No natural disaster had devastated any part of our country.
No stock market crash hinted at an upcoming depression.
No explosions had dealt calamitous delays to the space program.
No, nothing so minor. Turns out our nation was faced with a ‘crisis” at our southern border as a horde of poor, undernourished and scared individuals threatened our very existence by wanting to enter the United States.
I knew it must be a real crisis because our president decided for the very first time in his tenure to address the nation from the Oval Office. Clearly, then, it was more dire than the prospect of North Korea lobbing missiles toward Guam. Or the killer hurricanes that ravaged Houston, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, the Florida Peninsula and elsewhere. Or the killing of 17 at a Florida high school.
Yes, it must be a real crisis because surely he felt the Oval Office setting had a higher status than the usual tweets that in the past have defined policy and state of mind.
Knowing the talk was imminent, I sat down to watch. Several fact checkers assigned “truth” to much of what he said, especially when a statement involved numbers. I’d expect him to deal with numbers expertly, although I believe the only ones he’s truly interested in have a dollar sign preceding them.
I’m not so sure about other statements. The only word I could think of was “hypocritical” as he assured me his interest in a wall was driven by humanitarian concerns. Really? I’m trying to think of other instances where he’s demonstrated sympathy for humanitarian issues like, say, federal workers not receiving pay checks.
I was surprised to learn that the Democrats wanted a steel wall and the president, in order to accommodate them, agreed that would be sufficient. Only one problem. As far as I know, not one Democrat has shown pleasure for a steel barrier. But what’s one more lie?
The president informed us that crime was rampant and it was all due to lack of a wall. Several incidents, undoubtedly true and certainly horrible, were laid at the feet of illegal immigrants. Many others, due to American citizens, often using guns, were not mentioned.
I came away realizing there was no justification for his stand except a petulant need to get the toy he wanted so he could satisfy his base so he could get reelected.
I looked forward to the Democratic response, eager to hear the words that would drive us forward to work for the common good. It began a few minutes after Trump had completed his remarks.
Ah, now it was time.
But wait, had I let my hard to understand TV remote take matters into its own hand and flip to an arts channel. Because my immediate reaction was I was gazing at Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic, except the male was on the wrong side of the woman. No, it was just Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Standing grim-faced behind a podium that was not as wide as the sum of their two bodies. In order to overcome the discrepancy, they had crammed together so they presented as a single two-headed monster. Couldn’t they at least have had two podia?
Well, okay, it didn’t seem like an auspicious start, but surely their words would be inspirational and motivate us to seek the high ground.
The words were there. But they were the same words we’ve been hearing since the shutdown began. And they were delivered with the fire of an iceberg. To say their response was dull would be a kindness.
Now I have deep respect for both Schumer and Pelosi. They are smart, tough, and usually on the right side of issues. They have devoted major portions of their lives to serving our country and their own needs.
But we need fire now. We need youth. We need inspiration. We need a fantastic articulator. Where are they in the Democratic party? I know they exist. At my local level there are several coming into their own. But they are a decade or more from major leadership roles. It’s time to encourage those who already have the experience, the drive, the charisma, the heart to take on the future. I hope they are being groomed by the current leadership. And I hope I begin to see signs of it soon.
When I started to write this, I Googled “american gothic picture” to refresh my memory and make sure my initial reaction was correct. I found I was not the only one to make the comparison. A row of copies of the classic art ranging in price from $6.60 to $77.49 was followed by a row of images of Schumer and Pelosi. One of them was termed “The New American Gothic.” And I thought I was so smart coming up with the similarity!
I find the comparison of the old and new American Gothics scary. I want a future run by correct-thinking people who don’t remind me of a 90-year-old painting.