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STEINBERG: ‘Truth crushed to the earth will rise again,’ maybe in 2018

Protesters at the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017. The march, and the #MeToo movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment, were among the major events of 2017. | Getty Images

Christmas 2017 is in the can, another heirloom ornament to be carefully boxed up and exiled to the attic.

Did you have a good one? We did the traditional Jew 2-Step: Chinese food and a movie.

On to the obligatory Year in Review. Which I always chafe at because it implies our years are memorable, and they’re really not. Before parading the lowlights of 2017, let’s consider, oh, 2007.


Just 10 years ago. George W. Bush was president. Can you remember a single event from that year? Just one. Not in your own life, not little Aiden being born. But something from the larger world. Let’s see …  2007, 2007 … ahhh, nope, can’t do it.

Can you?

Cheating, I plug “noteworthy News Events of 2007” into Google and get Time’s Top 10 stories, starting unpromisingly with “1. Transition in Pakistan.”

A big deal in Pakistan no doubt; here, not so much.

Of the 10, only two seem significant today: the debut of the iPhone, and the Virginia Tech shooting.

That’s the problem. You need time to know what developments will resonate over the years. Of course 2017 will be remembered as Donald Trump’s first year in office, as well as, maybe, for the carnival of revelations of heretofore hidden celebrity sexual harassment. Unless that fades, a passing mania.

As to which aspects of Trump’s presidency will be of lasting significance — which will cause the most damage — we’ll have to wait and see. If Kim Jong Un fires a nuclear missile at Honolulu, then Trump’s continual tweaking, or make that twitting, of the madman will be important. If not, maybe it’ll be passage of the Republican tax code overhaul, further gutting the middle class at the expense of the rich. Unless a Democratic Congress reverses that in 2019.

If I had to reach into the reeking mess of the Trump presidency, Year One, and gingerly remove one kernel for analysis, I would, wincing, scrape up the general erosion of truth in public discourse. That will certainly haunt us, because it isn’t a single wrong or blunder, but an engine to produce a continual stream of wrongs and blunders, now and in the future.

Trump is both the prime practitioner and central beneficiary of an unprecedented distortion of reality. He lies daily. Any media he doesn’t like is drowned out with a bleat of “fake news,” the chant taken up by those who revel in being deceived. I have never heard from a reader expressing doubt about supporting Trump and never expect to. What I get is whatever Sean Hannity said last night on Fox, digested, then delivered in a splat of “You HATE the president and refuse him the respect due his office, yet ignore THIS!!!”

The New Year approaches. We should start on a positive note, and here it is: Donald Trump is not the first bad man to wield power in America, nor is this the first time lies have been held up as truth.

Martin Luther King, assassinated 50 year ago this April, said something in March, 1968 that bears remembering:

“However difficult it is to live amidst the constant hurt, the constant insult and the constant disrespect, I can still sing we shall overcome,” he said. “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.

“We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. ‘No lie can live forever.’ We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. ‘Truth crushed to earth will rise again.’ We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.'”

Truth is sure on the scaffold in 2017. Whether the trap door is triggered and the execution completed will determine how the past year enters the history book; 2017 might be remembered as Year One of the Trump era, the year Trump built a beautiful albeit invisible wall across our southern border and began a dynasty handed down to his sons and grandsons.

I like to think it will be remembered as the nadir of American shame, the year we woke from our national slumber, rubbed the sleep from our eyes and recovered our true selves again. No, too late for 2017 to be that year. Maybe 2018, then.