Monday, November 14, 2016

Donald Trump in the White House: The New Abnormal

I belong to that very large group of people who, on the morning of November 9th, woke up stunned, angry, sad and profoundly embarrassed at the thought that Donald Trump will be the President of the United States for the next four years.  The realization that this man, this “leader of the free world”, will now wield a great deal of power in ways which I (and many others) find abhorrent - to order mass deportations, to repeal of the Affordable Care Act (without any replacement), to withdraw from treaties such as the Paris Climate Agreement and NATO, to repeal TPP and the Iran nuclear deal (these are but a few examples on a very long list), is a terrifying thought.

A friend suggested that this is probably how a great many Americans who were against having a black man be President, felt when Barack Obama was elected.  No, it’s not.  It would be if we had an entire race of people called Trumpites whose main distinguishing features were ridiculous hair and short fingers.  Then I would agree. Then, I would freely admit that I am a racist because I would be angry at the thought of any Trumpite becoming President.  It would be a blanket hatred, based solely on physical attributes, nothing else.

No, my anger is specific to this particular person.  I was not swayed by the “biased media”.  I don’t feel the way I do because someone else said or wrote that this man is unsuited for the job.  I’m angry because of what Donald Trump himself said, of what he did up till now, and what he is yet to do.  I do not blame anyone else for my dislike and distrust of Trump.  I own it.

Intelligence and wisdom facilitate comprehension, understanding, and empathy.  In the past year and a half, I have seen no evidence that Donald Trump has the capacity for such intelligence.  There are two schools of thought regarding Trump - one says that he is all those things he has said and shown himself to be -a racist, a misogynist, a bigot and much more.  In short, a dumbass who doesn’t read any books (except perhaps his own), who gets his information from the Internet, who has no interest in social issues of any kind, who does not care for anyone other than himself.  The other claims that yes,Trump has misbehaved in the past, but now he is older and wiser .  Now, he knows better.  As proof, they offer the argument that only he was smart enough to see the anger among working class Americans, to see that it was massive and widespread and that if he harnessed that discontent, it would propel him straight to the White House.  

Fair enough.  This is exactly what happened.   He tapped the resentment Americans felt at jobs lost, at a government which wasn't listening to its people, at the unfairness of income inequality, at the inability of the working class to get ahead so they can make a better life for themselves and their children.  But he also made a conscious choice to go much, much further.  Using poisonous rhetoric, spiteful derision, mockery, and lies, he appealed to the basest of human instincts adding unnecessary fuel to an already existing fire, fuel purposely designed to bring racism, bigotry, and a blanket hatred of anyone “other” back to being admissible in our vocabulary and in our behavior.  The new “abnormal”.

For years, for decades, we worked to stamp out destructive attitudes and prejudices in the hope that eventually, one day, they would be bred entirely out of existence.  We were trying to get there.  Slowly, very slowly, but we seemed to be on our way.  When that hateful monster did, periodically, rear its ugly head, we showed disdain and disgust, at least publicly.  The backlash, if nothing else, maintained appearances, a crucial first step to recovery.  Apologies made were often called nothing more than political correctness, but if that political correctness was deemed acceptable, it was because of our belief that, at least, we were making some sort of an effort to be better.  Baby steps yes, but given time, we would surely improve.

Now, all that could be gone.  Trump has opened Pandora’s box, letting racism, bigotry, misogyny, and hatred out, to be professed and practiced in the open and unapologetically.  The genie is out of the bottle and whichever school of thought you subscribe to, either way, the conclusion is the same.  If Trump is a bigot, racist, misogynist, and dumbass, who didn’t bother (or was not intellectually capable enough) to think about the consequences of his actions, then clearly he is too ignorant to be President.  If he is now older and wiser and no longer a bigot, misogynist, and racist, who only said all those vile things to win the election, then he is, at the very least, a liar who conned and deceived millions of people and used their anger and pain for his own personal gain.  Again, unfit to be President.

Whom did we elect?  Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?  The guy tweeted said that “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting.  Very unfair!” or the guy who, the next morning reversed himself with “love the fact that small groups of protesters have passion for our great country."  Who the hell is he?  We have no idea who will occupy the White House for the next four years.  None at all.  We know little of his policies (since he constantly contradicts himself), nothing about his beliefs, nothing about his business interests and the potential conflicts these business interests may produce.  If he is faced with a choice of doing what is right for America at the risk of losing some of his investments overseas, which way will he decide?  This is a man whose idea of a Chinese wall is to have his family run his business!  What do you think he will do?  What does a self-absorbed egotist whose social conscience is non-existent, inevitably do in situations where it’s them or me?  This will happen and when it does, he will break the law, he will use his Trumpland reality to justify his actions and will sell this country out.

And lastly, what of the rest of the world?  What of their future?  If we don’t care, then we should.  Whether we like it or not, what happens beyond our borders matters just as much as what will transpire here at home.  The Russian interference in our election process, the contacts between the Trump campaign and highly placed members of the Russian government are not coincidental, nor are they without consequence.  Donald Trump wants to “make America great again”.  Terrific, but  Vladimir Putin wants the same thing, except substitute the word “America” for “Russia”.  This planet is a finite place and if we don’t destroy it in the not so distant future by denying climate change, sooner, rather than later, these two competing powers will clash.  And then what?  Agree to disagree?  With Trump’s and Putin’s egos, not likely!

On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, the Electoral College will vote to officially elect the next President of the United States.  They are the ones who ultimately decide.  Will the popular vote prevail?  Likely not.  Should it?  Yes, for America and for the sake of the whole world, it should.

A. J. Aston

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