All my adult life, I have imagined U.S. presidents—even the lousy ones—with a certain measure of dignity. Putting on a suit and tie while practicing speeches at the last minute. Negotiating complex economic agreements with global partners. Contemplating war and how to initiate or avoid it. Sitting alone in the Oval Office late at night hunched over stacks of memos and briefing statements, their aching shoulders weighed down by the gravity of the position.
Now all I see in our future is a Gollum-like Orange Troglodyte with irritable bowel syndrome squatting on a golden toilet late at night angrily tapping its tiny thumbs on a cell phone while it mutters curses at its growing list of enemies. Expressions of rage and glee alternate across its infantile, narcissistic face as it struggles to turn the spotlight of glowing admiration back on itself using just 140 characters.
It senses it’s already failing, slowly losing even the fawning, gullible audience that accidentally handed it the keys to Mordor via the Electoral College despite a popular vote that should’ve crowned Clinton the winner by more than 2 million votes, the largest margin in a presidential election in 140 years. It’s miserable about that news, but it’s also greedily licking its chubby lips even as it shits its fetid guts into the toilet and onto the screen.
Why? Because it’s got powerful frenemies—a swarthy yet frighteningly clever gang of hateful Urak Hai orcs to make sure The Precious stays in its thorny grasp.
This is a nightmare.
What has happened to my country?
To our country?
A lot of intelligent people think they know how we got here. So do a lot of fools.
I’ve read all the theories.
That we ignored the working man. That most whites are xenophobic racists and wanted to make the White House white again. That Clinton’s an evil hag who couldn’t punch her way out of a voting booth. That liberal coastal elites finally got their comeuppance from country bumpkins. That third-party candidates were spoilers. That America’s deepest fears were ridden to victory. That he’s a closet liberal working for the Democratic Party bosses. That educated people voted wisely while the uneducated put on blindfolds and played Pin the Tail on the Elephant, Any Elephant. That celebrity trumps substance in America. That his voters believe his promises. That Russian hackers tricked us with fake news. That Comey threw the election. That the Gray Men are secretly using Trump to drive us to WWIII so they can refill their coffers, and many more.
They all have some truth to them, but they also all seem incomplete, even in aggregate. The working man theory, for example, ignores the fact that since 1980 nearly half our factory workers have found new careers, and that a large of percentage of the men who still carry a lunch pail to work are Blacks and Hispanics who voted heavily for Clinton.
Personally, I’m tempted to believe that a lot of Americans voted for a non-politician who speaks fluent Mussolini because they blame the government for a host of their problems, however wrongly. Or that they got tired of Congress’ endless childlike bickering and slavish devotion to lobbyists who represent the rich, and decided to shake things up even if Trump is laughably unqualified for the presidency and is really just Richie Rich all grown up and turned mean. Or that Americans are just plain stupid—thick stumps who fear Lizard Rulers have secretly assumed human form to take over Earth, but believe Trump must be one of us because he didn’t whip his tongue out to snag the fat fly that landed on Clinton’s face in the second presidential debate.
Even my own analysis doesn’t ring true, however.
I honestly don’t know how to explain a president-elect who’s so dumb he’s considering appointing Mitt Romney Secretary of State. Romney recently called Trump a “fraud” and “phony,” a misogynist who degrades women, and a leader whose policies would trigger a recession, make America less safe, and foster an era of “trickle-down racism.” Doesn’t he suspect Romney might undermine him for political gain?
It boggles my mind even more that Trump is dimwitted enough to claim millions of people voted illegally in the election he won. I expected him to be a sore loser, but a sore winner? Maybe we ought to take him seriously and hold a second election immediately to make sure we got it right.
But what really troubles me is that this unprecedented political slide into stupidity and divisiveness is bigger than Trump. It isn’t unique to America, it’s global. It’s increasingly the defining characteristic of our age, the same evil zeitgeist that descended on pre-Holocaust Europe resurrected for the new millennia.
Governments everywhere seem to be in turmoil.
Ethnic, gender, and economic polarization are widespread and growing. The herd instinct is seizing our minds, and so is government and corporate interest in what we might or might not be doing in the privacy of our own homes.
Toleration is no longer seen as an ethical force, but deplored as weakness. Radical fundamentalism is on the rise. Christians hate Muslims, Shiites hate Sunnis, Neo-Nazis hate Jews, and Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins hate them all. Race relations have rarely been more tense, and nationalism, which is fancy talk for tribalism writ large, is being championed as the solution to our woes as if modern global economies and markets can still be neatly chopped into pieces and wrapped in butcher paper like so many old-world pork cutlets.
