Trump, national parks, Twitter, Roosevelt, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

I’ll Never Be That Nice

By Laura J. Peterson

The recent death of my mother has me thinking a lot about her.  She was, in many ways, a stereotypical 1950’s housewife and yet she campaigned actively for the establishment of Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, and even testified before the Minnesota State Legislature to urge it’s establishment.  My dad used to affectionately call her “an evironmental nut.”  People used to be more multifaceted or at least they could believe contradictory things, maybe not even that precisely, but something else.  Their values influenced their politics not the other way around.

Which is not to say politics hasn’t changed and evolved.  It was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt who established the National Park system.  It was Richard Nixon, according to Wikipedia, who signed the bill creating that Voyageurs National Park,  although given the timing it must have been Ford who executed it.  Many Republicans helped the environment. They are not quite the greedy industrialist stereotype perhaps, even now.  However, if someone found gold under Old Faithful, I wonder what Trump would do?

This kind of navel gazing, longing for a past I frankly do not remember is perhaps hardly worth an article, except it comes on a rather strange day in American politics. Though most days are that now I will grant, but today is the day Alabama goes to the polls, among other events.

I remember this road-trip with my parents, not where we were going, knowing my mom, some National Park, and she put on a cassette tape. I listened for awhile in teenage scorn before I asked her mid-chorus who it was”….young girl get out of my mind, my love for you is way out of line, better run girl, you’re much too young girl…”.  I remember she smiled and said “Gary Puckett. I went to school with his aunt, isn’t that cool?” I was looking at the list of songs on the tape box including “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon,” but I saw her smile dim at my next bored teenage question.

“Dude write any songs that weren’t about statutory rape?”

She never played that tape again, which was kind of a shame, but that’s the kind of person she was. Once she saw that, once I pointed it out, she couldn’t unsee it.  I can say, with confidence, she wouldn’t have supported Roy Moore and she was a member of every pro-life group you could name.

Also today, Donald Trump took to Twitter to imply that New York’s Junior Senator would do anything for campaign donations.  Elizabeth Warren, quite unadvisedly took to the same same medium to call this “slut shaming”, and here we are as Americans left to wonder at the character and dignity of the “upper house.” Warren’s tweet drew the expected response from the conservative Twitter-sphere and a good laugh was enjoyed, but then Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to pipe in that “only if your mind is in the gutter would you read it that way.”

Now I make it a firm practice not to listen to a word out of any Huckabee, but I’ll make an exception this one time.  What else could Trump’s tweet mean? That a candidate for the United State Senate offered her vote for sale for campaign contributions? That would be, if not an outright violation of the Constitution, a clear case of ignoring the intent of the framers in creating the Senate.  Maybe that’s why Trump called it a betrayal to Bill Clinton not Hillary? No on second thought, I see Senator Warren’s explanation as more charitable, but honestly!?

All of which brings back to mind my mother, who like John McCain, counted Theodore Roosevelt as her main political hero.  TR famously described the Presidency as a “bully pulpit,” now for any young kids reading this he meant bully as a synonym for great or extraordinary, not the modern connotation, although Trump seems to wield the office more like the other, but it is the word pulpit I would like to focus on.  The word implies that the President is a teacher, a preacher, that his words are true, that they are endorsed by God even.  No, Roosevelt was an iconoclast, he had little truck with religion after his wife and mother died on the same day and he went out to ranch in North Dakota’s Badlands, the barren yet beautiful landscape that became Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  He probably only meant that the Presidency is a damn fine megaphone, every word out of a President’s mouth is to be listened to, heeded, searched by the pundits and politicos for hidden meanings.

This is the problem of the Trump Administration.  Twitter is a place where the average Joe can go to feel important and the famous can pontificate on the more famous. That this President feels the need to use it so much for such petty things demeans the office, but it also shows a yawning emptiness at his core.  Donald Trump needs love, he craves it, he yearns for it, and nothing; not his election, not his Twitter following, nothing can fill that craving.  My mom would say that we should pray he finds some peace, some happiness, some joy. I’ll never be that nice.

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