A Shining City, Not A Walled Fortress

Tonight is New Year’s Eve. The years do seem to go faster the older I get….(As my husband likes to say, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it turns.”)

This year’s New Year’s Resolution isn’t my usual list (lose weight, read more, be nicer to assholes). No, this year, my one and only resolution is to do everything in my (limited) power to make America America again.

This inspirational column by Ruth Marcus says it all, and says it far more eloquently and forcefully that I could. Marcus makes the essential point that one can loathe Donald Trump while loving America–that in fact, loving America pretty much requires detesting and resisting our accidental President.

I will share a couple of her observations, but I really, really hope you will click through and read the column in its entirety. (Maybe even print it out and frame it….)

Here, for me at least, is the comforting paradox of the age of Trump: I have never respected a president less, nor loved my country more.

This sentiment may startle. It may rankle, even. It comes in a week that witnessed the passage of the worst domestic policy legislation of my lifetime, followed by the now ritual but always repulsive lauding of President Trump. First by the Cabinet courtiers summoned for that purpose; next by Republican lawmakers willing to lay it on just as thick — even more nauseating, because they know better than the servile flattery of their words and because they occupy, theoretically anyway, a coequal branch.

After listing many of the ways this President has disgraced and embarrassed the nation, Marcus writes

Has there been a more embarrassing year for the United States? Thinking Americans cringe at what foreign countries and their leaders make of us and our president, with his reckless upending of international agreements, his bigoted and poorly executed travel ban, his unashamed ignorance, his reckless tweets, his endless susceptibility to flattery.

I particularly loved this observation:

Once we took for granted, as a given of American democracy, such fundamental values as freedom of the press, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary. Now we have a president who veers between failure to understand their importance and deliberate efforts to undermine them.

He is similarly heedless of the qualities that have always made America great, most notably its willingness not only to enshrine these values at home but also to play a leadership role in nurturing them abroad. Trump’s America is bristlingly insular and driven by zero-sum selfishness. Mine is welcoming, idealistic and generous — a shining city, not a walled fortress.

That last line particularly resonates with those of us who know our American history. Even the Deists among this nation’s founders joined their more “biblical” compatriots in believing that they were bequeathing to the world a “shining city on the hill,” a country that would be a beacon of liberty and justice.

Marcus concluded with a timely reminder of the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Those of us on the more liberal side of the political spectrum have too often and too easily ceded the mantle of patriot to conservatives. Indeed, there can be an off-putting, chest-thumping aspect to traditional, bumper-sticker patriotism: “My country, right or wrong.” “America, love it or leave it.”

George Washington, in his farewell address, advised fellow citizens to “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It is hard not to recall that admonition when listening to Trump’s faux-patriotic posturing against kneeling NFL players and his demand that they show “total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country.”

Real patriotism would be to recognize, as the Supreme Court did three decades ago in overturning a criminal conviction for burning the American flag, that “we do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

It has never been more important for real patriots to fight for the America of our moral aspirations. As Marcus says, “our fundamental fight is not against Trump. It is for America.”

Happy New Year.

Let’s get to work.