Rex Tillerson dropped the bomb.
When asked on Fox News about racism in America and this country’s attitude toward neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, VA Tillerson said “I don’t think anyone doubts the American people’s values . . . equal treatment of people the world over.”
When asked if our president Trump shares this values, he replied, “The president speaks for himself.”
If you’ve ever watched Blazing Saddles that equates to the “Son, you’re on your own,” comment from the preacher to the new sheriff.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis doubled down on that sentiment when a day or two later he told a small group of soldiers, “Our country, right now, it’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.”
Mattis also said our country has two distinct powers for the world: inspiration and intimidation. “The power of inspiration—we’ll get the power of inspiration back. We’ve got the power of intimidation, and that’s you, if someone wants to screw with our families, our country and our allies.”
Mattis’ s first statement spoke to Charlottesville and the growing tension and divisiveness inside our country – but the second statement – particularly the “power of inspiration” was a not-so-subtle reference to our current Commander in Chief.
This week the president helped to drive his wedge – not the golf type – deeper into the American psyche when he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This highly controversial decision further encouraged his supporters, whoever may be left among that group, but it was assailed by Democrats and Republicans alike.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “Mr. Trump’s power to pardon is undeniable, but pardoning Mr. Arpaio sends a message that law enforcers can ignore court orders and get away with it. All you need is a political ally in the White House or Governor’s mansion. Down that road lies anarchy.”
We are well on that road already if you look at the world since Donald Trump became president. You can see the fear on everyone’s face. The marchers on the right and the left in Charlottesville were as fearful a group of people I’ve ever seen.
You can see fear in the eyes of Congressmen and Senators who wonder how deep this rabbit hole goes. You can see it in the eyes of Sarah Huckabee Sanders as she tries to walk through a minefield of facts in search of an alternative fact to support the president.
You can see it on every man woman and child you meet who knows or questions the political climate in the country. You can see it in the eyes of reporters who wonder if they’re going to be labeled “The enemy of the people” again by a president whose acquaintance with truth is so inconsequential you are left wondering if he would answer honestly if you asked him does the sun rise in the east or west?
Finally, you can see it on the president as he speaks publicly or strides from Marine One to the White House. His frequent rallies with the imaginary record crowds feeds an ego of a frustrated, insecure and dangerously powerful man who cannot understand why more people don’t love him and can’t understand why his actions – successful in getting him elected – are not successful in governing.
The president projects fear and anger every time you see him. Every day of this administration he engages in a Twitter litter campaign that speaks to his frustration and misanthropic view of the world.
When he isn’t tweeting, he’s selling hats in Texas while he does his Rodney Dangerfield impression, telling us “What a crowd! What a turnout!” at a hurricane relief center. As overheard among reporters, “I wonder if he’ll take credit for the size of the crowds at the relief shelters?”
His tweets, his failure to adequately communicate further foments the anger among a majority of the populous. To some he is a devil, a madman, a narcissistic despot, a Hitler wannabe and worse. For his shrinking base he remains a savior and as he becomes more and more isolated he increasingly speaks directly to those who will never leave him – those who promise a Civil War if he is impeached – those who believe in White Supremacy and those who are either too embarrassed or insecure themselves to ever admit they made a mistake in supporting such a shallow, mean-spirited charlatan.
The challenge is to find a way – short of a devastating hurricane – to treat everyone with the brotherhood and acceptance Mattis and Tillerson spoke about.
They directly addressed the challenges our country face. It is easy to go on social media and rant and rave with people who think the same as you do. After a while the cacophony merely drowns out any real chance of a solution as it pretends to seek one. The bigger challenge is to try and forge unity with those who think differently than you.
The biggest challenge is doing this while ignoring a POTUS who praises the size of his crowd while people are dying.