Editorial: In the wake of Trump tweets, is this who we are?

Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?

Those questions feel almost trivial in the context of a discussion about national affairs and the relationship between President Polarization and the divided country he professes to serve.

Yet, at the same time, they also stand out as the most important questions to consider in the midst of three days of acrimony following President Donald Trump's infantile weekend tweets that critics of his policies, pointedly four Democratic women of color who have been especially outspoken, “hate America” and should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” — this, in language indelibly recalling racist taunts of America's hurtful past, oddly, directed to United States citizens and congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States.

What good has that done? What good will it do? The net effect so far has been only to deepen the divisions between Americans.

Is this the behavior we want from our president? From our political leaders?

Is this the spiraling, bottomless discourse we wish for ourselves, for our children and grandchildren and for their grandchildren?

It is easy — and necessary — to condemn the president's incendiary remarks. To complain that they are beneath the dignity of the president of the United States, or of any rational, civilized adult American. To remind him of his prediction, back on the campaign trail in 2015, that “I will be a great unifier for our country.”

How far he has fallen from that great aspiration, an aspiration likely as based in self-delusion as his claim Tuesday that “I don't have a racist bone in my body.”

Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?

Let's make clear some important points intrinsic to the issues raised in President Trump's tirades:

• People do not “hate their country” because they criticize its government. Trump himself is in office because he criticized his government, often with distortions and insults at least as vicious as anything of which he is complaining now.

• It is a pointless and un-American but all-too-familiar refrain to demand that anyone critical of the government should move somewhere else. The foundation of the American experiment is that people who want their government to be different should be free, indeed welcomed, to try to persuade their countrymen and women and make it so.

• The continuation of this kind of belligerence feeds on itself, emboldening others to misbehave similarly when they see misbehavior attracting support. This is a distressing message for adults; it is an absolutely dreadful example to set for our children.

• Solutions to problems do not come from attacking individuals but from focusing on actions.

• This kind of discourse weakens us as a people. It makes it harder, not easier, to operate a vigorous, constructive democracy.

The president's weekend tweets and follow-ups are, simply, unacceptable. They demand rejection and rebuke. But underlying the controversy are questions only we as individuals and as voters can resolve.

Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?

We must be better than this. Our president and our nation's leaders must be better, and we must expect better from them.

“How can we love our country,” Ronald Reagan asked, “and not love our countrymen?”

We call on political and social leaders of all stripes to love both. We call on everyone who would take to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, online commenting, the letters to editor column of the newspaper or any other platform for self expression to focus their passions on actions and not insults.

And, we call on his party, his supporters, voters everywhere and all Americans to demand that the president of the United States understands and exercises his obligation to strive to bring us together in a shared and collaborative vision, to reject the politics of division and instead to help us all to proudly be the people we want to be.

Surely, no objective for our democracy or our nation could be more consequential.

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