A little more than four years after Donald Trump created the word Unpresidented in a Tweet in December of 2016, he has finally given us the best definition of the word, now that he has left the scene. While his time in the White House certainly left America Unpresidented, our best hope now is that we can move on from the need to use the word unprecedented on a daily basis.
In his Inauguration speech, President Joe Biden (that felt good) called for unity and an end to our “uncivil war.” I know he is right, and yet, as a member of the most dangerous species ever to walk the Earth (a human male of European descent), I recognize how difficult this will be, too many of us carry the Conan gene. When we saw, as Amanda Gorman put it at the Inauguration, “a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,” I suspect I was not alone in wondering why we did not have a military reaction to the insurrection, with rules of engagement allowing deadly force. Although I recognize how politically counter-productive such an action would have been, that is still a long way from recognizing the MAGA mob as fellow Americans.
To achieve the unity Biden is asking for, there will have to be some clear ground rules and agreement on some facts, and agreement on language. Unity cannot be a unilateral act. Perhaps we could start by agreeing that to be a patriotic American does not include supporting a white-supremacist Nazi theocracy. Unfortunately, those ideas are all too often found under the heading of “conservative,” a categorization used by “conservatives” themselves. Having expropriated the term conservative, the political right has since been finalizing a redefinition of the term liberal, a process that began long before Trump. (President Obama, about as Liberal as a Rockefeller Republican was demonized as a radical socialist.)
The lies and misinformation that created our political divide, and were expertly used by Russia in 2016, will not be easily overcome, even without Trump stoking the division.
Maybe January 6 was enough of a wake-up call to expose how fragile our democracy is, especially when it is adrift on a sea of lies. We really shouldn’t be surprised that the guy who calls U.S. war dead “suckers and losers” would incite a riot to desecrate the U.S. Capitol and American Democracy.
Given the well-prepared foundation of lies, it is not surprising that a mob, convinced the election was stolen, stormed the Capitol. If they were right in thinking the election was stolen, then they would be right in thinking they were patriots for storming the Capitol. Except, they were wrong. The election was not stolen, Trump did not win in a landslide, quite the opposite, in fact.
It was not just that the mob succumbed to effective propaganda and streams of lies, but that they lost their ability to reason and think logically. Too far gone from the “reality-based” community, they believe a ring of Satan worshipping cannibal pedophiles is trying to take over the government and only Trump stands in their way. They lost sight of, or never learned, that our freedom stems from the rule of law. Laws made by the democratically elected representatives of the people. Instead, freedom to them is the extension of their white privilege, and now that the MAGA cult feels their privilege is threatened, or at least inconvenienced, they are willing to throw away the rule of law and constitutional democracy in favor of the single person who says he will protect their privilege.
Until we can come back to a common ground around the importance of the rule of law and return our political categories to the reality-based community, it is hard to see how we end our uncivil war. We will never agree on everything, that’s the point, but our disagreements need to be rooted in the same facts, commonly understood.
A good starting point to find common ground is with the Liberal cocktail. This Liberal can be appreciated by even the most ardent conservative. A classic cocktail from early in the 20th Century, I used the variant recipe via Frederick Yarm at Cocktail Virgin, the Liberal is:
.75 oz Bourbon (2 oz wild Turkey 101)
1/4 oz Amer Picon (1/2 oz Bigallet China-China)
1 dash Maple Syrup (1/8 oz)
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.