Humility at Death’s Door
When Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016, our social contract with one another withered like fading stars in the morning. Ugly got uglier. Humility has since been knocking at Death’s door. The pounding fists of dissent roused the likes of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, who have each turned in their respective graves. Discourse has become filibuster. The notion that compromise blends the flavor of ideas into a smorgasbord that’s best for the electorate has instead become an inedible feast of delusion.
Suddenly, in a waking moment, Citizen Trump’s pathway to the Oval Office has thrown Progressive dreams off course for at least two to four years — or God forbid, possibly six to eight years. With that stunning revelation came the hyper-reactive unacceptable reality: that sticking to one’s guns meant an unequivocal denial of everything the Republican and conservative movement was about. Only left-leaning thought was proper. The rest was despicable. Deplorable, to pick up on the mantra that many embraced during the race. A vote for Donald Trump became the catalyst for friends to turn on friends. Not only was Adolf Hitler alive and well, he might even be your FaceBook friend.
Right wing ridicule of the massive losses for liberals didn’t help heal the pain, either. The wound hadn’t been cauterized before puzzled and befuddled pundits made apocalyptic predictions, while conservative talk show hosts slammed the football into the end zone of triumph. Victory had taken no prisoners. It was a slaughterhouse: the Whitehouse, Congress, and governorships were packed with conservatives. Voters had said, “Enough,” to policies that were perceived as breaking the back of the middle class. Social unrest further popped the butterfly bandage off the gaping gash of defeat. All Hell was breaking loose. Solace could only be found in Churchill’s axiom that, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
Emerging over the months hence, post marches and rallies and screaming sessions, has been relentless attacks and spiraling conspiracies to delegitimize the President and his unconfirmed cabinet. And the obstruction has been working defiantly against a fledgling administration that had little prior experience and struggled like a pool of drowning children to stay afloat in a calamitous sea of self-created chaos, through the prism of Twitter and loose language interviews.
Career bureaucrats recoiled and seeded seemingly damning data about the President and his team to disrupt and bring down the yet unseated status quo. The so-called Deep State rose to the surface of talking points and took form as an unprecedented intelligence coup. Draining the swamp, as Trump’s base chanted during the campaign, was going to come at a cost: exposure of all that’s wrong with the nearly 250 year old republic. The world was going to see the United States in all its unbridled evil and boisterous glory. The greatest nation ever had become the most unhinged. And everyone was watching.
Where do we go from here?
We will, of course, survive these uncharted waters as a nation. We will find our common voice in the uncommon concoction we have been brewing for generations. We have ingrained in the fabric of being Americans a blanket of comfort in creating something better from ideological deconstruction. Our history is on display in the Constitution: every mistake and change in direction remains open for scrutiny in our amazing amendment process. We are a nation that knows very well that “without contraries is no progression.” We struggle to maintain consistency in our ideology because of the ebb and flow of dissenting views that persuade us. But the art of persuasion has drowned in the sea of vitriol. It’s not about convincing the other guy anymore: it’s about destroying him.
What will eventually emerge out of the ugliness is a better America. This current tug of war is troubling to witness, but it’s the way our founders imagined it. Our system kept us together through Civil War. It will certainly keep us together through Sanctuary Cities, Executive Orders and tweets, new healthcare, new taxation policy, and the specter of immigration reform. It will keep us together whether we like it or not.
But the healing process commences only when we collectively embrace humility and realize that people of opposing viewpoints are not always wrong. “Even fools,” as Churchill said, “are right sometimes.”
Presently, there are those who aren’t accepting of that humble notion. Because most of the time, fools are wrong. Most of the time. So we go with the odds and treat all ideas from opposing sides as foolish and off-course.
Let us open our hearts, minds, and American spirit to the truth that even fools across the enormous gulf of viewpoints can stumble upon good ideas. Without this sense of humility, we risk taking the final step into the grave of haughtiness and arrogance. Condescension is a prime factor that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss on Election Day. Pride often keeps us from recognizing our weaknesses and blinds us from seeing the truth.
It’s up to all of us, Republican, Democrat, and Independent, to recognize a good idea no matter its origin. Only then can we start thriving to make America great again. And to connect this political bromide to a global rally cry, if we get our own house in order, if we do, in fact, make America great again, we will be better able to help and positively influence the world. A crumbling America that ignores its laws for the sake of world unity does not do honor to the ideal of globalism. Only through each nation taking responsibility for itself and respecting the differences between us can we hope to attain the promises of a peaceful and global society. Being unique and distinct is what we all have in common.
Indeed, our hope is locked within each one of us: to accept humility first. As a party, as a people, as a country. To truly be tolerant, to understand compassion, we must have open minds. Not sheltered ones. When mere exposure to ideas is an abhorrent concept— even if those ideas are deemed vile, we erode social etiquette. The total negation of an opposing viewpoint serves to empower the very notion that one is trying to rebel against. Let the seed of an intolerable opinion grow the fruit of an acceptable alternative. Bad ideas are best defeated with better ideas, often born from the sludge of stupid policies.
This is not an age of Machiavellianism. We must, instead, read The Prince as satire, for surely what we are presently experiencing can only be survived if we embrace the sardonic nature of the end justifying the mean.
As Atticus Finch told his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” That’s a treasured quote when one considers its racial context at the time it was written and the circumstances it foreshadowed in the story. Atticus was preparing Scout for her future, for how to best deal with people she didn’t understand.
It is true that climbing inside the skin of someone else may not always be comfortable. But in that discomfort, in that moment of walking around from the other person’s perspective, is where we truly awaken to the reality that we are all human, capable of being right some of the time and wrong some of the time. Let us not forget that pride turned angels into devils. Since the cornerstone of all virtues is humility, let’s not kill it.