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The View from the Pigsty

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Yes, all right; what's this, in the 242nd year of American independence? Something about a restaurant? A verbal brawl? The president seen as the cause?

Nobody said modern life is easy or fun. Our fascination, nevertheless, with the ejection of the presidential press secretary from a Virginia restaurant shows just how out off-kilter things have gotten -- to the supernatural embarrassment of those who, with high hopes, set up the Constitution.


The founders didn't foresee politics as feeding our lust for entertainment -- like the Romans, who loved to watch naval battles in the Colosseum. But the founders couldn't foresee everything, including the disposition to make political victory the main thing in life. Not worship. Not the composition of books and symphonies. Not friendship. Not the relief of misery and the pursuit of human betterment.

No, no: political victory, that's the stuff. The be-all and the end-all, on account of how, don'tcha know, government does all that needs doing. This leaves us to fight over whether Sarah Sanders should have been ousted from a farm-to-table restaurant due to her employment by Donald J. Trump. The result is the possibility that this is the direction politics is going, toward policing public places to keep out people with different political views. And if they do, well, as Jackie Gleason used to say...pow!

I introduce into the discussion a word not habitually used in the 21st century: "debase."

Debase means to lower, to reduce in importance or respect, to lessen a thing or a person or an idea or an institution. The debased are those who enjoy the sport of the thing for its own sake. For them, there is no higher, larger calling. It's all hit 'em, kick 'em and knock 'em over like bowling pins.


All parties are guilty of this, though. Everyone gets a spoonful of blame: so much to conservatives, so much to liberals, so much to Trump voters, so much to the fans of Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Spread it out, that's the best policy.

The presuppositions of democracy -- of rule by the sovereign people -- don't fit the present moment. We're supposed to expect a certain level of dignity, a certain amount of concern from those known as "the people." With the development of good minds and good character, if you please.

In theory, the sovereign people aren't supposed to root around with pigs -- excuse me, with "nonhuman forms of life," as the politically fastidious expect us to say.

The sovereign people are supposed to display habits consistent with self-government, including the government of their own mouths. They are supposed to say "sir" and "ma'am" as much as they can, and "I'm sorry" when appropriate. They are supposed to give the other person in the conversation a chance to talk, to avoid pretending to have more wisdom than they actually have and to refrain from exposing that deficient condition by shooting off their mouths constantly. They are supposed to bite their tongues off before indulging in the desire to hurl that which has been normalized as the "F-bomb" -- the Robert diNiro style of political enlightenment.


And, oh, my gosh, you don't make a political statement by throwing a political figure out of a restaurant or ruin another political figure's dinner with derisive chants.

I say, "You don't?" Maybe you do, on the grounds that as we're wallowing with the pigs, getting a good coating of mud. We might as well go the whole hog: lay all the blame on Trump, lay it all on Maxine Waters; overlook the effects of disporting ourselves as good porcines rather than as designated heirs of Madison, Hamilton and Jay.

There's no need to advertise Donald Trump as anybody's moral pacesetter. There is need, dare I say it, to stop and think imaginatively -- all of us -- about what comes of lying down with pigs and expecting to rise radiant and righteous.

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