England, France, China, Russia, Greece, Austria, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, and more are all being swept with same nationalistic fervor that’s got its iron fist tightening around America’s neck. It’s strong even in Germany, which ought to know better than any country that nationalism and fascism like to skip hand-in-hand not-so-gaily down the bloody-brick road to imperialistic New Oz, where the city is made from the blackest obsidian and life rarely ends well for anybody under the Dark Wizard’s rule.
Time is running backwards, and so is logic.
Against the backdrop of this ugly milieu enters the triumphant Augustus Trump to a cacophony of off-key trumpets and wailing. He is now the most-powerful man in the hostile world’s most powerful country. It’s sobering to think that his twitchy finger will soon hover over the big red button that reads, “Nuk’em.”
Ignore the fact that he’s Pol Pot scary. Overlook the threats he and his band of not-so-Merry Men have made to squash the freedom of the press, which paradoxically, they dismiss as powerless dishonest liars. Never mind that they’re threatening to imprison their political opponents, or subject Muslims, Mexicans, and other ethnic groups to the sort of show-us-your-papers treatment normally reserved for criminals and people facing an ethnic cleansing.
Don’t consider that these one-percenters also have vowed to disband and privatize public education—the same system that broke down centuries of aristocratic schooling for the privileged and once shot America to the top of the world educationally. Or that they’re threatening to undo laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities, especially students. Or that they intend to defund and privatize another program that made us great, scientific research, specifically climate change. Or that they’ll cripple or eliminate the agencies that help keep our food and drugs safe, and our air breathable and water drinkable.
If these designer-label brown shirts get their way, sacred spaces in national parks and forests will be given back to the states and opened up to logging, ranching, and mining. Medicare and Social Security—which we fund with our paychecks—will be privatized or eliminated along with the Affordable Care Act to help pay off the national debt or, more likely, to fund the next big war. It’s estimated that would double health premiums for senior citizens and force tens of millions to once again live without adequate health insurance, our biggest cause of personal bankruptcy, while tens of millions more totter into old age with zero financial security.
Go ahead and welcome the brutal torture of prisoners of war, and don’t fret that just about anybody can be hauled to Gitmo without legal recourse these days. Kiss free speech goodbye, especially if you burn an American flag, which Trump wants make illegal despite the Constitution. Better salute it instead, because Trump advisor Newt Gingrich has apparently been possessed by the ghost of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and suggested reinstating the House Un-American Activities Committee to “investigate disloyalty and subversive organizations.” No matter that President Truman once called the committee the “most un-American thing in the country,” or that it was a monumental mess, failing to protect the country from the Communist scourge even as it needlessly ruined hundreds or thousands of lives.
No, strike that. I’m no sycophant. I’m not about to act like Trump and his henchmen are normal leaders, let alone give them a chance to prove themselves or wait for the system to press them into the safe middle ground of politics.
Make no mistake about the times we live in or what Trump represents. It isn’t unity, peace, progress, or even a return to the heady expansionist days of 18th-century capitalism that built empires. Not unless you want peace and progress Stalin-style, at the barrel of a firing squad.
Now that Trump is the world’s biggest bullhorn for xenophobia and neo-Manifest Destiny, he is well-positioned to become the world’s next major evil dictator. As his chief strategist Steve Bannon put it, “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
Coming from a wealthy man who frequently sounds dangerously anti-Semitic and xenophobic, those words are bone-chilling.
Fuck our democracy’s checks and balances. They didn’t stop FDR from tossing more than 130,000 Japanese, Italian, and German citizens into prison camps during World War II or labeling hundreds of thousands more as potential “enemy aliens,” something Trump and crew have repeatedly hinted they might reinstate for Muslims and other potential disloyals. Checks and balances haven’t prevented our leaders from repeatedly stepping on the civil rights of Blacks, American Indians, members of the LGBT community, or women, either. That’s despite the progress we’ve supposedly made since women won the right to vote in 1920, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the Americans With Disabilities Act was approved in 1990. I don’t trust checks and balances.
Look, maybe I’m wrong. At the very least, maybe I’m overreacting. History tells me we’re usually unable to recognize the beginnings of grand movements that will determine the fates of our lives.
Still, if I’m being honest with myself, Trump and his henchmen scare me, and I’m not easily scared because I’ve learned that doomsday predictions are wildly inaccurate and that things have a way of working themselves out, often for the better. But since the election, I find myself waking up every morning checking the news to see if history’s next Archduke Ferdinand moment has toppled us like wobbly dominoes into darkness.
If it does happen, I’ll probably get the news from one of the Orange Troglodyte’s early morning Tweets. In the meantime, I plan to oppose the president-elect, his cabinet picks, everything he represents, and nearly everything he wants to do. It’s the safest course of action.