American flag

We live in Donald Trump’s America.

He makes that clear, every day and every night. When someone questions him or challenges something he’s said, he often responds by saying, “I’m the president and you’re not.”

Yes, he is the president.

The office gives him immense power and authority. He enhances those inherent assets of the office by exerting an almost supernatural ability to command the country’s attention and shape the national discussion.

But his office and his incredible communication skills also carry with them an awesome responsibility – a responsibility he has refused to accept.

As president, he sets the tone for our country.

When he appeals to anger, rage across the land is the result.

When he exploits the fault lines and divisions in the citizenry for political gain, we snarl at each other.

When he resorts to hateful rhetoric, violence almost inevitably will result.

Because Donald Trump is the president.

We live in his America.

President Trump may try to shift responsibility for the rage that flows across our land, but he’s not likely to succeed.

We know who summons the darker furies that lurk amongst us when he speaks at his rallies. We know who encourages his followers to assault and beat up reporters and political opponents. We have heard him suggest that a political opponent be shot and boast that his own followers would support him even if he murdered someone. We have seen him smile and even cackle when his enraged supporters chant, “Lock her up!” about a defeated political opponent.

He bears moral responsibility for much of this ugliness, for letting all this violence off the leash and allowing it to roam through our streets and countryside.

Because Donald Trump is president.

We live in his America.

The president doesn’t see it that way. He wants to argue that two former presidents and their spouses, a former vice president, a former attorney general, a couple of members of Congress, a news network, a billionaire philanthropist and an actor deserved to have pipe bombs mailed to them because they dared to criticize or question him.

He wants to equate the uncivil and unseemly acts of harassing his staffers and allies in restaurants with acts of violence, real or threatened. That’s like saying jaywalking and manslaughter are the same thing.

Both are wrong, but one merits a ticket and a fine, the other a prolonged prison sentence.

That the president of the United States seems unable or unwilling to see or acknowledge responsibility for his actions is the stuff of tragedy.

But this should be a source of sorrow for us, a reason for regret, rather than a rationale for rage.

There is something broken in the man in the Oval Office.

Perhaps his wealth always has insulated him from consequence. Perhaps something in his upbringing led him to believe that responsibilities, duties and obligations were things to be evaded or denied, rather than accepted or even embraced. Perhaps something else along the way twisted him.

He seems to think possessions and achievements define a person.

He seems to see his office as a perk, another way to tell him that he’s doing all right.

He does not seem to grasp that our willingness to honor our commitments and to shoulder shared burdens reveals far more about our character than our net worth does. He doesn’t seem to understand that the oath of office he took binds him to be president of all the people of this country, not just those who voted for him or that he likes or who agree with him. He won’t accept the fact he has a duty – a responsibility – to those Americans who criticize him, who question him, who even despise him.

Because he doesn’t grasp this fundamental truth, we live in a land where our leader encourages his followers to beat up people for asking questions.

And where we try to settle political disagreements by sending each other bombs in the mail.

President Trump wants to blame everyone but himself for this tidal wave of ugliness, but he can’t escape his culpability.

His flaws, his insecurities, the fissures in his makeup now are America’s flaws, insecurities and fissures.

Because Donald Trump is president.

And we live in his America.

John Krull is director of the Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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