The liberal media continues to look askance at the behavior of President Donald Trump with a mixture of bafflement and a thinly-disguised wish that he would vacate the office. Republicans in Congress tolerate him as something akin to a necessary nuisance. They will neither drive him away nor be saddened when he leaves.
All of this misses the point that if Trump were not in office, our political system would still have one big problem, and it is not being dealt with by either party: A large portion of the population feels that its voice is being ignored and its needs unattended. That portion is lodged in the center and lower portions of the middle class, and those who hold the middle-class ethic.
These people believe that no segment of our leadership has done anything to aid them in enjoying the financial advances of globalization. In their eyes and in reality, they are falling behind while much energy is being devoted to the aid of the disadvantaged.
Liberal leaders shame them for their resistance to progressive legislation, and ignore their adherence to patriotism and sound social values. Conservative leaders, while giving them a bit more lip service, still devote little or no energy to their perceived plight.
I grew up among these people. Many are very generous and concerned about others, as long as those others follow behavioral norms and patterns that they understand. Those with a middle-class mentality are not good at extending their virtues to those who don’t share their behaviors or values.
The biggest reason for their so-called “narrow mindedness” or resistance to progressive programs is that very few of them possess a wide range of coping skills. The know how to behave in the “traditional” way, but when new situations arise, they easily become threatened, stubborn and hostile.
Many among them actually hold more progressive opinions and are less threatened by cultural diversity. But when they see their friends, neighbors and family members ignored or shamed, they will stick with their associates. Blood, culture and community are thicker than theory.
I would like to see elected officials symbolically acknowledge middle-class Americans’ patriotism and diligent contributions to the economy and society with several simple actions: First, open government functions with the Pledge of Allegiance. Second, pass legislation making it a crime to burn a national flag that has flown over a U.S. military installation. Liberals will decry these suggestions as trite and shallow. They underestimate the power of symbolic gestures.
On a deeper level, it would help if the tax code and regulations for small businesses could be revised and simplified. It is humiliating and degrading when things are so complicated that new entrepreneurs seeking to get ahead on their own initiative should need legal, financial and insurance counsel just to get started.
Finally, legislators seem to believe that their only options to guide society are to tax or regulate — exceedingly unimaginative. We need more coordinated efforts between government institutions and businesses to spot and respond where opportunities are lacking.
Hopefully, when those in the middle class begin to experience some attention to their plight and needs, their resistance to social change might soften.
Along with this, we need the middle class to be somewhat more attentive to the medical implications of their own lifestyle choices and habits. They also should be open to getting to know those who may appear different on the surface.
We need to acknowledge that many liberals have been wounded in one form or another by middle-class rigidity. However, we need to ask them to take those valid wounds to their therapists, spiritual directors or small support groups, and not act out in retaliation.
No segment of our population is the enemy. We all need each other. Let’s remember that authentic joy or blessing never comes at the expense of another person or group. Let’s champion the causes of one another.
George Gordon of Overland Park was minister of counseling and care at Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City for 33 years.