But this year I had a ready rejoinder. Thanks to Trump (or so he informs us), “everybody is saying Merry Christmas again” — even a non-Christian like me. So I replied to each abusive impeachment email I received over the past two weeks with two words: Merry Christmas.
The replies show that, in the Trump era, even gestures of peace and goodwill have become sources of bitterness and insult.
“May this Christmas be your last,” a fellow named Ron from Missouri replied. He had previously called me a “partisan hack,” dispatched me to my “favorite queer bar” and offered to give my “sorry ass a good kicking.”
“You people do not know Merry Christmas,” replied Dennis, who had earlier informed me that “God sees your hate” and those of my Post colleagues.
“You liberals ruined Christmas,” responded somebody named Wyatt, who had previously said he has no pity for my fraudulence and wrote: “May the fleas is [sic] a thousand camels descend on your sorry ass.”
Only a couple of them apologized after receiving the “Merry Christmas” wishes. Explained one, James: “The current political climate has me frazzled.”
How could he not be, listening to Trump? Even since the president’s mockery last week of a late congressman and his widow, Trump’s Twitter stream has poured venom: “crooked,” “corrupt,” “dirty,” “CRAZY EXTREME,” “phony,” “fake,” “spied,” “disgrace,” “sham,” “contorted,” “charade,” “shameful, “unethical,” “horrendous,” “witch hunt,” “hoax,” “socialist/communist.”
At a speech Saturday night, Trump imagined political violence, saying “we have the toughest people,” but “hopefully” it won’t come to that. He continued the invective: “whack job,” “crazed lunatic,” “vicious,” “oppressive,” “raging left-wing mob,” “deep state,” “sabotage,” “dumbest human beings.”
“We have reason to be angry, folks,” he said.
And, while stoking rage in his supporters, he celebrated his opponents suffering such “derangement” that “people actually go see psychiatrists.”
The evangelical magazine Christianity Today referred to similar behavior in calling for Trump’s removal. In addition to his “profoundly immoral” attempt to “use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents,” the editorial said: “His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
With a president who exults in violence, name-calling and human misery, how could we not be at each other’s throats? As I type these words, a new tweet shared by Trump celebrates a CNN host being “destroyed.”
I find myself getting sucked into the name-calling, identifying Lindsey Graham as a “lickspittle” and calling a Rudy Giuliani-run foreign policy a “quid pro schmoe.” My columns routinely contain Trump-uttered obscenities that never would have been allowed in print before him.
There has always been anger in politics. A decade ago, I observed that the left was more “vitriolic.” But Trump has dispensed with what John Dingell — the late lawmaker Trump attacked last week — called “modicums of respect.” How can we get beyond this mess?
I put the question last month to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s fiercest defenders during impeachment. “I think we can get beyond it,” he told me. That was hopeful: Though a fierce ideologue, he is well-liked across the aisle. He struck up an unlikely friendship with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and ended a dispute with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) with a hug.
For five weeks, Meadows declined my entreaties to explain his hopefulness. Now he’s retiring from Congress, reportedly to work for Trump and perhaps become Trump’s next chief of staff. Maybe he can restore a modicum of respect in the post-impeachment White House.
I’m not optimistic. But one can always hope for a Christmas miracle.