Just Five years ago, most Americans proudly proclaimed “That will never happen here.” Then it did.
Exactly what “That” is could be any number of heinous, rather remarkable assaults on our once firm belief in our inherent goodness, our faith in our policies and practices, our certainty that we were and would always remain the envy of all other nations. We trusted in our institutions, in their legitimacy and functions and embraced our power to influence the balance during an election and- even when the results didn’t favor our world views- respected the results.
Who we were as a country is not who we are today.
The United States of America has endured five years of a twisting and eroding of our stoic nature, subjected to the absurdity, crassness and comic book villainy of an administration that rose to power and immediately began systemically whittling away at the very basic fundamentals of our morality and conscience.
Perhaps early on we would react with shock, horror or disgust at the American President and his cohorts who perverted our political terrain with blatant corruption, wild conspiracy theories and a parade of non-stop lies deliberately intended to stoke division among the citizens of this country like we haven’t seen since the civil war. Running a campaign that never stopped long enough for Donald Trump to actually be President, he has leveraged his time on the world stage to make a mockery of Americans and eagerly destroy our foundations of faith; Faith in our leadership, faith in our elections and more profoundly our faith in one another.
Five years into the Donald Trump reality show that has garnered the worst kind of attention, we have grown accustomed to the side show we’re in. Maybe some forgot about his mocking of disabled people or the 26 sexual assault and rape accusations. It could be that the fact that seven of his campaign advisors went to prison just fell off our radar. After all, there were a few distractions along the way- so many that most people don’t remember things like the President insulting the Prime Minister of Greenland for her audacity to refuse his offer to buy her country. Or, using a magic marker to predict the trajectory of a hurricane. Or, threatening to withhold Federal assistance from Puerto Rico after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria- and then Hurricane Dorian- and then an Earthquake. Then there was the time he proclaimed himself “The Chosen One” before suggesting people might inject cleaning fluid or “Light” into their bodies to avoid catching COVID-19, a virus he claimed was a hoax perpetrated by his detractors and has since killed more than 210,000 Americans.
And how can we forget, but a few may have, when he launched an attack 14 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter- a child who simply called upon him to join other world leaders to consider the future she will inhabit. Many of his followers took his lead, making filthy memes and spamming her with threats and insults. This was after he claimed that white supremacists at a Rally where a woman was killed in Charlottesville were “Very fine people.”
Hm. Was that before or after his heavily publicized visit with notorious North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, with whom he claims he receives love letters from. Certainly, before, wasn’t it? Or somewhere between his statement that he “Would punish” woman who have abortions and claiming the wildfires that burned 6 million acres in California were the fault of the state itself, and not changing climate patterns, in utter denial of science. In that instance, he wanted to withhold aide to the victims because California did not align itself with his political goals.
Somewhere in there, he tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military, greenlit an massive oil pipeline to run through indigenous territory, redacted dozens of Obama-era regulations that now threaten protected marine and wildlife, made fun of black journalists and chastised NFL players for peacefully protesting against police violence… founded the Space Force to territorialize outer space, hired an Obama Look-a-like and invited him to the White House to ritualistically scream at him, tear-gassed protestors and battered them out of his way for a photo op with the Holy Bible, instructed his followers to attack Democrat governors trying to curb the spread of a pandemic by encouraging them to “Liberate” their states, attempted to legitimize the terror threat Q-Anon because “They like me very much” and received an endorsement from the KKK and the Taliban, called fallen war heroes “Suckers” and “Losers” and his team argued in the Supreme Court to remove civil rights from LGBTQ Americans after stripping them of healthcare equality in favor of religious freedom…
Take a breath.
There’s more. More you’ve likely forgotten- more I’ve probably forgotten too because it has been an unyielding, exhausting onslaught of insanity for five long years. And it’s only going to get worse.
And we’ve allowed it to get here. We have, as a people, enabled the intensifying atrocities that roll out of the Trump camp daily because we have gotten lost in the deluge. It’s like having 1000 dodgeballs hurled at you at once in junior high school. There are too many to dodge, it’s impossible to tell from which direction each one is coming and how hard it will hit. Our panic is so palpable that we are now blind to the one hurling them our direction. We have accepted the impacts and the stinging marks they leave on our conscience. Powerless to stop it as he targets the very institution of democracy that would allow us to- our election- we fall to our knees and just cover our face. The impacts aren’t as shocking anymore. Each blow to everything we thought we knew isn’t so rattling to our sensibilities- now we expect it.
We can no longer be surprised.
That has been Trump’s greatest achievement as President of the United States. The pummeling of our senses and our very nature has been so relentless that we no longer react. The more chaotic he has gotten, his followers have gotten even worse, assuming the role of a legion of attack dogs that he has meticulously trained utilizing fear tactics; Fear of poor people or minorities moving into their neighborhoods; Fear of a Democrat taking away their guns. Fear of having to accept that others are equal and the gaze through which they prefer to see the world will be stolen. They are terrified of losing their perceived supremacy- possibly they believe they already have and now they want revenge- they want reparations and Trump is the one they believe will provide it. Indeed, he has postured himself as that, for them, appealing to their prejudices, speaking their language. If we’ve learned one indisputable fact over the last five years, it is that people who support Donald Trump, with everything we know, are more like the “Very fine People” Trump himself would approve of, but the rest of us, those of us who’ve managed to hang on to a thread of sanity in an ever-maddening country he’s shaped for us, would loathe. Trump himself manufactured that dynamic. Us and Them. Them vs. Us. He warns them about us regularly to keep them mobilized, angry and poised to protect him and his power.
Some of us feel now like we’re watching from the sidelines rather than in the trenches of a war being waged for the soul of our country. We feel more like an observer than a participant because this show isn’t for us, in spite of how devastating the effect on our lives as been. The Trump show is exclusively for Trump fans. You know them. The red-hat wearing flagellants who attend rallies like they’re rock concerts, bearing T-Shirts emblazoned with Trump’s name who’ve turned their homes into shrines to him. He doesn’t care if you or I are outraged- he says things he knows that his base will love, and nothing intoxicates him more than hearing them chant his name in unison with enthusiastic approval and unfettered loyalty. He is their President. He never wanted to be ours.
But it is from the bleachers of this perilous shit-show wherein every Act has been more diabolical than the last, that we have forgotten how to feel anything more than sadness and shame, embarrassment even, but not the true horror we should be- the kind that mobilizes un into fervent action in the same way one might if they hear a burglar downstairs at 3am rummaging through their silver. That swelling of dread and the thumping of our heart as we’re left in a state of disbelief that this could happen to us in the very moment it is, in fact, happening to us. That sense of urgency to do something to safeguard oneself against a mounting threat that has made itself known…
We don’t do that. Instead we ask with a disaffected curiosity questions like “What will happen if Trump refuses to concede the election.” We ask things like this as if he can; As if it’s an option for him and not a crime because we’ve witnessed him escape, unscathed, over and over again. We, as a nation, have enabled a con artist robbing us blind into thinking he doesn’t have to leave our house if he doesn’t want to... and perhaps that’s because we’re so numb- so conditioned now- to this new reality and the callousness of Donald Trump that we simply don’t expect him to.
And we wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t. That’s the saddest part of all.