All That’s Left Is Loving My Country
President Obama seemed loving and somber at his final press conference on January 18, 2016. “Our core values may be at stake,” he said.
His manner took me back to the basketball court, when we overmatched East High Warriors were down by eight points to the Cathedral Prep Ramblers with 58 seconds to go.
In the huddle, Coach Matusiak looked back at the clock, then down at the floor and said, “Okay, I think we can pull this off.”
Although just a freshman scrub, I knew that we were lucky to have held Prep to a single digit lead. “No,” I thought, “we’re not going pull this off.”
“I think we’re going to be okay,” our beloved Barack said, looking as bereft as my coach did over forty years ago. After a few more words, a “good luck” and two thumps on the podium, he was gone.
No, we’re not going to be okay. Our core values aren’t at stake, they’re on life support. If the United States of America were Great-Grandma or Grandpa, calls would be going out to the family this very moment (11:41 a.m., January 20, 2017). Get here as soon as possible, if you want to say goodbye.
A country that, under any voting system, would even come close to electing Donald Trump as its president may continue to live, but only on borrowed time—and stripped of any right to call itself a great nation.
Trump’s kingdom probably won’t fall any time soon, but that’s not the point. America has lost itself. Former President Obama used the term “core values.” I use the term “soul.” The qualities that made our country great still live in the hearts of millions of citizens–perhaps even the majority.
The trouble is, those qualities—honor, sacrifice, justice and truth—are now under attack, and the mindfulness, honesty and good will required to protect our great core have been overwhelmed by fury, unapologetic lies and malevolence.
In short, the United States of America has dementia, or some other condition that makes us forget who we are and act cruelly toward those we should love and lose our grip on reality. Death comes eventually.
I settled on this prognosis more than a year ago, so for me Donald Trump’s inauguration is little more than a turn for the worse. The illness metaphor not only strikes me as true, but it also helps me to function in the present without forsaking my own soul.
As dementia slowly overtook my father a few years ago, reason, exhortation and scolding served no purpose. Expecting him to reclaim his rationality was out of the question. “If salt has lost its taste,” the Gospel of Matthew asks, “how can its saltiness be restored?” Dad was disappearing. His mind wouldn’t yield to logic, so the only thing that made sense was to love what was left of him.
Until the very end, any improvement as a result of medication or treatment was most welcome, but I refused to nurse false hope.
That’s how I feel about my country today. I’m holding her hand right now. Still, will I be surprised when all of Trump’s ethics violations come to nothing? No. Do I anticipate an impeachment, should irrefutable proof of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia arise? No. Can American citizens force their elected leaders to check self-interest at the chamber door and work together for the common good? No way.
Gone is effrontery at the powerful ignoring the Constitution, tradition, and the dreams and needs of the people. Now is the time for appreciating acts of genuine patriotism, like the Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for tomorrow. The grains of hope they hold far outnumber mine. God bless them, everyone.
As they love America, I’ll love her, too, and pray that we as a people might be the salt of the earth.