The state of the union is (fill in the blank).
It’s the ultimate Rorschach test of our moment. Tonight President Trump will offer his thoughts on finishing that sentence. If the polls are to be believed, most Americans will not think much of his answer for the state of the union. There will be a response, and whatever the opposition says, a different group of Americans will strike back at that as well.
I’ve been thinking about what I would say if asked. There are so many conflicting emotions. I think we are angry and hopeful, divided and resolute, determined to confront injustice, and distracted by all of the nonsense. I feel some combination of all of that myself, but I feel something more fundamental that I think may resonate even with people on different sides of the political divide.
I feel the state of the union is sad. And it’s a sadness that I feel is deep and abiding. People may feel that sadness for very different reasons. But I sense that most Americans realize we have big problems that need to be fixed and we are not working to fix them. We are whipped up into very real emotions, often based on real outrage, but we understand that we work best when we are getting along rather than seething from opposing sidelines. Time and again in our nation’s history, we have stared down horrible odds to our country’s future and its path to justice by being innovative in our collaborations, by building bridges. And by being positive.
I think most Americans want to be happy and want others to be happy. This often gets lost on the national stage, especially as a president and his enablers stoke hatred and division and a false sense of victimhood. But I think even those who say they support the president would rally more to a positive vision. One of the many tragedies of this administration is that we have a leader who seems to thrive on others feeling unhappy. In his calculus, all that matters is his own fragile ego. You have to have an ego to be president but many Americans are convinced that we haven’t had a modern president who is so callous to the general well being of the nation.
I hope that a mean-spirited and narrow vision of our state of the union is rejected. I hope that the forces of inclusion and empathy are victorious. I hope in this struggle our better angels win out. But this process will not be joyful. It is sad that it is so necessary.