Stop deifying our presidents

Americans should stop viewing our presidents as divine but as real people with real flaws


Zachary Navarra

Americans all too often treat their former presidents like gods.

The Founding Fathers, early presidents and major figures in American political history do not deserve deification of their memories. George Washington was not a man greater than life nor was any other U.S. president.

This is not to say they are not vitally important to American history nor that they did no good. However, they were just men, influential men, but at their roots they were not unlike any of us. They had their moments to be proud of but they were also very flawed individuals.

If Americans stopped deifying presidents, they may find that the left-right battle lines would start to break down. We may find that political tribalism will start to decline if we can accept our leaders’ flaws and recognize others’ triumphs.

It may have been said a thousand times before but it is important to bring up again that President George Washington, along with 12 other former United States presidents, owned slaves at one point in their life. Our Founding Fathers were deeply flawed men.

The former president’s accomplishments should still be taught and praised, but the men themselves should not be lionized. It is important that Washington is recognized for setting the precedent that presidents should only serve two terms as it became instrumental in ensuring the presidency would not become a monarchy under a different name.

Washington is just a man like everyone else, and he deserves to be looked at in his entirety. Every action he took should be viewed on its own merrit; setting up presidential norms does not take away the evils of owning slaves just as owning slaves does not take away the greatness of the presidential norms he set.

This thinking can and should be applied to all American presidents, especially the heroes of the major modern political parties. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is rightly recognized for his New Deal programs that helped millions of Americans. Democrats who favor him should also be able to call out how those programs were not accessible to non-white Americans or that he is responsible for Japanese internment camps.

If we apply this to modern presidents, we can potentially draw down the tensions we see in our everyday life. If Republicans were able to praise Biden for leaving Afghanistan, something Trump had wanted to do, the harsh rhetoric may slow down. If Democrats were able to praise Trump for correctly calling out the problems with globalization, common ground could be found.

I am not saying we have to ignore one side’s negatives or act as if we view each party as equal. However, if we can stop treating our leaders like supreme beings that we fall in line with, we might be able to find more common ground with each other.

Our leaders are just men. They are not gods.