. . . but not in the typical way we use that phrase. I don’t want President-Elect Trump to gain our confidence, only to use it as leverage for manipulation. I don’t want him to be shady.
But I do hope he will strive to lead us into the truest sense of that prefix con-, which literally means “together” or “with.” I know you agree that our United States feel a little less than united, a little short of together these days.
Part of the reason for that, I believe, is that we are becoming a nation of experts. In this postmodern era, there are increasingly few agreed-upon normative truths. Some describe this as an age of “self-referentiality,” in which we are losing the ability to seek the common good because we are so consumed with what seems best for ourselves. Without caution and self-awareness, we can easily slide down a slippery slope from reference to what seems best for us to reverence for what we merely like, want, or prefer.
Here’s the great danger of that: when each sees himself/herself as the moral, rational, or political point of reference, anyone who disagrees is wrong. If I am the arbiter of what is good and true, you are wrong (and perhaps evil and/or stupid) if you disagree with me. Did we not see this in the presidential election? Didn’t candidates, campaigns, and individual voters treat their opponents as if they were absolute imbeciles?
The perfect storm is that this rise of self-reference has coincided with the rise of social media. So, we can all publish our expertise via tweets, posts, and blogs. We can critique, criticize, and rate via likes, retweets, and comments.
Though it allows us to express ourselves to a larger audience, social media doesn’t necessarily facilitate better communication. Posts and tweets are not conversational. They are necessarily one-way, monological expressions. I acknowledge the irony that I’m expressing and you’re reading this thought in a blog post.
We’ve all seen the worst of social media “communication.” One person posts a rant. Another offers a rebuttal in the comments. The author of the original post responds defensively. They unfriend/unfollow each other.
That’s not communication. It certainly doesn’t build community. Tweets and sound bytes can give the impression that we’re not interested in what anyone else might say. They can alienate us and drive us even further into self-reference.
So, when he assumes office tomorrow, I hope President-Elect Trump will use his Twitter account a little less often. I hope he will strive to be less self-referential than Presidential. I hope he will be a con-man, striving to bring us together with each other.
I hope he will enter into conversations, requiring him to be present with people and to enter into that very real form of communication that occurs only as we both express and listen.
I hope he will make a genuine effort to connect with people, whether they agree or disagree with him. I hope he will strive to lead toward what is best for all.
In his interactions, I hope he will be humble and conciliatory, believing that individual concessions are often necessary for the corporate good.
I hope he will strive for consensus, as seemingly impossible as it is in our generation of hyperpartisan politics. I hope he will lead efforts to find the wisest, best solutions for both parties and all people.
Idealistic? Perhaps, but it’s the kind of idealism upon which our nation is built. Our national motto is E Pluribus Unum, or “out of many, one.” Though we have always valued individual rights, we have equally realized that we are stronger and better when we are united than when we stand alone.
You might even say we are a nation of cons.
Our legislative branch, the congress comes together to legislate for the good of the whole.
Our constitution is the covenant (or contract) that binds us together “to form a more perfect union.”
That constitution, by the way, replaced the Articles of Confederation adopted by a Continental Congress.
I believe with all my heart that we live in the greatest nation on earth. I thank God that we will observe a significant transfer of governing authority tomorrow with no shots fired, lives lost, or battles fought. But our nation can be–ought to be–greater still. I pray and hope that President Elect Trump will be a con- man as he leads us.
Because united we stand; divided, well . . .