Musings

The Loss of Our Dignity

September 20, 2017

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been rereading and revising essays, deciding which ones I wanted to include in the collection. As I mentioned last week, it’s now available on Amazon, for Kindle. It was interesting to go back over ten years of material, seeing what I thought about political, societal, and personal matters when I was in different living and working situations.

I don’t think my politics have changed much in the past decade. I’m still liberal on most issues, though I still have plenty of beefs with the Democratic party. I certainly tore into former President Obama here on the site over the years, though not nearly as much as I did the Republicans for various reasons. I haven’t spoken out about Donald Trump here on the site recently, for two reasons. The first is that a couple of years ago, I determined that I wasn’t going to be doing the weekly blogs anymore, for the simple fact that I wasn’t being paid for them. The effort no longer seemed worth it, and I felt like my creative energies were better spent being focused elsewhere. The other reason I haven’t bad-mouth Trump is that he’s too easy of a target. The man’s flaws are self-evident, and my pointing them out wouldn’t have made any difference. Today, however, I thought I’d break my silence. Why not? It’s not likely to make any difference in my personal life, nor is it going to get the Orange-in-Chief ushered out the door any faster, but it will allow me to blow off some steam.

Trump has been president now for about eight months. He’s weathered numerous mini-scandals while in office, but I thought some of the ones he faced before he was even elected would be enough to swamp his campaign, and it never happened. The whole “grab them by the pussy” business, a couple of decades ago, seems like it would have been enough to derail him, but it didn’t happen. Likewise, his handling of the woman’s death in Charlottesville recently, where she was run down by a white supremacist, seems like it might have been sufficient to get him impeached. It didn’t happen, nor have any of the allegations so far about his campaign colluding with Russia during the election. I suppose it’s still possible that a smoking gun could be discovered so dramatic that it can no longer be ignored, even by the G.O.P., but if you want my opinion, I think we’re probably stuck with this guy till at least 2020.

The argument has been made that Trump being elected was a market correction for eight years of an Obama presidency, and maybe that’s true. It has also been suggested that this correction is at least partially due to racial motives. Maybe the people who supported Trump did so because they believed in what this conman was saying. They believed he’d build a wall on the Mexican border, they believed he’d save jobs in the coal industry…but I sincerely believe that some of them voted for him because regardless of what he said or did, they would have voted for any white male, just because they felt it would be going back to the status quo. They surely weren’t going to vote for Hillary. Sexism is just as much alive as is racism, in this country.

My problems with Trump run deeper the more I learn about the man, and I knew plenty about him already. I never watched The Apprentice, but I’ve sure watched professional wrestling over the years, and I know all about Trump’s association with Vince McMahon and the W.W.E. I knew Trump to be a bloviating blowhard, a puffed-up caricature of what he envisioned a New York billionaire should be. He always made much of his success, but his track record in business stated otherwise. I recall going to Atlantic City and seeing his casino abandoned, a rotting eyesore jutting out from the shoreline, letters hanging off the façade. It looked like a set piece from The Walking Dead. I was just as surprised as all the pundits when his candidacy did as well as it did, but, like the rest of them, I never believed he could actually be elected. It was inconceivable…and then it happened.

The people who voted for Trump wanted someone who “wasn’t a politician,” and that’s what they got. They got a man who had no previous political experience at all, had never held an elected office at any level. They got a reality T.V. star, and they got a presidency unlike anything ever before seen. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, watching this guy, and we’re only eight months in. Yesterday, Trump addressed the United Nations for the first time. Maybe, with his ego, he expected it to be like one of his victory rallies in Bum-Fuck, Idaho, with people cheering his greatest hits, “Lock her up!” “Build the wall!” He started riffing on Kim Jong Un, calling him by the pet name he’d devised, “Rocket Man.” There was no laughter, and there was no applause. The delegates of dozens of countries had never seen anything like this guy in the flesh. I think most of them were shocked, appalled. They’d heard and seen how much of an ass the American president was, but it was something else to see it in person. Here was what America had become; this is what we elected.

That’s what I think bothers me the most about this guy. Yes, his policies are awful, just as much they are arbitrary. What would it actually accomplish to ban transsexual service members from the armed forces? What would it actually accomplish, building that wall on the Mexican border? How can these be anyone’s priorities? But, while all of that is cause for alarm, I think it hurts me the most when I see how much shame and embarrassment it brings to this nation that this guy represents us on the world stage. Say what you want about Obama, or Clinton, or even George Bush, either version. At least they were all politicians; they sounded somewhat presidential, although W’s mangling of the English language was a trial. He at least attempted to retain some measure of dignity; Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word. He feuds with celebrities on Twitter, he mocks disabled people, he shouts down any dissention, determined to have the last word, like a petulant toddler. His supporters don’t care. This is what they wanted…it’s the Mean Girl presidency.

As I said, I believe we’re stuck with Trump till 2020. How much damage he’s going to do in the meantime is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he’ll actually antagonize North Korea to the point that they back up some of the rhetoric they’ve been spitting at us for decades. But one thing is undeniable: America is a laughingstock right now. There were times in the past when I found it hard to be an American, because I disagreed so vehemently with governmental policy. It’s never been anything like this before. This is an unprecedented time in American and world history, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. We’re living in the era where the president goes on unhinged Twitter sprees in the middle of the night, and continues denying climate change while Houston and parts of Florida are underwater. Perhaps this is what we deserved, as a nation; we deserved to learn some humility. One can only hope that the Democrats can come up with somebody in 2020 who can play by the rules of the new political gamesmanship of this modern era, which is to say, no rules at all. In the wild west of a Trump presidency, there is no over the top. There is no lowest common denominator. No matter how tasteless, no matter how repellent a thought or action, it could be coming our way at any moment. This guy is capable of anything. Hold onto your hats with one hand, America…and hold your nose with the other.

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