A call for better angels, not ‘nasty’ women

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 8/28/20

It took all of two minutes for President Donald Trump to call Sen. Kamala Harris “nasty” after the announcement of her candidacy for vice president. Unfortunately, our president has a long …

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A call for better angels, not ‘nasty’ women

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Posted

It took all of two minutes for President Donald Trump to call Sen. Kamala Harris “nasty” after the announcement of her candidacy for vice president. Unfortunately, our president has a long history of using such unpresidential language toward women.

It is also true that Trump has appointed women to positions of power: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (who announced this week she’s leaving her post); Gina Haspel of the CIA; and, of course, his daughter, Ivanka Trump.

The president’s overriding concern explains this apparent contradiction: whether man or woman, Trump values loyalty above all else. He does not want criticism from his team of leaders. As an example, look no further than Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose expert medical opinion has been ignored, and even contradicted, by Trump.

Certainly, no one wishes for a personal attack. But it is ancient wisdom that, as iron sharpens iron, so a person who challenges me can make me stronger (Prov 27:17).

The Founding Fathers envisioned the vice president as the runner-up to the national election for the presidency. Imagine a White House coalition between our current president and his runner-up — the same woman he infamously called “nasty” in the 2016 presidential debate!

By the early 19th century, candidates were selecting their own running mates. Yet, President Abraham Lincoln appointed three cabinet members who had previously campaigned against him — his political enemies! As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin put it, Lincoln formed “a team of rivals” because he wanted to examine problems from every angle, factoring in his own weaknesses and mistakes. Lincoln was a self-secure, self-confident leader. Not only could he take criticism, Lincoln believed the feedback made him stronger and wiser. That iron sharpened iron.

The ancient Greeks stressed the importance of phronesis, meaning “practical wisdom.” This refers to the ability to discern the moral good in daily life — life amid the changes, challenges and complexities. The Greeks were famous for their debates. They believed that arguing with a leader was neither evidence of disdain nor a sign of disloyalty. Political opponents should not be belittled through childish name-calling but engaged in mature conversation. This is still how the best decisions are reached.

In a time of a global pandemic, our republic needs practical wisdom from people of good will from all sides. Our leaders must come to the table and challenge one another in constructive ways. The goal should not be to tear down the other side but to build up our country. Though he spoke in 1857, no one has put it better than Lincoln:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.

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