"The personal is political," an army of activists, largely female, has been saying for a couple of decades. This sad and oh-so-modern turn of events is due to the habit of dressing up once-private, once-intimate human attitudes as symbols of disaffection and rage: about which elected politicians need to do something -- fast!
As you've guessed, the question before us today regards President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida. What better gauge of the degree to which political pastimes have come to clog human discourse and bollix prospects for remediation.
Let's see here. The president meant to extend official consolation to the widow of a Green Beret sergeant killed by apparent terrorists. Non-Trumpians, particularly as they recall Bill Clinton's gift for feeling others' pain, have the legal right to wince at the very idea of Donald Trump extending a paw in symbolic sympathy.
Yes. But we didn't used to vet the style and propriety of consolations extended by presidents as Congresswoman Wilson did. What a jerk! Such was her verdict on Trump's attempt at outreach.
There is no use in rehashing the slugfest that stemmed from a presidential attempt, however ham-handed, at outreach. We've watched clips about it on TV and the web. The long and the short of it is that the cowboy-hatted congresswoman, a friend of the widow, was riding in the car with her when the presidential call came in. From the congresswoman's reaction we might judge her the sort likely to take umbrage if Donald Trump asked her for the time of day.
Leave it at that. No one wins these fracases, which both center on Donald Trump and his raucous style and don't center on him at all. The personal is the political, and the political is the personal inasmuch as we assign to political figures the responsibility for making us healthy, wealthy and wise.
Once the private sphere of life was immense. Save for a few issues connected with money -- banks, free-silver coinage, railroads -- the average American could go weeks without wondering what knavery his congressman was up to. No more. Government runs the show. The truly private sphere is zilch.
We didn't see that punch aimed at us, but it landed anyway due to the multiplication, over the last half-century, of opportunities for regulation or giveaway. That, and our acceptance of those opportunities: little pieces of private life bitten off, digested by government.
The "deep state" we hear about from Steve Bannon and such like is the apparatus set up to make us happy, which is why the deep state is no more going away than Trump and Congresswoman Wilson are going to be caught exchanging jollities at the mah-jongg table.
That the personal is political means we're not taking anything off some rat-fink politician. We're diminished when we do so, the obligations of manners and forbearance notwithstanding. The cold, dead obligations, I mean. Nobody believes in such obligations anymore. Keep a civil tongue in your head; use the manners your mother taught and your grandmother commended: such were the possibilities when the private sphere was strong, back before men and women asking our votes coaxed us into the understanding that life is about power achieved and affirmed through politics.
Because the personal is political, it's votes, not conciliation, that you want. Votes give you power, or else deny you it. If it's the latter, you work for a better day, when the other side is underfoot, thanks to getting fewer votes, and you're suddenly top dog. You get to do the speechifying, the planning, the proposing, the propagandizing. It's suddenly your "personal" -- a symbol of the real you -- that's on top. Your political opponent is a jerk in that he couldn't care less about the real you.
Aren't you glad you asked why the congresswoman and the president are at such odds, and the country with them? We know the proper solution to such tiffs -- turn Americans back into people, rather than R's and D's and whatnot. There is, of course, the intervening challenge of figuring out, after all these years, how to make the personal really, truly personal again.