Does Baltimore have problems? Of course. And so does Appalachia, and Beverly Hills and every part of this nation. We have struggles with disease, and addiction, and poverty, loneliness and job insecurity, education, health care, child abuse, and natural disasters. And so much more. Some of the problems are concentrated and some are more diffused. Some are new challenges and some are the result of systematic abuses, like white supremacy, with deep roots in our national fabric. But the very notion of our nation, the very ideal enshrined in that beautiful phrase e Pluribus Unum (out of many, one), is that we are one nation and the struggles of our citizens are the struggles for all of us.
There are many reasons why President Trump’s attacks on Congressman Cummings were bigoted and thus un-American. Why are the struggles of some Americans in the president’s eyes to be blamed on forces such as immigrants or unfair government practices while others (and mostly those of minority districts) are to be blamed on the diverse politicians who represent those districts? The answer obviously speaks for itself.
President Trump does not view himself as the President of the United States, or at least the United States of 2019. He views himself as the president of his base. He sees his path to reelection as stoking the indignant outrage of enough Americans to overwhelm those (at least in the right battleground states) who believe in a pluralistic and more just America. For someone who sanctimoniously lectures on not hating America, to love to or leave it, the president spends a lot of time saying how horrible this country is. His is, of course, a grossly distorted view but it will be on center stage in the upcoming campaign.
The great sadness is that we do have challenges, we do have problems, we do have needs. From climate change to income inequality to health care, we face forces that we will have to face together if we have the courage to move beyond the dangerous rhetoric meant to divide us, shame us, and diminish us for short-sighted political gain.