Think Anew, Act Anew

observations and opinion

The Bully’s Pulpit




This week’s biggest news story, unfortunately, involves an actor who criticized the soon to be inaugurated Donald J. Trump. It can be summed up as follows:

  1. Trump mocked a disabled reporter.
  2. Streep calls out Trump for being a bully.
  3. Trump belittles Streep (she’s “over rated” he says).
  4. Streep wins argument.

When I call this an “unfortunate” story, it is only because the noise around it has so fully crowded out public attention to the manifest deficiencies of Trump’s Cabinet selections, the possibly illegal nature of his son-in-law’s appointment to a White House position and the weird decision not to maintain management continuity over the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

There isn’t much one can say to the suggestion Ms. Streep is “over rated.”  Compared to what? There may be actors who are dead, who when they were alive were better than Streep is now. Maybe. But has there really been a film actor who could become the incarnation of another person so fully, while still showing us the human being inside? I’ve only seen about 20,000 movies, so there could be someone out there. For now, I tend to disagree with Mr. Trump’s opinion.

But I must agree with Ms. Streep’s.  Her comments about Donald Trump are painfully accurate, if unsurprising after several decades of listening to the Blowhard in Chief belittle, demean, diminish and threaten anyone who dares criticize him (or his tiny hands). He is a mean man, who has vaulted to wealth and power by insulting, humiliating and manipulating others.

What will Mr. Trump do now that he has the ear of the world?  I think he can actually do some real good for the world, with what Teddy Roosevelt called “the bully pulpit.”

When TR referred to the Presidency as “a bully pulpit” he used the word “bully” as an adjective, for “great” or as the next President would say, “terrific!”   TR saw the White House as a stage to stand upon, to demonstrate certain values and to speak up on behalf of important causes.

Of course, the word “bully” is more of a verb for the next President of the United States. And it is also, a noun. He will soon be the most powerful man in the world, with the possible exception of his creditors. That is alarming. But it is also the way in which Mr. Trump may, inadvertently, make the world a better place. Now we have to live with a yuge, bleating daily demonstration of what someone is like when they lack – or refuse to demonstrate – common decency.

Trump’s ascent is just one more wake up call, a reminder that the things we value  (or say we value) – decency, courtesy, dignity, humility, courage, integrity, honour, honesty, fidelity, generosity – demand attention, care and practice.  The next President does not appear to embody or even respect these values.  His tenure may threaten a moral ice age but it may also invite – demand – that the citizenry step up and be the example they seek.

After all, our better angels must be tended to, or they will wither and die.



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This entry was posted on January 10, 2017 by in The U.S.A., Trump & Trumpism.
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