There seems to be a good deal of disagreement about whether Donald Trump became president on Inauguration Day, 20 January 2017 or days ago on February 28th in his Joint Address to Congress. It could not have been so on the first occasion, the story goes, because the sound of doom, gloom and carnage which pervaded the inaugural address was so unlike any before, and was not seen as 'presidential'. However, the other night before Congress, Trump struck a lighter note, read correctly from the teleprompter and stuck to script, quoting from the Bible and invoking the memory of a fallen hero, Navy Seal Ryan Owens, killed on 29 January in a special forces raid in Yemen. That moment of recognition of his wife's loss managed to tease out every ounce of pain and sorrow from the hero's grieving widow for that tragic loss, and from those watching, to maximum emotional effect. However you view the means and purpose of this way of honouring the hero, it was heart-breaking.
Following the address, pundits rushed to dissect the address including well-respected activist and commentator Van Jones on CNN , who intoned effectively that Trump "became president of the United States in that moment, period", when he lead that two minute standing ovation. Many viewers begged to differ with that pronouncement tweeting their disagreement, causing Van Jones to further explain himself and elaborate on what he really meant. You need to hear it to get it, but at least he knew what he was trying to say.
Yet, whether you think the president is a Wolf of Wall Street in sheep's clothing, or is on the right track and 'presidential', this brings me to my next point.
Whilst Democrats sat stony faced in the audience, many congresswomen dressed in white representing the Suffragettes, and honouring women's rights, Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan declared the Congressional address to be absolutely a "home run".
Which president did you see? Was the channel setting of your vision tuned to "shock, horror, who is he kidding?" or to "this is the president we have been waiting for"?
Because it is obvious we are all not seeing and hearing the same thing, no matter what it is, these days. Listening to the Trump team of Sean Spicer, Kellyanne and Reince Priebus, we are experiencing the craziest case of cognitive dissonance since the dawn of time. We are being told not just what is the truth about what we read and hear but what we actually see. Because if, for example you saw with your own eyes lots of empty spaces in the Mall on Inauguration Day, then you saw wrongly. Get some glasses.
So, as night follows day, after watching Trump's address to Congress, we hear one version of what it was, how it was and what it meant, coming from the left and quite another coming from the right. And some commentators, trying to be fair and balanced, are not sure what to make of it at all. Has the President done a pivot? Has he become presidential? To the right, this was a home run, and to the left there were 51 lies told in 61 minutes.
If the progressive's fears are true that Trump's policies will poison America's waterways, hasten climate change, design immigration reform that is divisive and exclusive, build a wall, deport thousands, cause tens of millions to lose healthcare coverage, and starve state schools, etc....only time will tell. At this point we just cannot know. Supporters and protesters will continue to have eyes tuned to different channels, seeing and foreseeing different things, in speeches, policies and their effects. But one thing is true:
History, and time, will judge the real Donald Trump. Like being in the midst of a tsunami, we can't know the full extent of the damage, of the good or bad that took place, til after the storm has passed. .. and sometimes for a very long time. Unless we can discern with a very keen eye, we cannot see the forest from the trees. Some people at the time thought Hitler was a good guy (see David Lloyd George) and some people thought Gandhi was very bad (ask his assassin).
MLK has said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice". Whether we think that is true or not, it is a fact that the long arc of history will eventually unveil the truth of these times. The good or bad that has been done to hasten or impede the progress of the United States, Europe and humanity as a whole, will be known, will be in textbooks, documented , studied by children and eventually, more fully understood, even if, as is often the case, after the fact.
Because what leaders do and say, matters. And in the end, their intents and purposes are always found out, always. How does the President want to be remembered? That's a question, because that footprint in the sands of time will be there for a very, very long time to come. And hopefully, some of us will be there to read about it. In the meantime, let's see what can be done, known and understood, amidst the confusion. And let's hope that one day we don't look back in anger, sorrow or despair.