“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
— Sir Isaac Newton, third law of motion
I was listening to a cable news interview with President Trump the other day. Throughout the interview, he blamed former President Barack Obama for everything that’s wrong in America today. He may have a point. I’ll get back to that later.
But first, one of the key elements of science and math is repeatability. The human body on average is 50% water. All the rest is a collection of atoms, molecules and, I think, neurons and protons.
In the sloppiness of human relations, however, equal and opposite reactions are present, but far less predictable than what is required in pure science. Instead, though the principle may be the same, it is expressed as “consequences,” “unintended outcomes” or some variation of this human mush. Still, we are children of the universe and, therefore, one way or another, subject to its immutable laws.
Now, I’ll get back to the point. If there had been no Obama, there would have been no Trump. The same is similarly true with Barack Obama and the very unpopular George W. Bush. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In my view, Trump is a product of backlash.
In the 2016 campaign, Trump capitalized on this backlash at his many rallies and in the media. Republican leaders such as Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the electorally deposed Newt Gingrich pledged they would do all they could to ensure the so-called Muslim/Manchurian/non-American/socialist/smooth-talking Obama would be a one-term president.
Another form of backlash occurred in the streets. The tea party sprung up. Party activists bemoaned Obama’s presidency. What had this country come to? And what was this terrible thing called, of all things, Obamacare? Horrible. They’d have none of it. For some of the jobless, uninsured in this group, the Affordable Care Act made a lot more sense. They apparently saw Trump as their champion.
More thoughtful citizens (and people in most countries around the world) felt the election of Obama meant America, at last, had taken a giant leap toward putting an end to racism. Remember all the speculation about how we had become a post-racial society? Not so.
Obama’s presidency hit a nerve in a fairly broad swath of the electorate — mostly people who simply could not abide the idea of a black man as commander-in-chief of the United States of America — the most powerful man in the world. That’s a reaction.
But there was an unintended, opposite, reaction. The issue of race and its ignorant “isms” burst into national conversation. This vital conversation cracked open the door to truth about who we were, who we are, and, as a nation, what we hope to become.
Trump’s nationalist rhetoric (e.g., “Take America back again!”) brought isolationism, class and race issues out of the woodwork. The litany of lies and controversies surrounding his presidency has awakened many, and put others to sleep. Throw social media madness into the mix, and you have a formula for new levels of new tension and, out of that tension, possible progress.
It is all very fascinating, and there isn’t much we can do about it. So, keep talking. Turn off the TV. Turn off the cellphones and video games. Listen more than you speak. Talk with, not just to, your friends, family and neighbors. It is time for change at the individual level.
Someone once said, “be the change you want to see.” That long journey begins at home. And if you fail to take the first step, that’s your fault.
Have a nice day.