’s inauguration in 2017 than Obama’s in 2009. The weather was worse this year; Trump is another white guy; many in the northeast United States, within 200-300 miles of Washington, supported the other candidate. Perhaps some people even imagined that machine guns might open up in the middle of the inaugural address.
But then the new Administration waded into the issue to challenge what seemed an obvious truth. It doesn’t accomplish anything and just makes them look petty.
Similarly, the President of Mexico, perhaps riled by some of President Trump’s statements, cancelled his planned visit. Trump responded:
The President of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route.
No, you didn’t mutually agree: he cancelled. If he hadn’t, the meeting would still be happening. Don’t pretend otherwise.
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Yesterday’s Daily News featured a graphic of the Statue of Liberty weeping in response to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. “Trump needs to read the inscription on the statue,” someone remarked at the restaurant where my wife and I were having lunch.
A century ago, the ‘huddled masses’ and ‘wretched refuse’ came to America under their own power. They saved their money and paid for their own passage. They knew there were hardships and dangers, and that they would have to adapt to their new land, not the other way around.
It would be one thing if people organized a charitable endeavor to bring refugees into the United States. The government’s role in this would be issuing visas for entry and nothing more. Congress could authorize some quantity of refugee visas to be paid for by the taxpayers, but that would be it. The charities running the operation would be responsible for transportation, providing a place for the refugees to stay when they arrived, and acclimating them to life in the United States.
But that isn’t what’s happening. The government is funding, at taxpayer expense, the arrival of these refugees. There are religious organizations, functioning as government contractors, doing the work.
We didn’t do this a century ago. Why do we feel the need to do it now? What national interest does it serve?
Alas, I didn’t get the memo.