(image courtesy via TOP)
Vast numbers of Americans have, at the most intimate level, suffered far more than I during these bastard-years: people who have been separated from parents or siblings or children or spouses or lovers by ICE agents and by capricious executive orders designed to lock down this country against immigrants. Individuals who have had online—and, more recently, in-person—goons unleashed against them by the president. Civil servants whose careers have been destroyed for speaking truth to power. Workers whose rights have been trampled. Members of the LGBTQ+ community who have had their legal protections undermined. Victims of hurricanes and forest fires who have seen federal emergency assistance turned into a political football. Pandemic victims ignored by a president who seemed to think he could make Covid-19 vanish simply by refusing to speak to the nation with urgency, compassion, or scientific understanding about this horrific disease.
These last years have been a collective stress test. How do we cope with unyielding irrationality and unrelenting cruelty doled out from on high? How do we navigate a landscape poisoned by Twitter trolls and mobs? How do we deal with the streams of undiluted venom, death threats, and other nonsense the Trumpists have showered on those with whom they disagree politically? How do we provide context for such a vertiginous slide from rationality and toward cultism?
At noon on January 20, Trump will become a private citizen again. Perhaps the viciousness of his presidency will fade and the sense of omnipresent chaos will dissipate. Perhaps, in the months and years ahead, America’s shredded moral fabric will be repaired. Perhaps social media really will continue to mute Trump, leaving him no choice but to crawl back under the rock from which he emerged. Perhaps the systems Trump tried so hard to break really will have the last laugh, outlasting a president and his inner circle who expressed nothing but contempt for the idea of rational, knowledge-based leadership.
Perhaps… but don’t expect any grace or decency or humility from Trump. In retirement, the ex-president will likely be at least as obnoxious as he has been in office. He will continue to love the sound of his own voice and will likely continue to rile up his mob. It will take a long time for us to heal from Trump’s dismal presidency. But his ignominious departure from Washington, following his drubbing at the hands of voters and the collapse of his attempt to orchestrate a judicial and then a mob-fomented coup, is at least a start.
Trump has already left town.
Update: After trying for 3 decades, Joe Biden is #46. For our democracy, “Rise”.
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