We both love America?
We would fight for our country. And we would fight to keep it the way we love it. And we would fight to make it the way we could love it more.
It is just that we love different Americas.
Even before the president was struck down by the coronavirus that has been stalking him for most of the year, I tried to figure out what underlies his solid support from a large segment of Americans.
That support has stood firm notwithstanding a series of presidential gaffes, revolving door staff and loss of respect from foreign allies and adversaries.
The New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Oct. 1, “The key events of the campaign have been moral events: Trump reportedly calling military veterans and the war dead suckers and losers; Trump downplaying a deadly pandemic to the American people; Trump failing to pay fair taxes; Trump sidling up to white supremacists, resorting to racist and QAnon dog whistles.”
How can the president keep the support of many Americans, notwithstanding Brooks’ description of the downsides of his campaign season?
Some of that support comes from people whose strong views on taxes and other economic issues overcome a distaste for the president’s mean-spiritedness and bumbling of government business.
Others with passionate views on issues such as abortion overlook his failures and crudeness because they believe he will work to end or at least restrict a woman’s choice.
Even more people line up with the president, not because they like or admire him, but because they think he will advance their positions on matters before the government.
But, I think the president’s core and unshakable strength is somewhere else.
It has to do with our different ideas about what kind of America we want our country to be.
Some of us want America to be open and tolerant, a country that welcomes the participation of people of all colors, backgrounds, sexual orientation and national origin. These people support the country’s diversity. This is the America they love.
Other Americans have a different idea.
They look back to the small-town America brought to life at my house every day when the Andy Griffith show runs repeatedly. The North Carolina town of Mayberry is a good and simple place where neighbors are almost always kind, fair, considerate and white.
Or a place like the Alabama small town where “To Kill a Mockingbird” was set. Blacks and whites lived together in harmony, each knowing their places.
Atticus and Scout were kind to their servants, but everybody knew their places.
In those places and others like them, white people were not ashamed of their race or status.
They did not have to give way to other kinds of people. It was their country, their America, a place worth fighting for.
Today, many Americans would fight for this kind of America. To keep it or to get it back.
What they want is a leader who understands their version of America. They want someone who will stand up for them and for their America. If that someone will fight for them, they will be loyal to him.
If he is their champion, they will overlook every flaw, every lie, every broken promise, every scam.
And they will fight for him until the end and afterwards. At the voting places and in the streets, if necessary.
You may not like the Proud Boys of “Stand back, and stand by.” But understand that they are ready to fight for their version of America.
They and others who love that version are not going to abandon their champion, whether he is right or wrong, sick or well, election winner or election loser.