By now we have all had a good chuckle over leaks from the White House that meetings have been held in the dark because no one could figure out how to switch on the lights. Maybe they were too embarrassed to ask one of the White House butlers how to do it Maybe Joe Biden really did sabotage them before leaving office. Or perhaps this is a discomforting metaphor for the entire Trump presidency.
Donald Trump certainly set the tone in his dystopian inaugural address. Using terms like “trapped in poverty in our inner-cities,” rusted-out factories,” “crime and gangs,” and the kicker “American carnage,” his speech, like those of his campaign was one of darkness, not light. Much like those of an old-fashioned “hell fire and brimstone” preacher, he used the fear of the worst that could happen to motivate his followers.
It also reflects the way the Trump administration has behaved during its first three weeks in office. Is it too trite to say they resemble the blind leading the blind? White House spokespeople are certainly stumbling over each other in the dark as the message changes almost hourly. Is Priebus in charge or is Bannon? Is Rex Tillerson really the Secretary of State or has that role been usurped by the First Son-In-Law Jared Kushner? Is Melania the First Lady or is it Ivanka? Or, in the case of the recent State visit by the Prime Minister of Japan, nobody? Does Sean Spicer have a clue what is happening?
In the meantime, the American people and the rest of the world, read Twitter to find out what Donald Trump’s priorities are? In recent days his priorities seem to be, in no particular order, decisions handed down by our federal courts, The New York Times and CNN, the WALL, the retailer Nordstrom, his daughter Ivanka, FAKE NEWS, and Mark Cuban. And golf. No wonder Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, was snubbed at a recent EU conference held in Malta when she offered to serve as a bridge between the Trump administration and the EU. As the President of Lithuania so succinctly pointed out, “We don’t need a bridge. We can reach the American people through Twitter.”
Less than a month into the Trump presidency, many are wondering whose head is going to be the first to roll. Sean Spicer seems a likely candidate, especially since leaks indicate that Trump is none too pleased with the parodies of him appearing on Saturday Night Live. Or could it be KellyAnne Conway, whose fabrication of the “Bowling Green Massacre” has seriously damaged any remaining credibility she might have. Plus her blatant and illegal promotion of Ivanka Trump’s products on Fox and Friends has opened an investigation by the Office of Government Ethics. On a much more disturbing note, multiple allegations of misconduct and possible treasonous activities are surfacing about Trump’s primary national security advisor General Michael Flynn.
Is it any wonder that Trump’s favorability ratings among the American people have steadily dropped since taking office. Or that in the rest of the world, only 29% have a positive image of him. If we feel despair, it is because we are being led by a man who has made despair his trademark.
We used to be a country of light, not darkness. However you may remember Ronald Reagan, in his Farewell Address he called America “the shining city on a hill” and went on to say “After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”
Now we have a president who says about people trying to get into our country from Mexico, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Or in regard to his ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries
Or what about President George H. W Bush? At his inauguration, he spoke about “all the individuals and community organizations spread like stars through the nation, doing good.” He then went on in the first year of his presidency to found the Points of Light Foundation which honored those individuals and groups bringing light and hope to their communities.
How have we strayed so far from the light into darkness? When did we stop being the “shining city on a hill” or a thousand points of light? The latest estimates for the costs of building a wall between Mexico and the United States are $21.6 billion dollars. If we have that kind of money on a wall, perhaps we need to rethink our priories as a nation and a people.
If you are more fortunate than others, it is better to build a longer table than a taller fence.
We need to remember the words in the Hebrew Scripture “The foreigner who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD, your God” [Lev. 19:34] and the words of Jesus who said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Or those words of his that inspired Ronald Reagan “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Let us once again choose light over darkness, love over fear, and longer tables over higher walls.
And may the last person to leave the White House, remember to turn the lights ON!