The more I meditated on President Trump’s inaugural address over the weekend, the more I realized I needed to write something. This is the result.
The views expressed here are the opinion solely of the author and should not be interpreted to be the opinions or views – expressed or otherwise – of any business, organization, or association by which the author is employed, to which he belongs, or with which he is otherwise affiliated.
Friday saw the United States swear you in as its 45th President. I would say we need to talk about the elephant in the room, but millions across the globe already did so Saturday.
As an American, appreciated parts your Inaugural Address, but as a politically independent conservative Christian historian, I found much more cause apprehension. As usual, others found ways to express this idea much more effectively than I, but I’ll give it a go, anyway.
I’ll admit that I find myself in that socioeconomic class hurt by President Obama’s policies; over the last 8 years my taxes have increased, my buying power decreased, and I found myself ineligible for any type of real assistance because I didn’t fit into the government’s idea of “needy”.
However, neither do I wholeheartedly embrace your vision, President Trump. Specifically, I worry when you say things like the following:
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
Mr. President, our country is not a democracy; it is a democratic, constitutional republic. Your predecessor, a professor of constitutional law, understood this fact even if he at times chose to ignore it. Democracies, Mr. President, tend to end in sudden, bloody, and violent revolution. And, Mr. President, your recent remarks have done little to bridge the gap between you and your opponents; rather, your enemies are even now putting aside certain of their differences to unit behind the threat they see in you.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
False, Mr. President. You swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. You literally said those words moments ago; have you forgotten already? Again: beware the vox populi – it is fickle, turning and bending with each new “breaking story” that comes across the news feeds you so desperately despise and wish to control.
. . . that is the past and now we are looking only to the future.
Yes, Mr. President, you’ve made it abundantly clear there is no place for the humanities in your vision of America, evidenced by your planned cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. President, the combined annual budget of these two programs accounts for .0002 of the national budget and would run the Pentagon for a mere 11 hours. Despite your calls to reform education – a system you yourself called
flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge
– you have declared political and intellectual war on science, the arts, and humanities.
From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first — America first.
The American in me applauds this sentiment. For too long we have expended our energies abroad in economic and political affairs where our presence is at best tolerated and more often than not, utterly loathed.
The conservative historian in me shudders, Mr. Presidents, knowing that this call for “America First” has been used verbatim to justify the worst atrocities committed on American soil in the name of freedom, justice, and liberty. It has been used by racists, nativists, fascists, and jingoists – and it cannot be divorced from those associations. Theodor Geisel – perhaps you know him as Dr. Seuss (or you would, except your ghostwriter informs us you’ve never read a book cover-to-cover) – gave the American people a compelling visual in 1941:
I wish to remind you, Mr. President, that words have power, but greater even than words is love. Only love can truly heal our national division, Mr. President. Love, and not legislation. Love, and not blind loyalty. Love, and not unthinking obedience. Love.
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules — buy American and hire American.
Again, the American in me wishes to applaud.
The conservative independent in me wonders how this will be possible without a massive government-funded works program similar to FDR’s New Deal or Frank Underwood’s America Works.
Government overreach is still government overreach when it attempts to achieve something good or noble. This is why many still oppose the ACA, Mr. President – not because it was passed by a Democratic President or because they get their kicks off seeing people ill – but because it’s not the government’s job in the first place.
Please remember the words of Henry David Thoreau attributed at times to Thomas Jefferson:
That government is best which governs least.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones. And unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
Mr. President, you cannot kill an idea. The best you can hope for is mitigation. If ideas could be killed, there would have been no such thing as a Nazi after 1945.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
Demonstrably false, Mr. President. When you speak of total allegiance to the United States of America, you speak not of patriotism; you speak of nationalism. Nationalism which turned a blind across the globe as country by country sought to discriminate against and eradicate “the Other.” Nationalism, which culminated in the idea of “America First,” and which I have already written.
With this in mind, Mr. President, let us move on to another section of your Address:
The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. . .
. . .We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
Mr. President, I fear there are some things you do not understand, either because you are not a Christian or because you are new to the faith. Now, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt since I cannot see your heart, but one should not speak about things which they do not understand.
As pleasant as it sounds, America is not “God’s people.” The Bible tells us that God’s people is comprised of the universal church – those men and women and children across the globe that have put their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is not bound by borders or geography. Furthermore, there are many in this country who do not follow the Christian faith and still others who follow no religion at all, and yet they are still Americans and you are still their President.
You cannot legislate religion from the White House or Trump Tower. First, true religion comes from the heart, the innermost being of man. It does not come by executive decree. Second, the Constitution forbids establishing a state religion. I do not think this your intent, Mr. President, but I would warn you to walk, as the Bible says, circumspectly, not as a fool, but wise.
Moreover, Mr. President, you do not have the authority to declare that God will protect our country. True, the Bible tells us “blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” but as the Bible makes clear, that decision is made in the hearts of each individual, not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Though we are also told that those nations which bless Israel will, in turn, be blessed, and while I admire your devotion to the state of Israel, I fail to see how you can claim the protection of God when both nationally and individually America and Americans have forsaken God and His ways. Even given a national revival similar to the First or Second Great Awakening, we are still accountable for the past and there are consequences we must face as a nation.
You are the President of the United States, and though you now wield great power, that power is merely temporal.
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag. . . So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words — you will never be ignored again.
If this were true, Mr. President, millions of people across the globe would not have marched in protest of your administration. And while I neither agree with nor understand all of the motives behind the marches and the marchers, I support their assembly wholeheartedly, because they are first of all given that right by the constitution and second, it gives you the opportunity to immediately carry out your promise: do not ignore them.
If I have appeared critical of you, Mr. President, know that I was also critical of your predecessor, and of his predecessor, too. I am critical not because I wish to argue, but because I wish America to succeed.
Know this too, Mr. President, that just as I prayed for President Bush and President Obama, so too will I pray for you. As a Christian, I will pray that you have come to a saving knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, but I will also pray that God will grant you the wisdom, strength, and character to do what is right – not to pander to a party or soothe an ego – but to do what is right.
Your rise has been like no other, and your presidency will be like no other. America and the world are watching to see whether you will rise to the challenge with dignity, honor, courage, and respect – or whether you will fall like Phaethon and Icarus of old.
An American Citizen