Like many citizens of earth, some days I battle the impulse to lash out at President Trump. I usually hold it in check with a sarcastic remark or expression of bewilderment; my grief doesn’t even register on the scale of vitriolic criticism he receives daily from coast to coast and beyond our shores. Granted, there are plenty of reasons to not like his morality or his personality for he is, at times, rude, vulgar, and insulting. Many of us fear that this attitude is being normalized and trickles down to our homes, playing fields, boardrooms and classrooms.
Nevertheless, Donald Trump was elected president and is fulfilling commitments he made to voters, making America great again via a strong economy, low unemployment, and tough confrontation of terrorism. We should be grateful for the ways he fights for our country and his desire to build it up. At the same time, we can work toward other levels of greatness: how we treat one another with dignity, teach children respect and honor, sacrifice for causes greater than our own…
Like him or not, I think we all have to admit that Trump has been attacked and derided by people in ways never before seen for the simple reason that they don’t like him—and the dislike has escalated to hatred. Even if he invites it through his brash tactics and unapologetic style, shouldn’t we be concerned about this level of hatred? If we respond to bad behavior with bad behavior of our own, what does that say about the world we’re helping to shape? Similar to attacking the president, a small minority of Catholics—some with power, prestige, and influence—target Pope Francis in ways unseen before. I pray that this is not the way of the 21st Century.
I guess some people are simply hateful and compelled to tear down. Hating leaders—hating at all—is not a good way to operate. Doing our part to build up our civic community and faith community is. It’s awfully draining to spread kindness when opposite forces are so strong. I don’t have the answer, other than the one that Jesus gave. In His time as in ours, hatred seems to overpower love because tearing down is much easier than building up. But Christ gives us hope that it doesn’t have to be this way. Kindness, goodness, generosity, compassion, respect for leaders, outreach to the marginalized, and doing our little part as best we can—these are the things that will make humanity great again and help us to build a society that, like Our Lord, can be a light to guide others in darkness.
I’ll conclude with Edgar A. Guest’s famous poem about building up and tearing down: I watched them tear a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a mighty heave and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I said to the foreman, “Are these men as skilled
As the ones you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed!
Just a common laborer is all I need.
And I can wreck in a day or two
What it took the builders years to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
“Just which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by the rule and square,
Or am I a wrecker as I walk
Content with the labor of tearing it down?”