”in a mirror darkly” – The Mirror That Is Trump

Wikipedia offers that,  “…the first mirrors used by humans were most likely pools of dark, still water, or water collected in a vessel of some sort.” Mirrors fascinate as much as they serve useful purposes, to see oneself “as others see us”. A historian of mirrors cites Socrates who thought, “the mirror can aid moral meditation between man and himself.” The reflected image, in one way or another, both fascinates and serves utilitarian purposes. Whether an ancient human looking into a deep dark pool of still water recognizing himself or a modern man making sure he has shaved the last errant hair from his face,“There I am!” and now, here I go into the world, ready for the day, ready for what’s to come.

Another mirror is a nation’s reflection in its leaders. Societies have had their “finest hours” under the leadership of men like Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy to mention two. On the other hand, it oftentimes takes extraordinary courage to look into a dark mirror to learn what has become of one’s society or what has been there all along but we have avoided looking at it. We all age of course and in that outward reflected image we can see, like it or not, what we have become. Looking into the mirror that represents current events and the conduct of our societies presents another range of similar possibilities. For example, a crowd chanting full-throat, “Lock her up!” is one of those mirrors. View historical newsreels of Hitler and Mussolini working their crowds with similar tactics – identify an enemy, vilify them, follow the leader into a future where they will be dealt with, you can see the pattern. All of those events and consequences are mirrors of their societies. And so now we have come full circle in the land of the brave and the home of the free to a mirror held up by the current elected President. Take a look. Do you like what you see? Is that you? Are those your neighbors? Your fellow Americans?

“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” Corinthians 13:12

On November 4th, 1944, when I was six years old, my mother and I took the short city bus ride from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, to Springfield where we stood below the railroad station’s great stone arch. There was an enormous crowd  packed elbow to elbow stretching back for several blocks. On that day, Franklin D Roosevelt who had confronted the 1929-1939 “Great Depression” and created the “New Deal”, was greeted by working people who, like my parents, had suffered through the  “Great Depression”. At the rampart of the overpass the great man appeared, by then afflicted by polio, and was greeted with the most tumultuous expression of respect and affection I have ever experienced. There was no resentment, no anger, only respect and gratitude for the better future he had nurtured. This was the America that defined my basic understanding of our social contract, my social reality. This was the America I grew up in. This was the country I eventually joined the military to serve. It was a very different country, certainly not equal for all, certainly not without fault but very different from what we have become today. This memory is the mirror I look into when attempting to understand the complexity of these times. And what do we see?

Are we ready to go face to face with what our nation is becoming? Is that really us reflected or merely some minority of loud demonstrative fellow Americans riled up to some kind of fever pitch by an unscrupulous political cheer leader? And if immigrants are today’s targets who will be tomorrows? You perhaps? Your neighbors and people of color in the supermarket? My grandparents on both sides were immigrants and the stories they told reflected the rejection and ridicule they faced not unlike what we are witnessing now. Today, however, the Cheerleader-In-Chief is the President of the United States and his audience are the descendants of the same earlier immigrants. Surely this cannot not truly be what we have become, what we are as a people, as a nation. What is at stake is basic respect for your fellow Americans, our immigrant forebears, our fellow human beings, and ourselves. And, if for no other reason than that, we must live with each other or fail as a nation.


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