If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, as Yogi Berra might put it, he’d be spinning in his grave. Lincoln was more than America’s greatest rhetorician; before Donald J. Trump came along, he was the last president whose legitimacy was rejected by half the country as soon as his election was complete.
Although the 1860s version of “the resistance” didn’t turn out well, it never soured Lincoln on Americans’ capacity for good. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” he proclaimed at the height of the Civil War. It’s the most evocative tautology in the American rhetorical canon. But its spirit is in short supply these days.
“You are not welcome here!” a Pittsburgh Presbyterian pastor screamed at Trump, her face contorted in hate. “We welcome everybody here!” That’s some kind of reverse tautology. Not expressing an idea in two different ways, but rather making two opposite sentiments as though they are compatible. It’s akin to the ancient Greek philosophers’ “liar’s paradox.” (“I always tell lies,” a man says. Is he lying or telling the truth?)
Yet there was nothing philosophical about CNN anchorman Don Lemon’s Trump-blaming after the murder of 11 American Jews in their Pittsburgh synagogue. “We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right,” Lemon said – thereby demonizing, oh, I don’t know, 100 million of his fellow Americans. Even more efficient than the vitriolic Pittsburgh Presbyterian, Lemon refuted himself in mid-sentence.
This encapsulates the state of the anti-Trump resistance. In the name of tolerance, a raging intolerance. I’m not a partisan person, so it’s difficult for me to reconcile how activists and Trump-bashing journalists are behaving these days. It takes a special cast of mind – and I don’t mean that as a compliment – to treat a hate crime or other atrocity as a political opportunity. Yet that’s what has been happening since Trump’s arrival on the political scene.
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