A week or more has passed since the inauguration – a busy one indeed for President Trump, who has attempted to reverse the previous administration’s policy on health care, the environment, trade, immigration, national security and housing.
It set me trying to remember the old Army saying about the different types of army officers: there are four characteristics – clever, stupid, hard-working, lazy. Every officer has two.
The clever and lazy you make Chief of Staff, because he will not try to do everybody else’s work, and will always have time to think. The clever and industrious you make his deputy. The stupid and lazy you put into a line battalion, and kick him into doing a job of work. The stupid and industrious you must get rid of at once, because he is a national danger.” (From Hansard in 1942, reporting a debate in the House of Lords.)
According to a site called “Quote Investigator”, it’s based on an article quoting a German general in a British magazine, the Army, Navy & Air Force Gazette from 1933. American General Henry Arnold quoted this in his WWII diary:
You can use the brilliant but lazy man as a strategist, a brilliant but energetic man as a Chief of Staff, but God help you with a dumb but energetic man.
In a war, I imagine the clever but lazy officers might be hanging out under the trees keeping their powder dry, not rushing into ill-conceived action. And in other walks of life this holds too – who wants a stupid but industrious dentist or doctor? First, do no harm.
There is no question that Trump is hardworking. He sleeps only a few hours a night and the rest of the time seems to be engaged in frenzied activity. What is he doing? Impoverishing Mexico – will this reduce illegal immigration, his stated aim? Planning to reopen coalmines – but technology has moved on, there are better, cleaner, easier ways to make electricity.
A week is a long time in politics. It feels already as if the inauguration has passed into history. We watched it mostly on silent, in the shared office where I write. But most of the people I met in Boston that day, at the office, in our block of flats, said they didn’t watch because they weren’t ready to admit that Trump was President. The air felt heavy as if there was a storm approaching. By evening, I had a stinking headache.
The next day, I managed to get down to the Common in the early afternoon. It was a beautiful day, bright sun pouring from a blue sky. The march was tremendous, a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. Crowds thronged the centre of Boston, multi-generational groups of women and men with handmade signs. “Concerned Scientist. Have FACTS when you need them,” said one, carried by someone who looked like Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory. Another was covered with anagrams of Donald Trump; “Portland Mud” was one and “Adult Porn MD” was another.
Everyone seemed to have complied with the City of Boston’s request not to wear backpacks or carry placards on sticks and I didn’t see a single policeman, although there were helicopters overhead. There were no stewards either, just announcements from the stage. Once they asked for a doctor, and then seconds later, thanks, that’s enough doctors.
There were women in wheelchairs, women with their granddaughters, men carrying huge papier mache puppets, a drum circle, people playing brass instruments. There was a two-hour queue to make the token march loop to and from the park. I didn’t wait but tens of thousands did. It felt great though, to be in such a supportive and positive crowd.
Since then several people have asked, but what will it achieve? What’s next? What do we do? There doesn’t seem to be much clarity from the Democratic Party. Many of their tribunes did not attend the inauguration, citing Russian undermining of the election result as justification – but it can’t be proved if that affected the result. The US media actually inflicted most of the damage, having snapped up the leaked material they were fed without asking too many questions about where it came from.
We attended one evening a disappointing meeting of the Massachusetts Democrats. A school hall was filled with hundreds of people, assembled to hear from Congressman Joe Kennedy. He is a tall, lantern-jawed, red-haired descendant of the dynasty who gave a speech about the importance of listening – but he himself didn’t have time to listen to anyone. The great man left after 20 minutes, handing over to a colleague who gave an appallingly dull presentation.. There was some anger in the hall. People, it seemed, wanted ideas, they wanted a plan, they wanted action.
Simply standing together in peaceful solidarity as we did on Saturday is a start. And perhaps the best thing now, for those who oppose Trump just now, might be to hang around under the trees and keep our powder dry.
Photo: Emily Scott via Boston Women’s March for America