Thursday, May 28, 2020

I wish today's kids had him

In 1994, when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, my oldest friend's son was in Kindergarten, going to school half days. Because the bombing destroyed a daycare center, she tried to limit his exposure to news coverage. She didn't want him to be scared to return to school.

While she was in the kitchen preparing dinner, she heard Bill Clinton's voice coming from the TV. She went into the living room and saw her little boy, transfixed. He'd been channel surfing and landed on Bill. My friend made a quick decision in the moment. She let the press appearance play out, because she was afraid if she raced over and changed the channel, she'd just be adding drama and import to a moment he may not even understand.

Bill Clinton began:*

The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it. And I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards.

He went on to say:

Let there be no room for doubt, we will find the people who did this. When we do, justice will be swift, certain and severe. These people are killers and they must be treated like killers.

He closed with: 

Finally, let me say that I ask all Americans tonight to pray; to pray for the people who have lost their lives, to pray for the families and the friends of the dead and the wounded, to pray for the people of Oklahoma City. 

Bill was followed to the podium by Attorney General Janet Reno. My friend's son was completely uninterested in her and popped to his feet, moving from the TV and heading for something else to do.

"Wait a minute," my friend said to her little boy. "Do you want to talk about this?"

"He's mad and he's gonna catch the guys, and we're supposed to pray."  

When Bill Clinton addressed the nation, he did it in a way that spoke to us all. He sounded sincere, and even a little boy understood and was comforted.

Children know who the President is and what he is supposed to represent. I wish that today's kids had a President who could speak this naturally and compassionately about the pandemic that has interrupted their lives. They can't go to school, they can't play sports or go to dance class, they can't visit their grandparents. They likely know someone who has battled the corona virus, and perhaps even died. 

It would be nice if they could see a President explaining, in simple terms, that hand-washing and masks will help keep us all safe. That he has the nation's best doctors working on this. That we should pray for those who are sick.

Instead, Donald Trump's twitter feed is filled with political grievances against Jim Comey, Barack Obama and Twitter itself. Yesterday, when the nation reached the sobering benchmark of 100,000 Americans dead of the virus, he didn't address the country. He let someone read a statement.

How sad and disappointing (though not surprising). 
Bill Clinton is a far from perfect man. I know, believe me, I know. But he was a good President for his times. I miss having a good President.

*The Clinton quotes are verbatin from C-Span.