Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Trump vs. the Media: authenticity and humility

Jerry Stratton, May 31, 2017

Medicine-Show Man

Several days ago I saw a Vox meme come across social media. It compares what then-Senator Barack Obama wrote at the Israeli Holocaust memorial in 2008 and what President Donald Trump wrote during his recent visit.

Obama wrote:

I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our own capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know their history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

Trump was more succinct:

It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends—so amazing & will Never Forget!

Now, I actually agree with the gist of what this meme says. What then-Senator Obama wrote was the kind of stuff that might go into history books.1 What President Trump wrote is not. It was written for the people showing him the memorial, not for later visitors.

If that sense of historical importance is what you want in your politicians—and it is reasonable that many people do—you are going to be disappointed by President Trump.

But my initial reaction on seeing that meme was not how great Obama’s side of the meme was. It was that the poster, who had until then been reliably anti-Trump even when Trump agreed with him, had come around to seeing Trump favorably.

My initial reaction on seeing this was favorable to Trump. Because where Trump’s note differed from Obama’s is that Trump was personal and humble. His note was filled with a feeling of both honor for what an actual person did to show him something he hadn’t seen; and humility for how much has been sacrificed.2

Trump left a personal note, not one scripted by a team of writers, crafted to play well back home and through the years. It was genuine gratitude for his hosts—and humility.

It was authentic.

Many people do not want their politicians to pre-write every utterance; the desire for authenticity in politicians is also understandable. What Obama wrote was very much political-speak. It is filled with a sense of the writer’s historical significance. Trump’s is filled with humility at the significance of history.

What Trump wrote is very much what a human being who has friends and appreciates them would write.

To understand why this meme might actually look to be in Trump’s favor, why this attitude is appreciated in parts of the electorate, it may help to read some flyover novels. The comparison between these two statements brought to my mind a quote from Louis L’Amour’s Comstock Lode:

Folks can’t seem to realize that it isn’t a smooth talker we need in there but a steady man, a man with judgement. Any medicine-show man can spout words, if they are written for him. It takes no genius to sound well. To act right and at the right time is something else again. — Louis L’Amour (Comstock Lode)

I’m not writing this to diminish President Obama’s significance, nor even the words he wrote. It is understandable that people will appreciate soaring rhetoric and pride.

But it should also be understandable that people will appreciate simplicity and humility—especially when coming from someone like President Donald Trump.

In response to 2017 in Photos: For photos, memes, and perhaps other quick notes sent from my mobile device or written on the fly during 2017.

  1. To ensure that it would go down in history correctly, Senator Obama made sure to annotate his statement with the current date.

  2. I am very aware that seeing humility in something Donald Trump wrote will come as a surprise to many. It came as one to me when I saw the Vox meme. That’s why I was surprised a loudly anti-Trump person would post it.

  1. Johnny Depp’s history ->