Bernie celebrated his birthday 2 days ago, and at my suggestion looked up all the blessings he got on his two Facebook pages. There were hundreds.
“I loved one thing,” he told me over dinner. “Someone wrote something over the top, telling me how wonderful I was, an authentic Bodhisattva [reliever of suffering], the Roshi [Zen master] of my generation, and a generally great man. Just two comments below that somebody else wrote: Who is this guy?”
We both laughed hard. One person sees things one way, someone else sees the opposite, and a third person doesn’t even know what all the fuss is about. Remind you of a country we know?
I thought about that today, waiting for an order of fried chicken at Wolfie’s in South Deerfield (they make a good one), while the big television over the bar, which usually features the New England Patriots or the Boston Celtics, showed the Trumps beginning their big parade after the inauguration. There seemed to be fewer people on the streets than police, but those who were there seemed overjoyed that this country had a new beginning, while a few blocks away there were demonstrations, a few riots, and concussion grenades.
I have to admit it, it’s not easy for me to watch Donald Trump give his inaugural talk and pump his fist at the end. He seems like he’s always yelling and smirking, giving no one any respect or credit other than himself. I don’t envy the people who will work for him over the next four years. As I get fonder of the red hat on my altar saying Make America Great Again, I get less fond of the man who wore it.
But I do believe that Donald Trump is ushering in a new era in at least one respect. He showed that you don’t have to be a politician to win the Presidency. You don’t have to rise through the ranks, you don’t have to do chit for chat, help your peers get elected, draft legislation, run for office again and again, etc. You don’t have to hold public office, where you now have to spend most of your time raising money. If you know how to use the media and appeal to the people directly, you have a good shot.
I thought of that this morning when an article in the Washington Post wondered what Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, is up to. He was in Texas shaking hands, meeting with locals, curious about how regular people live. And he had employed David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, to work for his foundation.
What did he learn from Donald Trump? What are other young, talented people thinking watching this election, realizing they don’t have to change careers and run for office, they simply have to make some name for themselves and find the right message?
So while some people are mourning today as the beginning of the end, I think it may be the beginning of the beginning. It doesn’t matter at all that Democrats have no leadership in Washington, the next leader won’t come from Washington. He or she is watching right now, learning from Trump as much as s/he can, and pondering the next few moves. We have no way of knowing who that person will be, only that soon a certain phrase we’ve all heard since we were young will resonate in a new way: In America, anyone can be President.