This is our coffee table last week just before we left for Boston. Messy, but it gives you an idea of how I’m coping with the present and thinking about the future.
It’s taken me 18 months to begin to come to terms with the election of 2016. I wasn’t a fan of Hillary’s, though I knew I could live with her policy decisions. She wasn’t the person I’d have chosen to lead the country but I voted for her because she was the safer choice and thought she would make reasonable decisions in the national interest until someone more visionary came along.
Instead, I got Donald Trump.
I’m not going to beat up on The Donald. Better writers are doing that and I’d only be piling on. Instead, I’m trying to make peace with a bad situation by staying informed and working for change. My take away from 2016 is that Trump has slapped us upside the head and created a come-to-Jesus moment in government.
The past year and a half has been real roller coaster ride. At times, I thought America was on its way down the rabbit hole with fragile democracies like Poland, Hungary, Turkey, and the Philippines, countries who have allowed strong men and autocracy to creep in and take over. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries have fallen under the spell of bullies determined to limit democratic freedoms. Democracy is messy. One-man rule is simple and efficient. That’s why The Donald loves the “my way or the highway” approach, but as you can see from my coffee table I’m counting on his enemy – a free and independent press – to turn things around. Yes, it’s the Fourth Estate, the investigative journalists who dig for facts, the men and women who produce and publish what he fears and calls Fake News, who are going to save our bacon.
For 18 months I ranted, raved, raged, cried, and drank a little too much, but lately I’ve begun to see the Trump-era as that come-to-Jesus moment for America. It may take years to repair the damage this administration has caused but I have faith that investigative journalism is leading us back to a more centrist democratic platform.
Lately, we’ve been victimized by a rogues gallery of bad guys, bad girls and bad decisions including the gutting of environmental laws (EPA under Scott Pruitt), repeal of Dodd-Frank banking rules (Treasury under Steven Mnuchin), elimination of consumer fraud protections (Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau under Mick Mulvaney), scaling back wilderness and opening protected areas to oil and coal exploration (Interior under Ryan Zinke), turning college student education grants into loans that require payback (Education under Betsy DeVos), unqualified judges confirmed to the Federal judiciary and border ports of entry blocked for migrants seeking asylum (Justice under Jeff Sessions), and last but not least the cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrant children (Homeland Security under Kristjen Nielsen). But… those are repair jobs and we can make those repairs when we get a functional government. My faith is grounded in the public’s outrage and the diligence and perseverance of our free press.
I didn’t imagine that the Trump presidency would give rise to a Golden Age of journalism, but because our Founders knew the dangers of unscrupulous leaders and government by fiat they incorporated freedom of the press in the first of the ten amendments that make up our Bill of Rights.
241 years later, the free press is still alive and well. Journalists are prowling the halls of the Congress, the White House, Capitol Hill, and courtrooms across the country investigating and reporting on what our government is doing. They are providing a window on government. The thing about a free press is that every stripe and color of news is there to choose from. A free press allows us to weigh the evidence and make our own decisions about elected officials and the type of government we want.
We can choose conservatives, liberals, radicals, or fascists to lead us, but our choice is not dictated by the government. The election of Donald Trump happened because 49% of eligible voters failed to exercise their voting franchise. That’s criminal neglect. We have the right to choose but that doesn’t mean we can abdicate our responsibility. It is incumbent on each of us to investigate and interrogate the candidates. I think the Founders had that in mind when they gave us that freedom. To be good citizens we need to be discerning curious readers who evaluate sources and listen to all sides.
So… my coffee table is covered with the work of the Fourth Estate – the New York Times, Seattle Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Magazine, Poets and Writers, Seattle Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Jon Meacham’s biographies of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, a history of tequila, and my friend Delia Cabe’s delightful The Storied Bars of New York.
There is such a thing as truth. In spite of proclamations to the contrary, we do not live in a post-truth society where “alternative” facts are as valid as those that can be proven. So, chase down the truth. Fill your coffee table with newspapers, books, magazines – and books on tequila. If you do, you’ll arrive at your own informed truth. It’s not always easy. Autocracy and dictatorship are “easy.” The government makes decisions for you. Democracy, led by a free press, is harder. You have to find the truth for yourself… and your country. Good luck.
This is a rose from a friend’s garden. Also in our living room. Enjoy!