A Failure of Moral Imagination in Trump's Inaugural

Qualities that the new president attributes to his fellow Americans are, in fact, universal.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

If you prick a foreigner does he not bleed?

I ask after watching President Donald Trump in his nationalist, collectivism-inflected First Inaugural address, where he offered this argument for national unity:

A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget -- that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.

President Trump’s moral imagination is too small.

So small that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that Syrian refugees bleed the same red blood that fills the veins of American patriots, that illegal immigrants about to cross the border with Mexico look up at the same night sky, that Chinese factory workers are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.

If shared blood, a shared environment, and a shared creator are sound reasons for lifting our sights and healing our divisions, then Trump’s inward-looking, zero sum approach to the world is all wrong. To justify the course that he intends, if the rest of his speech is to be believed, he must turn his back on the lofty rhetoric that he drew on.

I hope he expands his moral imagination instead.