What are you willing to look past to get what you want?
It’s a great question. Consciously or not, we ask and answer it almost every day.
For instance, “I love my paycheck, so I am willing to look past the fact I don’t like my coworkers.” Or, alternatively, “I am sorely underpaid, but love my duties, hours and the people with whom I work.”
How about putting up with poor service at a restaurant where the food is exceptional? Or suffering through inane commercials because the game is a thriller?
In ways large and small, we look past negatives to attain what we view as positives.
America has a president who, by any definition, is arrogant, vulgar and who insults the nation’s friends and enemies alike.
Donald Trump is not the first president to use foul language, and he won’t be the last. He’s not the first president to get outed for misleading the public, and he won’t be the last. He is the first, however, to use a word during a meeting that most newspapers won’t print and the FCC would (normally) fine broadcasters for airing.
See if these statements are accurate:
• Americans who voted for Trump were tired of mealy-mouthed politicians and wanted action.
• Americans who voted for Trump envisioned his presidency as one during which bureaucrats would be stifled and seemingly senseless regulations, rules and controls on personal freedoms would be repealed.
• Americans who voted for Trump believed “big money” would have less influence.
• Americans who voted for Trump expected he would make the country more safe and secure for its citizens by controlling borders and by ending or making new deals with other nations seen as leeches on the American economy.
• Americans who voted for Trump were convinced that he would end giveaway programs that cause working people to provide life’s necessities — health care, food and shelter — to those who refuse to support themselves.
Sound about right?
Put aside any analysis of whether there’s been any movement on those topics and consider this: Presidents wear two hats. In England and a few other places, there is a ceremonial head of government. The queen cuts ribbons on new hospitals, leads parades, offers messages of good cheer on holidays. Separately, there is a person who manages the business of governing. The British elect a prime minister for this.
In the United States, the president serves as both the symbolic leader, the embodiment of the nation and its values, and has a direct role in managing government operations and policy.
During the campaign, it was demonstrated — conclusively and repeatedly — that Donald Trump had flaws as a person. Not that anyone can claim perfection, it became clear enough that Trump was a bully, not above engaging in meaningless Twitter wars with critics. He mocked the handicapped, gave instructions on how to be a sexual predator and bragged, incessantly, about himself and his wealth.
Many Mississippi officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant, and a large majority of Mississippi voters were willing either to rationalize these aspects or blame media unfairness. In other words, they were willing to look past the shortcomings because they believed a Trump presidency was the pathway to some or all of the outcomes they believed best for America.
The question that lingers is “how much?”
In our lives, sometimes the stakes are small.
If the popcorn is expensive, do we look past that because the movie is good?
If the dog has an aroma, do we look past that because he protects the house?
Sometimes the stakes are larger.
If there’s a pastor who delivers really good sermons, does we look past cash missing from the donation plate?
If everything else is good, does one spouse look past infidelity of the other?
As our symbolic leader, the president represents the nation’s character to the world. Trump is not through embarrassing America. Ridiculing others is what he does.
In his first year and even with both chambers of Congress nominally on his side, not much on the agenda of his supporters has been achieved. There’s been as much chaos and gridlock, if not more, than ever.
Still, those who voted for him expecting better government have continued to explain away, ignore or otherwise look past his penchant for being gratuitously insulting and offensive.
It will end. America is fundamentally fair and decent. Trump will be undone when enough of those who keep looking past his personal negatives see they’ve been played.
Conservatives have been desperate for a hero. Too desperate, it appears.
CHARLIE MITCHELL is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.