Who Will Call Trump Back from the Brink? You, That’s Who
In my post of last Tuesday, headed “A Dangerous Time,” I quoted the well-known Yeats poem “The Second Coming,” to the effect of “the centre not holding,” “the best lacking all conviction,” and “the worst full of passionate intensity.” That was written the day after President Trump’s hideous photo-op, his calls to “dominate the streets,” and his threatened mobilization of the military against protesters.
I asked, “Is the poet’s dystopian vision is where we now find ourselves?” Will the centre hold? Will the worst among us, from demonstrators bent on inciting violence to a President eager to divide and fan the flames of conflict, take us over the edge? Who would call them back from the brink? The answer came, and it was you. It is us, all of us, who have brought the country back from the brink of disaster.
While it has been another tough week, signs of the center holding have left me encouraged. And the many, many people standing up to the President and against his bellicosity and divisiveness deserve our gratitude. These have included present and former public officials ranging from a former Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, to the District of Columbia Mayor, Muriel Bowser. But most of all it has been the thousands of people who have participated in largely peaceful protests, protests that have not diminished but grown.
What President Trump tried to do earlier in the week was to politicize two critical parts of U.S. society — the church and the military. It is the classic move of the demagogic leader — to co-opt those institutions which have a long-standing tradition of political independence and non-partisanship. He sought to use both to undermine a third guard rail, the Constitution. More specifically, the constitutional right of American citizens to peaceful assembly and protest.
While the President certainly has his supporters in both sectors, religion and the military, there were many who pushed back. The Episcopal bishop of D. C., Mariann Budde, quickly voiced her outrage over the President’s attempts to subvert the church and make it and Bible into political props. Even Trump’s own Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, opposed his boss on his plan to use the U.S. military against U.S. citizens. By week’s end, the troops that had been called to the nation’s capitol had been sent home. And again, all this against the backdrop of protests that grew, included a wider range of people, and became more rather than less peaceful. While I’m sure there are awful exceptions to these generalizations about the protests, I think my general impressions accurate.
Certainly, that was true of the diverse gathering I reported on at the protest here in northeastern Oregon. While some in the community did expect violence or looting, that was the farthest thing from the minds of those of us who turned out to participate in the protest.
We are certainly not out of the woods yet. Even peaceful protests that call out racism will elicit a backlash. Demonstrations could race out of control. The most ideological of the left could themselves co-opt the protests. But for now Donald the Dominator has himself been dominated. And not by force but by people of integrity and courage. May their tribe increase.