ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION: FROM ‘HUMBLEBRAGGER’ TO HUMBLE

By December 1, 2020Humility, Philosophy

Donald Trump’s arrogance will leave the United States sick, nearly to death. There is reason for hope, though, that incoming President Biden’s humility will be a healing antidote. Consider the result addition by subtraction: replacing Trump’s humblebrag style with Biden’s refreshingly humble style.

Joe Biden’s first speech after the presidential election reintroduced Americans to what New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni called radical humility. His comments “elevated the first-person plural over the first-person singular,” Bruni observed, “which was singularly transcendent under Donald Trump.”

Trump’s goal is to infect his followers through toxic self-aggrandizement. He recently tweeted a reminder to everyone that the prospective Covid-19 vaccines were developed under his leadership. In stark contrast to Trump’s notorious credit-grabbing, Biden’s response was straightforward and humble. He thanked the “brilliant men and women who helped produce the breakthrough.”

The president-elect’s poignant victory video superbly contrasts the philosophies of the outgoing and incoming presidencies. Over a rendition of “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles, the 2-minute masterpiece humbly features the resplendent diversity of America’s people and landscapes.

Literally every day for the past four years, we’ve read or heard Trump’s childlike bragging and breathtaking self-admiration. In his own words: “I think I am actually humble. I think I am much more humble than you would understand.” (Trump also said: “No one respects women more than me.” And “No one reads the Bible more than me.”) He is a “self-possessed despot,” Bruni wrote.

By contrast, Biden, 78, is confidently mature and genuinely self-effacing. He considers himself not so much the Democratic party’s future as a “transitional figure.” His “New Humility” speaks of governing, not ruling; and not of his victory, but of a “victory for we, the people.”

Joe Biden represents the polar opposite of the trumpeter-in-chief: “I’m humbled by the trust and confidence you’ve place in me,” he said. Encouraging words for a sick and (at least half of a sorely) divided country. “Humbled. Trust. This new presidency will force us to dust off an old vocabulary,” Bruni observed.

Perhaps President Biden’s most demonstrative remedy to four years of Trump’s bragging and lying will be showing us that “You are what you do, not what you say.” What could be better — and humbler — than that?

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