I admit it. I have a bias when it comes to the President of the United States. I don’t like the person he has repeatedly revealed himself to be. From the moment he took the ride down the escalator at Trump Tower in the summer of 2015, and opened his mouth releasing a diatribe of racist insults, I was concerned because his rhetoric isn’t reflective of the best ideals of what it means to be an American. But Donald Trump had many opportunities to change my mind. Even though my initial impression wasn’t a good one, and I did not take him seriously as a candidate, had he moderated his language, tempered his views, and expressed even a small vestige of humility, I am sure my thoughts would have likewise moderated toward him. But he did not. Instead he doubled down, making fun of and belittling other candidates. Donald Trump did not challenge their policies, he commented on their height, physical appearance and how they lacked energy. He talked about how unattractive his female opponents were, and how he doubted they had the ‘stamina’ to meet the demands of the Presidency.
He continued by making fun of the press, mocking actual disabilities, and questioning the integrity of everyone, while refusing to ever examine his own. He dismissed all those who dared to question his qualifications for the highest office in the land, and refused transparency when it came to his tax returns or medical evaluations.
Then came the accusations. Reports of sexual misconduct and denials. He responded with more derogatory comments on the physical appearance of his accusers. Then the tape. Audio revealing a private conversation. Excuses. Justifications. “It was just locker room talk” was a common refrain. “It was too long ago, it doesn’t matter.” “What about Hillary’s emails?”
Yet with all of this, Donald Trump could still have changed my mind about him. Or at least influenced how I felt about him, had he chosen to speak or behave differently. He didn’t. He hasn’t.
Trump was elected the 45thPresident of the United States. I was surprised. I stayed up late and watched his victory speech. I heard a hint of a conciliatory tone. I held out hope. The tone lasted little longer than his speech.
The day after his election in 2016 I posted this to my Facebook page:
“Prayers and congratulations for OUR President-Elect Trump and his transition team. I appreciate his gracious words about Secretary Clinton and her service to our country. May God bless America. “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” -1 Timothy 2:1-2”
Before the President’s inauguration I was invited to lead prayer for him and our Nation at out church, and this is what I prayed:
“I’m reminded of these words I was privileged to pray the Wednesday before the Inauguration of our 45th President. As the year comes to an end, I understand that I haven’t returned to the principles of this prayer enough. Sadly, we remain politically divided, perhaps that is the nature of our system? Nevertheless, I intend to return to this prayer. We have become very tribal in our politics. But in this context, all are guaranteed “Freedom to Speak” and thankfully our Constitution still guarantees all Americans that right, even those with whom we disagree. Will you pray with me in the days to come? “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” I pray for America on Inauguration Day. I pray for President Elect Trump and Vice President Elect Pence and their incoming administration. I am thankful for our tradition of a peaceful transferal of power. I am thankful for President and Mrs. Obama and for Secretary Clinton and President Clinton who will be present representing our nation as well. I pray for dissenters who exercise their First Amendment rights to protest and speak. I pray that vitriol will give place to peace, division will give place to unity, and that justice will prevail in both the lives of the privileged and the marginalized. When these goals are impossible to embrace because of impassable divides, I pray for the safety of all involved, and that non-violent forms of resistance and dissent will always be employed. Father, do not let us forget that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” and that all voices in our democracy should be equally heard.
The American coastal urbanites are equal to the inhabitants of small-town rural America, rich and poor, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native born Americans. Those who agree with my values, and those who don’t. Those similar to my lifestyle and to those different. All belong. May boasting give way to repentance. Bless those that are silent as well as those who lift their voice. America is great, because America is good. May we collectively live up to the higher good and reject the voices of fear that seek to have us retreat to enclaves of affinity, but rather may we forgive, embrace, transcend, change and progress in love. May we serve one another, tell the truth, and defend the poor and helpless with our words and actions. May we, in good conscience be supportive when we can, and vocal and persuasive when we can’t. For the believer and unbeliever, the patriot and the partisan alike. May God bless the United States of America; may God bless everyone. In Christ’s Name. Amen.”
As his inauguration day came to an end, President Trump sent out his press secretary to complain about reports of the size of his crowd. From his first day in office, Donald Trump showed us who he is and what he cares about.
Imagine if instead of being emboldened by his office, he was humbled by it. Imagine if instead of ridiculing his opponents, he attempted to seek first to understand, then to be understood. It isn’t perfection that I seek, but honesty, integrity, intellectual humility. Character traits of leadership. None of which the President seems to desire.
C.S. Lewis once observed that “Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.” The President’s private and public behavior isn’t the kind of behavior that most of us would be willing to tolerate from anyone in our own lives. We wouldn’t put up with this behavior from our mail carrier, mayor, police chief, school principal, pastor, or dog catcher. We would be embarrassed if our spouse, children, brothers or sisters demeaned others on social media in the same way this President does. Yet when it comes to the President’s words and actions, they are routinely excused, justified, dismissed, applauded and even rewarded.
As President, Mr. Trump has continued to hurt and divide with his actions and words. He has called Nazis “Very fine people.” He has paid off mistresses and lied about it to the American people. He has sought out foreign help in investigating political rivals. And many continue to praise, applaud, endorse, excuse, and perhaps reward him with another term.
I keep hoping that I will wake up and President Trump will reveal himself to be someone other than who he is. Someone that acknowledges mistakes and shortcomings. Someone who seeks to learn and lead by example. Someone who seeks to bring people together, rather than continuing to divide them. We the people deserve better leadership. But until he does so, I remain biased against this President and find it difficult to believe anything he says or endorse anything he does.
I remain biased in favor of truth.
I remain biased in favor of transparency.
I remain biased in favor of justice.
I remain biased in favor of equality.
I remain biased in favor of honor and integrity.
I remain biased in favor of the rule of law.
The biases of my favor restrain me from supporting that which I disdain.