Washington -- Last month I lost a friend, Harold, in Maryland. No, he didn't pass away. Rather, he acted in such a manner that friendship between us henceforth is unlikely if not impossible.
Harold (not his real name) and I had shared several good times over the years around Chesapeake Bay, including at least two Thanksgiving dinners at the home of mutual friends. I thought he was a decent fellow, always doing the right thing despite challenges from within a troubled family.
But at a gathering last month he gravely insulted his former Thanksgiving hostess with vulgarities and obscenities. Knowing she held a dim view of our country's current president, he let her know he was a strong supporter. Among his reasons: he likes how the president speaks – crudely – which gives license to people like himself to do so as well.
When his former hostess tried to change the conversation to a happier subject, the British royal wedding, Harold let loose with a stream of invective about how terrible it was that British royalty was allowing n-----s into it. (Apparently he was unaware that Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, was partly of African descent.)
What is our country coming to when an American president is encouraging behaviors such as Harold's? I was surprised and disgusted when I learned of Harold's actions. He is college educated, a retired former federal employee. I inquired of a witness to these outbursts if Harold had ever served our country in the military. He had not. Often such service, in my experience, knocks nonsense like Harold's out of people. It also makes those who serve reflect on what kind of a country they are risking their very lives for: one founded on the proposition that all men are created equal, with unalienable rights, or a country of blood and soil, ruled by despots committed to the very opposite.
Are we a country full of Harolds, who put their own prejudices, grievances, and unexamined fears above the heritage passed down from the Declaration of Independence? Is the president's bestowed license more important to them than (1) two centuries of ongoing work toward a more perfect union and (2) a decent respect to the opinions of mankind? Increasingly, it seems so.