A Worthy Presidential Rebuke
We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions — forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.
— President George W. Bush delivered Oct. 19, 2017 at the at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World” event in New York
It is one of the finest speeches about the sign of the times made by a president. And it is also remarkably unusual for a former president to make during his own party’s leadership of the House, Senate and White House. Without mentioning any names, President George W. Bush laid bare the current state of affairs under a democracy that seems to be unraveling.
I wonder if it would resonate with the populace and its elected leaders. I wonder if would cause introspection into the endeavor of mending the social fabric that we have absolutely ceased to weave. We have come this far. Why we have stopped is not a mystery, where we go with it is.
Mr. E.J. Dionne Jr. brilliantly opined in the Washington Post how disorienting we have become — with the most recent of President Trump’s improprieties, this time involving retired Marine Corp general and current White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly and Rep. Frederica S. Wilson.
Our disorientation is reflected further in the way honorable men and women allow themselves to be pushed into defending the indefensible and twisting noble concepts into cheap and ultimately shameful talking points. These are designed to get the president through one more news cycle or around some controversy he could easily quell if he had any familiarity with the words “I’m sorry.”
But dehumanization tactics are what won Donald Trump the presidency. It makes social capital out of being manipulative and divisive while espousing an unconscionable and unqualifiable superiority. The type of which is vigorously defended and seen here by Stephen Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, who served only seven months at the post, but remains the most quintessential of Mr. Trump’s narcissistic supply.
This incessant “casual cruelty” has no filter nor any limits. It is bound by a havoc it intends to wreak and unduly cause, which has no plausible cause.
We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism — forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade — forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.
This so-called high falutin speech 🤔 😕, puts a spotlight on the ramifications of dehumanization and the negative social capital it proffers. It is a form of counterfeit currency being circulated that actually reduce social values. It is a forgery of nationalism and a fraudulent kind of national security as it seeks to debase fellow citizens and immigrants. Its sole purpose is dehumanization, while placating a status quo with unearned privilege.
This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)
We tend to conflate self-interest and narcissism as merely self-asserting behavior to be expected from high ranking officials. And as beguiling as this reality show’ may seem for its entertaining value it shouldn’t be perceived as plausibly excusable for this would not only be ignorant on the part of the observer, but also remarkably facile for one to simply conclude. Given the circumstances and ramifications it can be dangerously ignorant to disregard the dangerously ignorant.
Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.
We are definitely in need of self-correction. But in order to do this we need to acknowledge the malfunction and inherent weaknesses in our systems of beliefs and values that has allowed a multitude of dehumanizing errors to disassemble our democracy from the top.