COMMENTARY: Happy Robert Burns Day!

by Jack Crombie

Hope Springs Eternal: Happy New Year and All Hail To The New Chief!

“May you live in interesting times,” Is an old Chinese curse and this year, still less than one month old, has already been a very “interesting” year.

A certain segment of the community has been fuming over President Obama’s exit, marked as it was with his controversial commuting through presidential pardons of whistle blower Chelsea Manning’s, the convicted Puerto Rican terrorist supporter Oscar Lopes Riviera and the release of hundreds of low-level drug offenders. They are not impressed that Manning’s release might well result in the voluntary surrender of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, or that the release of Riviera might see Lin Manuel Miranda on stage in a Chicago special performance of Hamilton.

As Obama rapidly becomes “yesterday’s news,” the focus is now squarely on an entirely different segment of the community. Much of the angst is based on ascribing to Trump’s traditional Republican political beliefs that are, at best uncertain. They ignore the fact that he has just staged a remarkable hostile takeover of the Republican party and in so doing, turned politics as we have known it, upside down.

Donald was schooled by his mother in the teachings of her Church, it is my earnest hope that he was also schooled in the works of Robert Burns, the poet of Scotland and of the Scottish Enlightenment. His poems and songs are of liberty, justice, equality and freedom; poems that deal with the place of man in society.

Incredibly, almost overnight, the Republican Party has departed from its traditionally almost rabid anti-Russian, anti-communist positions, to engage in some sort of love fest with Russia and Russia’s dictatorial leader, Putin.

Republicans, once the great advocates of free trade and open markets, are now under Trump, against free trade and are advocating massive governmental intervention of the markets. One cannot help but feel like Alice after she fell through the looking glass into another reality.

All that needs to happen now is for Republicans to get rid of the private insurance company health care system that is Obamacare, and replace it with a government provided single payer system, and the transformation will be complete. This may sound like a stretch, but one never knows what to expect other than the unexpected, in the steady stream of proclamations, assertions and insults, 140 characters or less, from our tweet master in chief.

No matter ones opinion of our new president, one has to admit that he is stepping up to the plate in his role as an agent of change. Despite my own reservations regarding the new president, I was appalled by the demonstrations on the day of his inauguration. The inauguration celebration is a celebration of our constitutional democratic process and the transfer of power from one leader to the next at the behest of we the people.

Those who were protesting the inauguration celebration are stepping onto thin ice as this democratically sanctioned transfer of power, is emblematic and symbolic of the freedoms that allow us to protest policies or actions that we disagree with.

There is a time and place for everything. The protests of Friday were wrong, the million woman march on Saturday—entirely appropriate.

I am uncomfortable, to say the least with many of the positions adopted by our new president. I am made nervous by his obvious thin skin, his unpredictability and his apparent willingness to get into a scrap at the drop of a hat. It is obvious he gets his feisty disposition and personality from his Scottish mother who according to her son Donald, had “a great fighting spirit, like Braveheart.”

In addition to his feistiness, Trump owes many of his core religious and political views to the teachings of his mother…and they could be heard clearly in his inaugural speech. “….What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again…” This is a clear echo of the voice of the great Scottish preacher and reformer John Knox who in 1560 said that political power was ordained by God, but power was vested not in kings or nobles or even clergy but that all power ultimately belonged to the people.

Those who were protesting the inauguration celebration are stepping onto thin ice as this democratically sanctioned transfer of power, is emblematic and symbolic of the freedoms that allow us to protest policies or actions that we disagree with.

Donald was schooled by his mother in the teachings of her Church, it is my earnest hope that he was also schooled in the works of Robert Burns, the poet of Scotland and of the Scottish Enlightenment. His poems and songs are of liberty, justice, equality and freedom; poems that deal with the place of man in society.

As we celebrated the inauguration of our president on January 20th and celebrate the birthday of Burns on January 25th, we might hope that President Trump as he governs, just as he is apparently influenced by Knox might also be advised by Burns.

Regardless, we should all hope, that our new president has the foresight to navigate the many shoals and reefs that might domestically and internationally threaten us, the strength to overcome obstacles in our collective path and the wisdom to build alliances that might get things done and bring us together as a nation. Hope springs eternal.

Mr. Crombie is a resident of Winthrop Harbor, and originally from Scotland. 

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