“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
After arriving home for Spring Break just a short two weeks ago, my parents and I watched the movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” based on a true story of U.S. Army corporal, Desmond Doss, who saved 75 people in the battle of Okinawa. Each year my parents aspire to watch all the Oscar-nominated movies before the awards ceremony, and this was the final one on the list. Serendipity is a beautiful thing, as the movie climaxed in a scene that affirmed the relevance of Twain’s prescient quote — with particular pertinence to current political discord.
The left’s appetite for persistently disparaging and obstructing incendiary storytelling was no more revealed last week than when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign for an answer he provided during his confirmation hearing.
However, the objections to Sessions’s Russian contacts are completely unfounded. In his confirmation hearing, Sessions answered a limited question regarding whether or not the Trump campaign had any contact with Russian officials. While it has been revealed Sessions did meet with Russian officials, he did not perjure himself. Sessions met in his capacity as a senator, not on behalf of or as an agent of the Trump campaign. While this distinction seems quite clear, many high-ranking Democrats, Schumer included, have disregarded the context of the meeting and his answer. Schumer seemed to smell blood, posing the opportunity for an easy political attack that cared little about trying to fully understand the limited disclosure.
I was not surprised by Schumer’s unwillingness, or perhaps inability to understand the situation, recalling his response to Trump’s call for unity, immigration reform and infrastructure spending during his address to Congress: “(It) was one of the most anti-immigrant speeches that we heard any president ever give.” It might be said that Democratic leaders understand Sessions, but simply don’t care one way or the other if their resistance is purely calculated and political.
What is so troubling — and why I appreciated “Hacksaw Ridge” — is that Schumer, Pelosi and many others on the left remind me of Smitty (Luke Bracey), Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington.) They each were certain that Desmond Doss was a coward, but it just wasn’t so.
Desmond Doss was a young enlistee in the army who was ridiculed, beaten and nearly court-martialed for his conviction that he not use a firearm during the war. His values originated from his Seventh-day Adventist religious beliefs. Despite little doubt of his cowardice and liability by his fellow soldiers, history reveals that he was awarded the Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty during the battle of Okinawa. In one scene, Doss spends the night in a foxhole with Smitty, a squad mate who was the first to call him a coward.
Only after Doss shares the history behind his aversion to holding a weapon does Smitty apologize for doubting his courage, and the two make amends. Smitty dies that night but Doss rescues more than 70 injured soldiers including Sergeant Howell, who had been most abusive to him during basic training. Near the end of the movie, Captain Glover, who had been one of Doss’s staunchest critics, tells him that the men had been inspired by his miraculous efforts and that they refused to launch their next attack without him. Glover himself admits to Doss that he had never been so wrong about a person before, and asks for forgiveness.
Prior to acknowledging this, however, Glover and the entire squad had been very misguided. Their interpretation of Doss had been incorrect. The current political frenzy in which breaking stories — by virtue of their messenger and the messenger’s certainty — seem to become authentic, informative and fact-based may also prove misguided! Seeing in “Hacksaw Ridge” the destructiveness of an “it’s what you know that just ain’t so” attitude illuminates the perilous consequence of the left’s narrow optics and unwillingness to seek first to understand Trump and his surrogates.
Twain’s quote references the basis for the nonfictional prejudice, bias and arrogance expressed by Doss’s squad mates in “Hacksaw Ridge.” This same bias, partisanship and arrogance fuels persistent intimation by the left that Trump himself, or his surrogates, colluded with the Russians to influence the results of the presidential election. Calls for a special prosecutor rest solely on the presumption that there is evidence out there and that it’ll take a neutral, nonpartisan party to reveal it. However, not a single fact has been provided by the left to support its claims.
Of course, it’s hard to prove a negative, and as a result, the stories will continue as long as an appetite to destroy Trump’s agenda continues. Trump, in fact, has been extremely consistent in delivering exactly what he promised. There has been no bait-and-switch. The man will not change — even to a fault. He has built a team of experts on his cabinet that will mitigate his weaknesses.
Trump’s call for unity during his recent address to Congress invites folks such as Schumer and Pelosi to become part of the team. He understands that a strong team requires maximizing the benefit of different perspectives. Yet, blinding bias seems to restrict their capacity to lay aside differences and engage in fruitful dialogue.
Reciprocity, in this case, requires that naysayers give something — that they participate. They appear only to want to take by persistently aiming to discredit, destroy and delegitimize. Schumer’s call for a Sessions resignation and Pelosi’s call for a Trump impeachment are akin to Captain Glover’s call for a Doss court martial. This rush to judgment is scandalous in its own right. It is force-feeding a narrative derived from a fear of change, at the very least. Peggy Noonan, in a recent article titled “Washington Still Reels From the Quake of 2016” recommends: “The ground beneath Washington’s feet shifted. People here need to get over their shock and start recognizing the new lay of the land.”
I submit that the numerous stories that abound in the current political reality are just that: stories. And in response, alternative stories emerge. Ultimately, none are necessarily right or wrong, but, when discussed together, the sum results in a dialogue, and perhaps — at the end of this process — a modicum of mutual understanding develops. Of course, allowing this dialogue to occur may deprive Schumer and his colleagues an opportunity for more stinging sound bites, but we all might be more informed by the process, without a rush to judgment.
As I think about it, both Schumer and Pelosi might consider becoming more relevant by jumping into the foxhole with President Trump.
Nicholas Tomaino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.