Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Country, Drunk or Sober

I had a small difference of opinion today over the slogan "Not my president," a childish phrase that annoys the hell out of me.  It reminds me of those pseudo-legal notices that periodically go viral on Facebook, announcing the user's legal ownership of his or her posts.  (I saw a new variant of those on Facebook today, in fact.)  If I say that Trump is not my president, then that is #Resistance!  It will weaken his demonic power, praise Jesus, every time I say the magic words.

Alas, Trump is the President of the United States, which makes him my president, your president, our president, like it or not.  (Which I don't.)  We've gone through the looking-glass to 2008, when the Far Right chanted the same mantra, only now it's the Near Right doing it.  It was laughable when Republicans said it, and it's laughable when Democrats said it.

But there occurred to me one other reason why the slogan annoys me so much.  I think that the people who are saying "Not my president" believe that if you claim a president as yours, you can't criticize him.  You stand behind your president, you defend him against any and all criticism whether valid or invalid, you might occasionally concede that he's a disappointment in some trivial way, but while he may not be perfect he is still the Greatest. President. Evar.  These are the people, I believe, who reacted to criticism of Obama from the left by accusing the critic of having voted for McCain or  Romney, of being a Republican, etc.  The main reason I voted for Obama, twice, and for Clinton once, was so that I could tell such people that I had done so.  It was a useless gesture, of course: they couldn't hear it.  It did not compute.  If you didn't adore their president, you had to be a Republican.  The only way you can criticize a president is if he's not yours.  If he isn't yours, anything goes.

Connected to this, of course, is the belief that Your President is your friend.  You feel not just proprietary about him, but you feel intimacy with him and his beautiful family.  You identify with him, so of course an injury to him is an injury to you.  This cult of personality is traditional in America politics, as probably in all countries, and it ensures that people will only deal in personalities, not issues.  The president may not be a monarch, but he (or she, when the day comes) is the Nation, the head of a body whose members we citizens are, and shall the members criticize the head?

So the reason "Not my president" bothers me is not just its petulant childishness, but its rejection of principle and reason in favor of personal fidelity to the Sovereign.  If the United States is ever going to be something like a democracy or even a republic, we need to focus on issues rather than people.  Acknowledging that Trump is our president doesn't mean we can't criticize him, resist him, fight him.