Sunday, July 8, 2018

"Baby Trump" over London's Parliament Square

While much of the United Kingdom is engrossed in the quadrennial absurdity of the World Cup, the Queen and her Government are preparing to lay out the red carpet for President Trump, treating him to an audience at Windsor, a meeting at Chequers, and a lovely dinner at Blenheim Palace. Meanwhile, mocking all this, "Baby Trump" will hover in the London sky over Parliament Square.

To me, "Baby Trump" looks like some sarcastic, cynical version of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon. As someone who grew up in a Macy's family, religiously watching the parade, and who on occasion went to watch the balloons being inflated on Thanksgiving Eve, I still consider that parade and its balloons to be one of modern America's few remaining shared "feel good" experiences. So how should I feel about this alternative indulgence in sarcasm and cynicism?

Of course, one characteristic of a free society is that, when your country hosts a foreign head of state, dissenters are free to express their opposition - and even mock - the visitor. So, if some Londoners prefer to be impolite and mock their country's guest, that is part of the price we all pay for the benefits of living in free societies. A free society may be more than worth that price, but - make no mistake - it is a price.

Typically in such cases, it is a small minority, over-preoccupied with expressive politics, that engages in such protests, desirous of the symbolic resonance such impoliteness produces. But an increasingly impolite and uncivil society seems more and more receptive to such behavior.

And so it seems to me that one more unfortunate consequence of President Trump's impoliteness and incivility, of his vulgarity and meanness, has been to "normalize" such behavior and so encourage it in everyone else, including those most opposed to him. Thus one consequence of Trump's unconscionably bad behavior has been increasingly bad behavior on the part of everyone else.

Yet the more everyone else becomes Trumpian in style and language and behavior, the more he wins, and everything else that is worthwhile and matters in the world loses - perhaps irrevocably.

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