Is It Too Much to Expect Dignity?
It is the year 2016. I am almost forty-seven years old, and I am deeply saddened by the state of politics in our country.
I was in the fifth grade, it was 1979. I was ten that year (eleven by the time it was over), when I came to political awareness. The big thing in the news that year was the revolution in Iran; more than sixty American citizens taken hostage, held for four hundred and forty-four days, held until January 20th, 1981, inauguration day, and the ascendency of Ronald Reagan.
Those events, that election; they jolted me into a place where I knew that politics were important, the news (no matter how poor it is), the news is important. I got a paper route that year.
For whatever reason (I cannot remember) I was home from school the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in. I remember watching it, and watching the release of the hostages live on T.V.. I remember the front page of the evening paper and the electoral landslide it depicted with forty-nine states going for Reagan and only one, Minnesota, my state, which like me, had chosen Carter.
I have memories of political events from earlier in my life. I remember when Jimmy carter won the presidency and took office. I remember the departure of Nixon. I remember newscasts from and about the Vietnam war, but it was in the years ’79 – ’80 that I became a close study of our great national dialog.
In 1994 something changed. Democratic President Bill Clinton had been in office for two years. I had just gotten out of the Navy. There was a revolution in congress and the Republicans took control of both houses. They had a leader named Newt Gingrich, he had a thing called “The Contract for American,” an ambitious legislative agenda promoting republican values. This was the beginning of the coarsening of our political life.
The political talk coming from the heirs of that republican movement has become so coarsened that it is, to me, unrecognizable from the way in which I was raised to view public office, and public service, and the duty to comport oneself in public with dignity.
Right now, the “Front Runner” for the nomination of the Republican Party is Donald Trump, a man who has used called his opponents “pussies,” has said to his followers that he is going to tell immigrant workers from Mexico to “go fuck themselves.” He has said of people that criticize him that they are “full of shit.” He has said these things, repeated these things while at the podium, in front of crowds of thousands of people, while being telecast across the world, and his supporters cheer him on.
This is the saddest thing about the election. That man’s supporters cheer him on. They love the fact that he says hateful, hurtful and disgusting things.
Is it too much to ask for some dignity?
Carter and Reagan never spoke of one another like that, to one another like that. Neither did Reagan and Mondale when they ran against each other, nor did Bush speak that way of his opponents Dukakis and Clinton, and Clinton did not speak that way of Bush or Dole. IN fact, Bill Clinton, and George Bush Senior became good friends and worked together on many projects when they were each done with the job of being president.
The disgusting behavior currently on display is being leveled by republicans at republicans. There is a deep lack of respect, as if the entire notion of what it means to have good manners has been forgotten.
It makes me sad.
Donald Trump, the republican front runner, he hides his ill manners behind the rally cry that he is against “political correctness.” As if the task of being a gentleman had something to do with politics and not just good manners.
America, can we please just reject him on the grounds that he is crude; not because he brings up difficult political issues, trying to enforce our adherence to civil standards, and public policy through vehicles of peer pressure and shame (which are totally legitimate tactics). That is what political correctness is. Reject him because he is foul mouthed, ill mannered, and full of hate.
Reject Donald Trump because he has no dignity, he cannot bring dignity to the office of the presidency, he will tear it down, as a result he will tear us down.