Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Good Signs, Bad Signs

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Last week, the Flyer threw a party to celebrate its 20<30 Class of 2017. It was held at the Old Dominick Distillery on Front Street, yet another old downtown building being beautifully and creatively retrofitted. Three hundred folks showed up, most of them young and full of sass, hope, and dreams.

And Memphis has a lot to be hopeful about, if these young people are an indication of the talent pool living here. I was blown away by the diversity, the brains, and the ambition on display in that room.

And then I met Senator Brian Kelsey. I'm kidding. Well, not about meeting Brian Kelsey. We did meet, and it wasn't as awkward as either of us probably expected, given that I have written some less than complimentary things about the man's politics. I congratulated him on his work with fellow senator — and Democrat — Lee Harris on behalf preserving our Memphis Sand aquifer, and we chatted pleasantly for a few moments with a mutual friend.

And that gives me hope, too. I'm sure that I'll have plenty of reasons to criticize Kelsey's politics in the future, but it's always a good thing when political opponents can find common ground — or water, in this case. That's the way things used to work, before we all got funneled into our ideological information silos, before the era of fake news and "alternative facts."

A couple days later, on Saturday, the Memphis Women's March brought hope to thousands more people in downtown Memphis. It was a cathartic and energizing demonstration, one that was replicated all over the globe, as women and their allies served notice they wouldn't quietly surrender to the forces of regression that have taken power in the nation's capitol.

It's easy to discount the power of protests, but people taking to the streets drove President Lyndon Johnson into retirement — and eventually ended the Vietnam War and helped bring down Richard Nixon. Change can happen from the bottom up. Sometimes we forget that.

Now we have a president who lies like others breathe. I don't think it's a moral failing in Donald Trump's case; I think it's a mental illness, a crippling narcissistic disorder. How else to explain his going into CIA headquarters and trying to gaslight intelligence workers? Who does that? Trump told them he hadn't attacked or disparaged them. A lie. He said his Inauguration crowd was the largest in history. A lie. He said he'd been on the cover of Time magazine more than anyone else. A lie. He even lied about whether it rained while he was giving his Inaugural speech.

He left thinking he'd won them over, but post-speech interviews with CIA leaders and workers revealed that he'd done just the opposite. People, this president's disconnect with reality is a serious liability for all of us — liberal and conservative. He doesn't have any discernible principles, except self-aggrandizement. Spouting alternative facts doesn't work when you're running a country. This will come to a head. It may take weeks. It may take months. But this level of madness won't stand for four years.

There is precedent. In December 1973, conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater wrote a private note that said, "I have reason to suspect that all might not be well mentally in the White House. This is the only copy that will ever be made of this; it will be locked in my safe." In 1974, after nearly two years of investigations and hearings, it had become clear that Nixon had ordered the Watergate break-in to Democratic headquarters and tried to cover it up. Goldwater led a delegation to the White House to tell Nixon it was over, that he'd lost Congress and needed to resign. I will not be surprised if history repeats itself.

For the country's sake, I hope it's sooner than later. I don't agree with Vice President Mike Pence on much, but I'd much rather have a president with whom I disagree politically than one who is of questionable sanity.

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