Photograph from Bing Images
I was listening to a political talk show on my local public radio station yesterday and was struck by a republican listener who called in to apologize for having voted for you. The caller confessed that he’d voted for you in spite of his concerns about your words and behavior in the past. He’d hoped that you would demonstrate better judgment in office. This brought to mind a line from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention: “Being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.” Unfortunately for that republican caller and the rest of us, those words have proven all too true in your case.
I think what irks me most about the character you’ve demonstrated during your presidency (and, believe me, it’s tough to choose my least favorite from among your many flaws) is your obstinate refusal to learn from your mistakes. This recalcitrance most recently reared its ugly head in your latest Twitter feud with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger. In the past, you have taken flak for diminishing John McCain’s military service because he was captured during the Vietnam War, as well as for insulting Khizr Khan, the patriarch of a Gold Star family. And still you blundered ahead to essentially accuse Ms. Johnson of lying after she stated that you stumbled over her husband’s name during your condolence call.
The challenges that face us inevitably leave an impression on us, and our responses to these obstacles shape our behavior as we move forward. All of us are continually changed purely by living our lives. The wise among us acknowledge and celebrate this constant evolution. In Japan, this idea has literally been elevated to an art form through the practice of kintsukuroi, in which broken pottery is repaired with gold or other precious metals. “As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”
I urge you to model yourself after the Japanese in this respect. The presidency no doubt has a steep learning curve and fumbles are to be expected. But use these mistakes as an opportunity, take pride in growing from those experiences and dazzle us with the glitter of your improved behavior.
You have filled your administration with more billionaires than any other presidency, and your policies thus far have overwhelmingly paid dividends to the wealthy. Last night, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote against a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that would have made it easier for regular people to pursue their rights in court by preventing them from being forced into arbitration. In light of the numerous scandals involving deliberate actions or negligent behavior by banks and credit card companies, this rule was especially important. The director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, referred to the vote as “a giant setback for every consumer in this country” and said it would result in “companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain[ing] free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”
It’s not too late to stop kowtowing to the financial industry and stand up for the American people. Don’t allow your flaws to swell into a malignant tumor that overtakes the good you could do. Instead, show your growth and blossom into the presidency. Refusing to sign this legislation could be the gold shining through the cracks of your broken administration.