Friday, February 17, 2017
"An Enemy of the People"
Donald Trump called the media the "enemy of the American people" on Friday. The temptation would be to shrug that off with all the toxic, self-serving, mendacious things that pour out of the president's mouth in a septic stream.
Is he going to spend four years doing this? And will it work?
Me, I took instant comfort, thinking of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," his response to the public scandal raised by his play "Ghosts." In "An Enemy of the People," a small town doctor, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, learns that the town's mineral bath is contaminated. He's pressured by the mayor, Peter Stockmann, his older brother, and assorted town folk not to reveal what he knows, but he does anyway, and is condemned for doing so.
"Sheer imagination, or even worse!" Peter Stockmann tells his brother, in language that sounds positively Trumpian. "The man who can make such vile suggestions about his own town is nothing but an enemy of the people."
The point of the play is that sometimes the majority—or in our case, about 46 percent of the population—embrace a poisonous lie, and it is the moral duty of the minority, be it those working for the press, or even a single individual, to stand up for what is true and right.
Once again, Trump, in lashing out at those who would hold him to the standards of truth and American democracy, pins a badge of honor on those he wishes to undermine.