By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
A friend of mine constantly posts negative memes about the current administration. I can’t claim to be offended by this as I’m not a fan myself. He has proposed and enacted many things with which I disagree, but I do recognize that he has won the presidential election (although whether or not he won it fairly is currently in question), and as such, he does hold an office that I respect.
As I discuss this, I wish to be clear that the intention is not to point fingers or blame. The previous administration inherited sustained wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an economy on the verge of collapse that threatened to take the world economy with it. While he oversaw the start of a national health insurance overhaul, drew the Iraqi war to and end, successfully negotiated a deal to keep Iran out of the nuclear arms race, turned around the economic crisis, and began a decline in unemployment that continues to this day. Yet with all of these accomplishments, and the criticisms that go along with them, the most disturbing thing to me was the lack of civility and the rise of bigots and racists. Many people, including the current president before the election to put him in office, continued relentless and unfounded criticisms of the president’s birth place and faith. While in office for two terms, and despite continually improving conditions in the country, these petty accusations continued throughout.
The current president has been facing similar complaints. Critics call him names because of coloration similar to a snack, laugh at his typos, toilet paper stuck to his shoe and more. But, while laughing at him, they are also laughing at the office that he occupies, in particular, the office of the president.
My point is not to suggest that people should stop being critical of the president. This is our right as Americans, and as guaranteed by the constitution. My suggestion, though, is that we should be more careful of the nature of which our criticisms are couched. A president who tweets continually, making typos and erroneous statements, is a valid criticism, but name-calling like “twitter-in-chief” is mean spirited and no better than those who used racist terms when discussing our previous president. I believe that we, all of us, all Americans, should be better than this.
What’s worse, this form of humor belittles legitimate criticisms. Low brow humor exposes deep-rooted dislike that can be (and often is) without foundation. Laughing at the president for typos carries no weight, but to point out that common typos from the man holding the office that represents all of the US makes all of us look bad is a legitimate concern.
It seems to me that there are many legitimate, and important, reasons to be critical of the current president. Assaults on the media, failing to recognize the dangers of climate issues, a trade war that weighs heavily on the nation, tax reform that forecasts a dramatic national debt, seemingly constant misrepresentation of truth, removing children from immigrant families, and setting up a military repulsion of a caravan of refugees rather than taking advanced warning to prepare to receive and process them are all legitimate points of concern. So far, I have ignored the investigation that has yielded over thirty indictments to date and continues to examine possible collusion with a foreign power in the campaign. It is possible that these investigations could yield impeachment proceedings. Were I in charge of defending the president during such proceedings, the petty jokes would provide the foundation of an argument that the charges were based on bias. Perhaps it’s time that we raise the bar for discussion and humor.