Jennifer Finney Boylan, a professor of English at Barnard College and a trans activist, says that former president Jimmy Carter "Made Me A Better American." The Times' paywall permitting, you can read her entire column by clicking that link. Boylan tells us that she is "still grateful to Mr. Carter for demonstrating that it is possible to govern with morality, honesty, and grace." These are values that she identifies as "strangely old-fashioned."
Despite her proclaimed admiration for Carter, Boylan also says that she is "still angry with him, too."
And why is Ms. Boylan angry with Mr. Carter? Well, according to Ms. Boylan, Mr. Carter "gave us Ronald Reagan," thus indicating that she blames Mr. Carter for everything Ronald Reagan did, after Reagan defeated Mr. Carter in the presidential election of 1980. This comment, let me say, blaming Mr. Carter not only for losing that election, but also for everything that the winner did later, does not really seem very "fair," at least to me.
At any rate, the comment that really struck me, as I read Boylan's column in The Times, was her characterization of Reagan as "the first president who made hating your own government fashionable."
We probably all remember Reagan's claim, made in his Inaugural Address, in January 1981, that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." This was Reagan's immediate first step in leading the public to the position that Boylan identifies as the "fashionable" idea that "hating your own government" is exactly what everyone should do.
Since, in our system of government, we ARE the government (at least, that's the theoretical foundation for the idea of democratic self-government), hating "the government" is psychologically devastating, since what it amounts to is self-hatred, "hating ourselves." The division and disunity so prominent in our politics, today, does track back to "hating our own government."
Are we going to have to "change our way of thinking," as I claimed in my blog post yesterday?
If I am right (and I think I am), then we need to stop "hating our government," and assume responsibility for being the government.
I wish I were giving an Inaugural Address. That's exactly what I'd say!
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