As we enjoy the holidays of 2017 and look forward to a new year, it gives me pause to realize what a divided nation we are right now, to wonder whatever happened to civility and checking our political opinions at the door? It pains me to admit I simply do not feel the same way about some people after the polarized campaigns of 2016, and others would surely say the same about me. As I look at the current players on both sides of our national political field, I wonder which of them I might want to know, maybe even to call my friends. Who among our national cast of political characters do I admire and trust enough to imagine inviting into my home and family circle?
Barack and Michelle Obama would be near the top of my list, as would George and Laura Bush. While no American agrees with every decision a president makes and every policy he champions, the Obamas and Bushes acquitted themselves with dignity and good humor during their days in the White House. Policy controversies abounded as usual, but there were few staff scandals. Their daughters behaved themselves as far as we know, and both couples presented America and the larger world with solid marriages and devoted parenting.
Melania Trump fascinates many of us. She is beautiful, exotic in an eastern European way – and enigmatic. Other than the infamous hand swats, she has been cool as the proverbial cucumber, exhibiting little emotion about anything. While I do wonder what my grandmother would say about the first lady having posed in the nude, Mrs. Trump clearly dotes on her son and seems to have good relationships with the president’s children by other mothers, which speaks well for her in my book. I look forward to following her as the Trump presidency continues to unfold. Robert Mueller and his special counsel team go about their work investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign with an attitude of “just the facts, ma’am.” No leaks flow from their office, and no incendiary comments from Mueller or staff land in the media. Unlike Congressional investigations with leaks pouring out and partisan rhetoric spewing, Mueller’s is thoroughly professional and dignified. No matter one’s partisan leanings, it is hard to criticize the conduct of the investigating team. This professionalism lends credence to whatever the outcome of the probe turns out to be.
Two Republican U.S. Senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have stepped outside the prison of partisan politics and called out the president and other politicians on both their positions and behaviors. Neither Senator is seeking re-election, which has clearly freed them from partisan political pressure, and their bravery and candor stand out in an otherwise toxic political arena. Their constituents should take pride in these two men of conscience, and the rest of the nation should look for candidates like them.
Syndicated columnist Celia Rivenbark of Wilmington began a recent column with “It’s raining men.” She went on to address the flood of sexual harassment and assault claims against prominent men in both the media and politics, some of whom have fallen from the heights with the thunderous impact of giant redwood trees. The group of women – whom Time magazine named “Silence Breakers”– that stepped from the shadows to accuse powerful men have clearly wrestled personal demons to do so, whether they are named or unnamed. There is not a woman alive who has not experienced some version of unwanted attention from men, often in the workplace, and the Silence Breakers have earned the thanks of women everywhere as well as from the men who love and respect them.
Your list of prospective friends could be like mine, or it could be very different. Either way, my guess is that we all yearn for more civility in our national political life. May we all take a deep breath and calm down in 2017.