Follow @neilsteinbergThe Amish withdraw from the wicked world, but the wicked world goes on without them.
Just as well, since the Amish don’t reject cell phones and SUVs because they want to undercut modern life, but for their own benefit.
That question — am I withdrawing to help myself or hurt someone else? — is worth bearing in mind as Donald J. Trump is inaugurated president two weeks from today, and we judge who participates and decide how much we will own the country shaping up before our startled eyes.
A tough call. It was almost shocking when Barack Obama welcomed Trump into the Oval Office immediately after he squeaked out a victory with the help of neo-Nazis, the FBI and Vladimir Putin. But a victory nonetheless, and as pained as Obama’s expression was, treating Trump with dignity seemed smart. It preserved a tendril of influence, and Trump could at least glimpse what class looks like.
On the other hand, you had to feel good when stars turned down offers to entertain at the inauguration. Nobody who loves Bruce Springsteen would want to see him crooning “Born in the U.S.A.” for Donald Trump. Yet Hillary Clinton will be there. Bad for her, good for the country.
There will be big protests. I’m glad Trump might see the majority who voted for someone else. Though I also sense that many protestors are the same folks who backed Gary Johnson because they believe all politicians are the same. Had they cared less about their own moral purity and more about the country’s fate, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess.
I’m looking at a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Thursday, headlined: “NO! IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT A FASCIST AMERICA!”
It is a curious document, beginning, “Donald Trump, the President-elect, has assembled a regime of grave danger. Millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are filled with deep anxiety, fear, and disgust. Our anguish is right and just…”
The word “regime” evokes Republican use of “agenda” — as if, find the right negative label and your point is made. The ad uses “regime” a half a dozen times.
The ad dismisses the election result because “Donald Trump did not win the popular vote” and the Electoral College because it was “an institution set up in 1787 to protect slavery.” So was the United States.
Their solution is massive resistance, “occupying public space,” all the techniques that worked so well in the 1960s, ending the Vietnam War after only a decade. The signatories are the usual suspects — Bill Ayers, Cornel West . . . I missed Susan Sarandon, but she may have been among the “thousands more.”
Protests will not unseat Trump, nor should they. The only thing worse than an unfit president is an unfit president driven from office by anarchy.
Not that that would happen. What will happen is the protests will ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020. Disoriented journalists trying to fit Trump into historical context clutch at Nixon — he too was a vindictive, emotionally-ruined president. He too slid into office thanks to quasi-treason. He too narrowly defeated an unpopular Democratic pol, leading to massive protests and a veer leftward, ending up with George McGovern, crushed like an egg in 1972.
The Amish, by the way, are not anti-technology. It’s more nuanced than that. They shun cars and telephones because those devices introduce foreign elements into their closed culture. Consider their view of electricity — they don’t tap into power lines because that connects them to the wicked world. But batteries are okay. A fine distinction, perhaps.
Trump is an unfit fraud and his administration — not his regime — a bunch of backward-looking yahoos. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do good, just as Obama was capable of doing wrong and did. You can sulk for the next four years and wash your hands of blame. Or you can stay alert and connected. We all own this mistake. Our country might have gone off into the weeds, but it’s still our country, and we’re all going to have to pull together to get it out of the ditch and back on the right road.