American Flag

If you check Facebook regularly, your home page, or local community pages, it’s impossible to miss the number of posts about what a train wreck folks think President Joe Biden is.

According to the people who post accusations, negative comments about his age, and more, he is sending our nation into hell with little or no hope of resurrection, after just seven months in office.

You might think I’m about to launch into a vigorous defense of President  Biden. I am not. What I want to discuss is the presidency itself. Ever since social media became ubiquitous, many of us have utilized it to offer harsh and often vulgar criticism of the incumbent, be it President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump, or currently, President Biden. There was a time when the office of the presidency was revered. Americans had respect for the incumbent, or at least the office, even if they didn’t vote for him. That respect served a useful purpose. It signaled to the world that we were, in fact, a united country. It also acknowledged respect for our federal, state and local institutions and the people who governed. If the office of the presidency, the most powerful position in the world, wasn’t deserving of our respect, why should we feel obligated to respect the chief of police, the school principal or, for that matter our employers?

What I find interesting is the number of posts by people who are old enough to remember when respect for the president was, for the most part, assumed by most Americans. If you lived through Watergate, you’ll remember how long it took and how hard it was to remove President Richard Nixon, who was never loved the way FDR or Ronald Reagan were loved. It took a “smoking gun” in the form of an incriminating taped conversation to move congressional leaders. These leaders, who certainly knew he had done something wrong before the tape was released, reluctantly went to him to tell him he needed to resign. Such was the respect we all had for the office of the presidency.

These days, one very bad policy decision, which had more than one father, seems to be enough to call for removing the president from office. Make no mistake, unwarranted removal was posited by President Trump’s and President Obama’s detractors for dubious reasons when they were in office too. Regardless of how you feel about any of these men, my point is that we’ve become trigger happy, keyboard tough guys.

When John F. Kennedy, and later, Lyndon Baines Johnson held office, the media accepted the difference between public and private behavior. Starting with the media takedown of then Senator Gary Hart’s misbegotten presidential campaign in 1987, the media decided it was relevant to investigate private behavior and report it to the world. Senator Hart’s relationship with Donna Rice ended his otherwise promising campaign. What also ended was the separation of public and private life. This had unintended consequences.

We’ve had some great presidents in this country whose private lives would never have withstood today’s public scrutiny. How many very well qualified men and women haven’t run because they knew they had been human rather than superhuman? Would we have elected a man to the highest office in the land, who never served in any elected office before if all of the best and the brightest among us felt free to run? Could a 78-year-old man, the oldest ever elected, have won? We’ll never know.

I have also noticed that many of these posts seem filled with anger. What puzzles me is that the people who post these comments seem to be living a very good life, (at least materially) based on their non-political posts. I would also hasten to add that they seem otherwise friendly, caring and even charitable toward their friends, neighbors and family. Why so angry then? Our way of life may be threatened by a variety of social and political trends, but we are all responsible for what is happening.

Whatever trends we see, be they immigration, government spending, or foreign policy, as a self-governing nation, we the people have a say in what happens. Social media posts might give us momentary satisfaction, but they are not the most effective way to be heard. We can start by toning down the attacks on our president. No matter who it is, we have only one of them at a time. We don’t have to blindly support the president, but insulting him, also insults the office. That will have consequences.

Respectful, pointed disagreement, without unsupported innuendo, has always been our right. We can also contact our representatives at all levels of government. We not only deserve to be heard; we are obligated to help our elected officials make sound decisions.

Len is a local writer whose fiction work can be found at www.lenserafino.com He is also available for speaking engagements.