I just finished reading Jon Meacham’s wonderful book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.” It is both a delightful read and at the same time a cautionary tale. Meacham cautions us, as the New York Times reviewer notes, that America’s survival is not automatic. The book examines times in the past when fear, confusion, and hatred have gripped the country in situations very similar to our own.
I took two main things away from “The Soul of America.” Something that I have told my own children many times – that the struggle never ends and never will and that we have to keep fighting for what’s right because the forces that would haul us backward never stop striving to undo the progress that we have made as a nation. And secondly, when faced with a crushing tsunami of lies and obstructions to the truth, the media needs to continue to publish the facts, even if those facts are unpopular.
Sometimes this requires the media to publish or broadcast those facts again and again. Such is the current situation in which we find ourselves. President Donald Trump is the master liar. He lies, and lies, and lies… And then lies again. He continues to lie even when his lies have been totally debunked and shown to be lies and half-truths. Trump never uses reasoned arguments against his critics but attacks and slanders them as unworthy or cowards or haters of America because they are unwilling to accept his malignant vision of the nation.
The same is true of those minions that doing his bidding like his children, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Homeland Security Sec. Kirstien Nielsen, to name just a few. They lie in service to Trump. One senses occasionally that they wish they could be more truthful. But access to power numbs any personal misgivings they may have.
This is not the first time a demagogue has sought to rend our country asunder and to divide us into camps. Never before, however, has that person been the president of the United States. As Meacham points out, flawed as they were, past presidents were the ones that help the country move beyond these moments of crisis even if they sometimes did so halfheartedly.
Now we face a crisis unlike any the country has known before. Our president is a man totally devoted to mendacity, to egotism, to personal gain, to the retention of power and not the welfare of the people. This crisis will not be solved easily. Even if Trump is impeached and through some miracle, enough Republican senators voted to convict him and throw him out of office, his malicious and dangerous spirit would survive to haunt us. For, as Meacham again notes, you do not get someone like a Trump without some of the people wanting someone like a Trump.
And so, at the end of his wonderful book, Meacham calls for Americans who care about their country to take up the struggle. And for most of us, that means to take up the struggle politically. To knock on doors, lick envelopes, put up signs or even run for office. We must not shrink from that struggle, and to find a way to talk to and communicate with those who feel differently than we do.
Because the reality is that now that we’ve had one Trump, the chance that we will have another Trump-like politician in our future will be that much more assured. The struggle never ends.