Just like yesterday I woke up early and started thinking. Maybe like our President I should begin tweeting at whoever is the latest person to dis me. As I suggested in my early morning post yesterday its probably my fear for America’s future that gives me insomnia. In Trump’s case the smart ass in me wonders if its one of the medicines the 70-year old Trump takes – maybe the one that promotes hair growth for instance. But the part of me that’s not a smart ass thinks, No, Trump has always imagined himself to be the smartest man in the world despite never cracking a book. Hair growth medication is not the reason.
This blog’s namesake, Abe, was, in addition to being the most important President by keeping America from breaking apart, the opposite of Trump in two important ways. First: Lincon was humble, especially about his meager couple of years of elementary school education. He said of himself, “My life was but the short and simple annals of the poor.” But, unlike Trump, it wasn’t his poverty he was embarrassed about. It was his lack of education. And that leads to the second remarkable difference between the two Presidents. Trump is infamous for never reading books. His pronouncements are generally limited not even to 144 words but to 144 characters. “Sad.”
One of the most charming although apocryphal stories about Abe was how he walked miles to return a book he had read as a young man such was his thirst for knowledge. As a child he amused his little friends by imitating the itinerant, backwoods, hellfire and damnation preachers that hiked the dirt roads to their next hot meal. And yet Abe began reading the Bible early on, something I’ve only managed to complete, (the Old Testament anyway) this year at ten years older than Lincoln was when he was assassinated. Its worth remember that when Lincoln began his political career he couldn’t help poking fun at a political rival, a Methodist preacher, with anonymously written jibes about the man’s character. He still had the kid mocking the preacher in him. In fact, Lincoln was so free with his contempt that his friends begged him to shut up lest his district’s Christian voters put a quick end to his political ambitions. But by the time he needed to sew a divided nation together his deep understanding of the Bible led him to stirring prose: “with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” and talk of our “better angels.”
Not that Lincoln was long winded. His nation altering Gettysburg address was memorized by school children for generations after the War and his Second Inaugural “With Malice toward none” speech was breath-takingly brief.
Yesterday I winced as my wife incredulously read Donald Trump’s pathetic recitation of black history in what, for Trump, may pass as an attempt to heal the nation he has helped divide. By contrast, Lincoln was a deep reader as attested by Fred Kaplan in this book I read back in 2010. As you can see in that last link I have kept track of my adult reading for the last 40 years. Like Lincoln I’m aware of the great gaps in my knowledge but I won’t hide my prejudice for the pursuit of knowledge and my contempt for people, like Trump, who revel in their ignorance. This makes the President not only ignorant. It makes him stupid. I suspect that every great president America has ever had was a serious reader. But this begs an important question. Will being a non-reader mean that Donald Trump will be a lousy President? Judging by his first ten days……
But the thought that got me out of bed at 3 AM was this. One of the most dangerous things about Donald Trump is that he isn’t Adolph Hitler. Heck, Trump has a Jewish son-in-law. How can he possibly be dangerous? He can be dangerous because Donald Trump is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Having a Jewish son-in-law makes it harder to point fingers at Trump’s dictatorial inclinations and his long dependence on “yes men” and women. And yet, like Hitler, a dozens of other tin pot wannabes Trump suffers from megalomania. We can take comfort, however, in the ways Trump differs from Hitler. At the top of the list, TruHe has no Brown Shirts. On the other hand, Trump does have his version of Goebbels the Nazi “big lie” Propaganda Minister. Trump has the Fake News disseminator, Steve Brannon, of Brietbart News, who Trump just elevated to one of the highest national security posts in the nation.
Trump also lacks other building blocks that Hitler had at his disposal. Unlike Hitler, President Trump leads the richest and most comfortable nation on Earth whereas Hitler began his rise in the ruined, post World War I Wiemar Republic where an ocean of unemployed ex soldiers seethed over their nation’s ruin and joining militant Communism, financed by Lenin, or nativist German jihadis like the Freikorps.
I’m an optimist about the future and my historical reading leads me to conclude that Trump won’t push THE BUTTON. But part of my optimism lies in knowing I, we, must be vigilant. Even Trump’s most avid supporters are right when they warn us: “Freedom isn’t free.”
I wish they would take their own counsel because their man, Donald Trump, is a threat to everything they elected him to “love and cherish.” But that doubtful hope offers another point of optimism for me. Trump is the divorcingest President in our nation’s history.