February 25, 2017

Source: Bigstock

There is intemperance of facial expression and gesture as well as of words, and I doubt whether even his supporters would deny that President Trump’s facial expressions and gestures are not such as to soothe the savage breast of his opponents. But his opponents are guilty of intemperance too, in words as well as in gestures.

As soon as he was elected, many of his opponents started to use the word resistance in place of opposition, as if the United States had instantaneously turned into a land where it was dangerous to express a contrary opinion to that of the president’s, as if opponents were being rounded up and put in camps, as if it required singular bravery to express dislike or even disgust for him. I suspect that, in parts of the country at least, and among a certain kind of people, it would have required more moral courage to admit that you voted for him than to compare him to Bluebeard or Genghis Khan.

The word resistance is indicative of self-congratulation and grandiosity, and must be rather galling for those for whom the choice to submit or resist is or ever was a question of life and death. Opposition is a normal and salutary process in a civilized polity, accepted by politicians even if, in his heart, no one in power really likes to be opposed; resistance is something else altogether.

The word implies a completely different polity from the one in which there is opposition; and even though its use may not be justified, people will begin to think that it must be, if it is used frequently enough. A misconception will turn into a reality, and a still-functioning and viable polity will be one step nearer to dissolution.

All this is, or at least once was, perfectly obvious from our daily experience. Mature persons know that they should not fire off missives in a state of anger, immediately after they have experienced something disagreeable that they attribute to the misdeeds or negligence of others. Reflection after a night’s sleep may reveal that the thing done was not so terrible after all, or that the culprit was not so uniquely guilty as first thought (or rather, first felt) to be. Delay is essential to a sense of proportion. This is no new insight, and if Polonius, that great sententious apostle of moderation and boring common sense, were advising Laertes today as he left to go to university, he would no doubt say to him:

Neither a Twitterer nor a blogger be,

For tweet oft loses both good sense and friend.


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