I admit I have been cringing of late at the thought of Donald J. Trump and those who approve, tacitly or otherwise, of his brutish, racist, xenophobic, narcissistic approach to life governing this nation. But I also have begun to realize that Trumpism is no worse than some other individuals and ideologies that have threatened our republic without managing to destroy the golden thread of democracy and freedom and human decency that I was taught to recognize as what ties us all together.
Recently, a passage from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, in 1861, has given me reason to hope that our future will be brighter than the present. In his conclusion, Lincoln anticipated the difficult times ahead as pro-slavery forces worked to tear our Union asunder. His attitude was light years beyond the divisive jeers Trump and his supporters hurl at those he defeated in 2016: “We won, you lost,” they say. “Get over it or get out.” Not so with Lincoln. Rather than sneer at the South he had vanquished politically, Lincoln extended the hand of peace.
“I am loath to close,” he said. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” I truly hope that Donald J. Trump can rise above the acrimony of this moment and become a leader big enough, like Lincoln, to care about every American, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. Otherwise, we face a long and dreadful four years.