Only Give Trump So Much Attention
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
President Barack Obama shared “fellow American” Atticus Finch’s words in his farewell address on January 10. He used them to tell us our hearts must change. “For blacks and other minority groups,” he said, “it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face—not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he’s got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change.”
Then, President Obama went the other way. (He had to focus first on telling minorities to worry about white folks.) He said:
[f]or white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the 60s—that when minority groups voice discontent, they are not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they are not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised.
President Obama offered his observations as part of the national conversation about how we live in bubbles, and forget about those who live in other bubbles. He was also addressing the perception that the elites have ignored the non-elites for too long. Many commentators buy, lock, stock and barrel (and the gun reference is not unintentional), the notion that we elected Donald Trump because we forgot about white high school grads in the Rust Belt. “Didn’t climb into their skin,” so to speak.
I applaud President Obama for so much. He’s been truly remarkable. (The fact that I briefly chaired the Draft Obama group in Arizona in 2007 still gives me goosebumps.) For all of his many accomplishments—they’re extraordinary, given what he faced—I salute him most for being an exemplary human being. A great father, husband, friend, and leader. (As for Mr. Finch, Max*—my Schnauzer / terrier bundle of joy—bears my attorney grandfather’s name, and his middle and last names remember Atticus Finch, who every good attorney wants to be.)
Kudos aside, I think President Obama’s linkage did not hit the mark, at least not dead on. For reasons people more gifted and focused than I am will spend years debating, we chose Donald Trump—an ignoramus, and worse—as the Leader of the Free World. When this sorry excuse for a human being gets done, in four or eight years, or some odd period—on account of an impeachment, a coup, or worse—we will clean up the mess. So I find most challenging the notion that I should be empathetic toward a large number of my fellow citizens, who decided to blindly go forth into the abyss, taking me and mine along for the ride. Frankly, Mr. Trump, his party, and his followers had no interest in policy, or anything else which makes sense. They lashed out, angrily, and for that none of us will be better off.
I care less about the momzer who has been our POTUS for 100 days come Sunday than I do about my little world. When I don’t hear from someone and assume the silence is about me, it almost never is. When I talk with a client and we’re not connecting, maybe my examples have left him cold. And when I share common interests with someone and we disagree, maybe our problems arise out of a lack of shared values.
We can so easily forget what’s going on in other people’s lives when we focus on our own worlds. It happens by the moment, whether we’re dealing with clients or customers, adversaries, or those we love. We need to worry about the guy next door who hurts, the kid in the next town who tries, and the ones we love because … . Even when we can’t fathom why they are as they are. Especially when we can’t fathom why they are as they are.
President Donald Trump matters, plenty. (Friends can imagine how typing the first three words in the prior sentence pain me.) But our lives do, too. If we let the folly in DC swallow us up, we lose. We must live our lives, and only give this man who lives and works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—a few days a week, at most—as much attention as we have to.
*Here is Max with his doppleganger, Sawyer, from the other morning. Leigh shared with me for weeks or more that Max had a twin, but I only met Sawyer a day ago.