I try to stay above the fray in these Musings—honestly I do—but sometimes I just can’t help myself. When I watch a public unraveling the likes of which none of us have seen before, I just can’t pretend that it’s business as usual. So (spoiler alert!) as much as I’d like to write about kinder, gentler subjects—two sweet kids in a sunny meadow, for example—I’m compelled to go down in that hollow and explore the cloudy world below.
The spectrum describing recent Presidential behavior runs the gamut from “childish and impulsive” (at best) to “insane and downright dangerous” (at worst). That leaves adjectives like “deranged” or “unhinged” somewhere in the middle. Subversion of legitimate foreign policy goals to serve domestic political agenda: we got it! Corrupt practices in direct defiance of the Constitution: we got that, too. Impulsive and ill-informed decisions that betray our allies and cost innocent people their lives: check. Boorish, vulgar, petulant, and vindictive behavior that sets a new low bar with each passing day: so what else is new?
It’s clear to me: whether by impeachment and conviction or by ballot, this President must be removed from office. His gang of thieves, too. The stakes are too high, the risks too great to pretend otherwise. This is not about overturning the election of 2016; this is about saving our country from madness and ineptitude. As much as I wish it were otherwise, it’s simply not possible to stay above this fray.
When a fabric frays, it unravels or becomes worn at the edges, usually as a result of constant rubbing or friction. Fraying ultimately leads to breakage and we’re now at that sorry point. And the fabric in question is not the stuff of clothing. It’s the very fabric of our society that’s at risk and when the tear finally comes—as it surely will—how will we hold ourselves together? We’ll need a seamstress or tailor of exceptional skill to repair this rupture. “Who?” you ask. I have no idea. I wish I did.
This much I do know: the sidelines are no longer an acceptable vantage point. Each one of us must choose a side and I’m under no illusion that many of us, some friends included, will choose the side of chaos. Their choice worries me as much, if not more, than the chaos itself. I can understand why some people feel disenfranchised or threatened by the profound changes happening within our society. What I cannot fathom, however, is why these same people are not dissuaded by blatant corruption and moral turpitude—actions or behavior that so clearly violate acceptable societal norms. There is something at work here that defies rational understanding. If someone can explain it to me, please do.
Down in the vale, the clouds hang low and heavy but up on top of the hill where it’s always sunny and bright, there is hope. I would rather be up there watching the little ones run about, not unconcerned or oblivious to real problems down below, but at least not drenched by this daily deluge of malfeasance and corruption. Believe me when I tell you that I would much rather remain above the fray, but for now we’re all lost down in the fog.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com