President Barack Obama and Donald Trump shake hands during a transition planning meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on November 10, 2016. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Put down that tiki torch, take up a harpsichord!

SHARE Put down that tiki torch, take up a harpsichord!
SHARE Put down that tiki torch, take up a harpsichord!

There are several ways to characterize my Sunday night.

First, it was musical: horns and chorus, a performance by Music of the Baroque.

Second, it was religious, Christian specifically, as this was a Christmas concert, with tunes such as Bach’s “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” and “Ave Maria” by Robert Parsons.

It was architectural: we sat in the vast sanctuary of the Divine Word Chapel in Northbrook, though “chapel” is a rather paltry term for such soaring marble splendor.

And finally, it was connubial. My wife, who has been on a Music of the Baroque kick, suggested going — our third concert since summer — and I, dutiful spouse, agreed, particularly because she had never seen the inside of Techny Towers, and I was eager for her to see this unexpected European holy space incongruously situated in the leafy suburban paradise.

All those elements were at play.

What I did not consider the evening being was “white,” a part of white culture, even though the performers and sold-out audience did indeed all seem to be white. Not until I foolishly checked my email during intermission, and read one of a weekend’s worth of reader agony regarding my Friday column about how supporters of Donald Trump will plague our country long after his orange hugeness is tossed upon the ash heap of history.

“Donald Trump is president today because Barack Obama, by any number of measures, was the worst president in U.S. history,” wrote … well, he never did sign his name. He then offered up the standard Fox News laundry list of supposed Obama flaws, ending, with this delicious conclusion. “Perhaps worst of all, he took campus politics and made them a national phenomenon.”

Safe spaces — thanks, Obama!

I didn’t write back, “You forgot to add that he stubbornly insisted on being black for all eight years.” Why bother? Perhaps the saddest element of our sad times is that there is no point to engage each other. Instead I dispatched my standard blow off: “Thanks for writing. I wouldn’t dream of arguing with you.” Because, really, what could I possibly say?

As I was settling in for the second half of the concert, I chewed on the email like gum. Obama certainly had faults, but “worst president in U.S. history” is as telling as a hooded robe.

One drawback of the drama around the Mueller investigation and the criminality, self-dealing and possible treason slowly coming to light, is it obscures the loathsome bedrock of the Trump era: the naked bigotry he rode in on, gliding down that Trump Tower escalator to declare Mexicans criminals and rapists.

The media unfortunately treats the universal of bigotry as separate realms—we pretend objections to immigration are different from religious scorn of gay marriage, which is different from aversion to head scarves — when it really is all the same: the mistaken belief that the presence and practice of other people somehow undermines your own life. These strange folks are the fly in our ointment. And we, the overlords, are the true victims, because we have to endure them.

When white nationalists talk about preserving white culture, they aren’t talking about culture enjoyed by whites, not Music of the Baroque, nor bowling, nor bird-watching, or any other artistic manifestation. They aren’t talking about culture at all. For them, white culture means venting outrage at everything they’re not — black people, brown people, Jewish people, Muslim people, and all the stuffthose people do.

That’s why the current administration is fact free: it has to be. Facts are the enemy of bigotry. Immigrants, legal and illegal, commit crimes less frequently than native-born whites. Gay couples make better parents than straight couples do — where do the cast-off children they adopt come from? And every time I hear that chant from Charlottesville, “Jews will not replace us,” I can’t help mutter, “Yeah, like we want to live in your mother’s basement and work at the Dollar Store.”

The second half of the concert was even better than the first — my wife and I both loved “Te Deum laudamus” with its bells — and we exited into the night fortified and happy.

If only people put half the effort into enjoying their own culture as they do lashing out at those from other cultures. But we don’t live in that world.

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