“The state of the union is strong because the American people are strong.” That’s the message—delivered by President Donald J. Trump tonight before a packed House (literally)—that Maxine Waters et al felt impressed to boycott. “Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar,” she said in an interview on MSNBC. “What does he have to say that I would be interested in?”
Why was the speech worth your time, Congresswoman Waters? Because it was a speech about the American identity and our revolutionary idea of self-government. What of interest for you did it hold? Some powerful moments honoring the greatest (and humblest) Americans among us. A young boy who organized a project to place American flags on 40,000 veterans’ graves. The opportunity to share the grief of Otto Warmbier’s parents. The deeply moving sight of a North Korean defector holding aloft the crutches that symbolize his yearning for freedom, a quintessentially American ideal if ever there was one.
None of that requires a lie detector test. It isn’t even political. It’s just American, and that’s why you should have been there. Because we’re all in this together whether we like each other or not, and we had all better be more grateful for the privilege of being Americans than we are disdainful of each other’s way of living out that privilege.
I feel the same way about Ted Cruz refusing to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2014. Even if you think your president is the scum of the earth—and Obama was detested by some of us just as much as Maxine Waters detests President Trump—America is a country of duly elected leaders. The State of the Union address is a function of our orderly system of representative government. Get over yourself and go. If you don’t want to go for your president, his honesty, or his character, go because you’re lucky enough to be an American who has an invitation.