The better angels of our nature
“The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
This was the most important thing President Trump said on Friday. And it might be the most ambitious as well. That is if he means it literally.
The day after the inauguration, women’s marches, rallies and protests went on all over the world. But the ones that went on here are obviously the ones that matter most. These people are President Trump’s new constituents. Few of them voted for him, but that is irrelevant now.
Public service is a funny thing. Like it or not, there are those in the public who are not fans of those who are serving. Lately, too many Americans behave as if they believe our leaders only serve those who voted for them. In the words of President Trump: wrong.
Our new president is starting from the most difficult place of any since approval ratings began. The rallies and marches that immediately followed his swearing in have sealed into history the most incredible first full day of office in presidential history.
Even President Abraham Lincoln’s March 4, 1861 inaugural address preceded the official start of the Civil War by several weeks. Seven states had already seceded from the Union by then, so there was no denying the crisis of the land. He attempted to calm those tensions with his words. He said:
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
A friend pointed out her love for the phrase “the mystic chords of memory” on social media after Trump’s speech. I have read Lincoln’s speech over and over this weekend and I, however, am drawn to the thought of the “better angels of our nature.”
It has been a long time, if ever, that so many people peaceably assembled as our constitution contemplates, as assembled on January 21, 2017. The numbers are incredible. But the peacefulness of these huge crowds is something that struck me with awe. The gatherings rightfully belonged to women, though many men like me were there to support them.
These women are the better angels of our nature.
Make no mistake about it, I support the basic themes and reasons for the gatherings and did so before our new president appeared on the scene. I went to the rally in Indianapolis and would have gone no matter the circumstances. Vice President Mike Pence describes himself as a conservative but that he “isn’t angry about it.” That was me at the rally. I was there to support the things that matter to the women in my life, and I wasn’t angry about it.
I gave a speech a few days ago and felt the need to explain to the group something that seems very simple to me. I can’t think of any laws that a bunch of women could pass that would harm me, invade my body, or dictate their terms upon me, as a man. Men do it to women regularly. They do it in congress and in state houses across the nation every year.
Our lawmaking and governing processes which are both dominated by men, should start by these men asking “will women, as women, be ok with this?” If the answer is ever “no,” then the men should scrap that idea and go back to the beginning.
The women of America sent a message to our new government on Saturday. And that message was not just sent to President Trump, but to the entire new government. The individual reasons for showing up, whether in Anchorage or Miami, were countless, varied and personal. Collectively though, the message was simple: listen to us.
This is the second gathering like this that I have attended in Indianapolis in less than a year. I thought the first one last spring was a big deal, and it was. But this one is historic.
Lincoln was not specifically referring to women in his inaugural address nearly 156 years ago. He was referring to the best of each individual soul inside each American of his day.
Many have celebrated the peaceful transfer of power as something uniquely American that happened this January, like so many January’s before it. We can all be proud of it. What happened the day after though, is far more profound. It defines the soul of America to me.
President Trump, this is your welcome to office. It was delivered to you by all the Americans you mentioned in your speech. Get used to it. It was a welcome we absolutely enjoyed giving.