I saw the movie Castaway when it first came out, but it seems even more relevant 17 years later. I’m referring to the way Tom Hanks’ character has to say goodbye to the things he cares about after being marooned on an island.
It’s been three months since Donald Trump’s election, and we need to say goodbye to the president as someone who upholds morality and see him as the leader-in-chief of immorality. We need to see Trump and his circle as supporters of the Big Lie. Never mind that Trump won three decisive states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — by little more than 77,000 votes, and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million. What do you do if you want to win both the electoral and popular vote? How about claiming that millions of illegal votes were cast?
White House strategist Stephen Bannon says, “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” Well, I’m a retired journalist, and I understand “why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” I think it has something to do with those 77,000 votes in a country with a population of 325 million.
But there may be more the Trump administration can teach us. Perhaps Kellyanne Conway has “alternative facts” to explain why the newly elected president turned to the National Park Service in an effort to obtain photos showing his inaugural crowd equaled or surpassed the crowd for President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Or why Trump has set in motion a review of the “fiduciary rule” that would require financial advisers to make retirees’ interests, not the advisers’ profits, the guideline in providing investment advice. I’m just guessing, but isn’t that what most retirees want — what’s best for them rather than what lines the pockets of financial advisers? (For what it’s worth, the “fiduciary rule” wasn’t scheduled to take effect until April.)
Gary Cohn, formerly with Goldman Sachs and now the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, claims, “It is a bad rule for consumers…. This is like putting only healthy food on the menu because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger.”
What’s more arrogant, the classic definition of chutzpah — someone who kills his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan — or Cohn’s view of the “fiduciary rule?” I’m not sure, but I know this: The bounds of decency don’t stand a chance in this administration. From national parks to public education, the needs of the many will be second to the wishes of the powerful.
This election has lured the usual assortment of sharks. The rich don’t have enough, so they will take more. Trump and his supporters will dismiss global warming, just as they will concentrate their fury on an idea that has kept hope alive: People of different faiths have much in common. They will eliminate Obamacare before they have a plan to replace it.
So, let these words represent how the Trump administration is remembered by future generations: Avarice was their calling.
I began this essay by remembering the movie Castaway, but who can forget another voice of popular culture, the late Mary Tyler Moore, who triumphantly tossed her hat in the air at the beginning of her wonderful comedy that aired on television in the 1970s? It was more than exhilaration. It was a celebration of opportunities for women. As a husband and father, it’s my guess that during the Trump presidency few hats will be thrown in the air. That’s understandable. In a howling gale, there’s little reason to celebrate.
But I don’t want to leave it there. When the Castaway character played by Tom Hanks fights his way off the island and is deciding what to do with the rest of his life this is what he says:
“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
And that is what we have to remember. A thousand Donald Trumps cannot keep us from what we have to do: Stand vigil against the darkness and move forward toward the light.
There’s a song about the Underground Railroad that carried slaves to freedom. It includes these words:
The riverbed makes a mighty fine road
Dead trees to show you the way
And it’s left foot, peg foot traveling on
Follow the Drinking Gourd
That is the path we will follow. It has always been there. We need only the courage to find it.