Americans have good reason to be fearful and looking to their president for reassurance this week, and it has nothing to do with some Central Americans walking north.
The real danger is the destruction of our shared identity as Americans. Bombs mailed this week to former President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other public figures vilified by President Donald Trump make a blatantly partisan case of domestic terrorism, showing just how tattered our unified American identity has become.
Presidents must nurture our unity, the greatest source of our strength and resiliency. This requires more than inserting a few brief statements about harmony, as Trump did Wednesday, into an endless stream of divisive attacks, finger-pointing and dog whistling to fire up one’s base. Not to mention his record of condoning violence and attacks on his opponents. Nobody wins with unrestrained vitriol, and this week it threatened the lives of many American leaders.
Further harm is caused by the White House’s ongoing campaign to delegitimize the press. The press is not perfect, but it performs an essential role informing the public, holding government accountable and providing shared knowledge that’s critical for a strong community and nation.
Trump’s press attacks are a dangerous aspect of his narcissism: In trying to neuter critical reports of his performance, he’s encouraging Americans to become ignorant and emboldening autocrats abroad to jail, torture and kill journalists.
This difficult chapter in our history is a triumph for our true enemies — the foreign nations with competing ideology, who have long sought to weaken America’s strength at home and abroad by sowing division, distrust and chaos, weakening Western democracy.
We do need to make America great again. The presidency is supposed to model allegiance to a republic that’s indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We have seen the dignity of that highest office diminished.
The rest of us can do our part, and be role models for the tweeter in chief, by seeking common ground instead of ways to validate resentment and denigrate those with whom we disagree.
United we stand, divided we fall.