A change of seasons

Winter is coming.

Those ominous words, for fans of Game of Thrones, require no explanation. But even for the non-fan, the meaning should be clear: be alert, be vigilant, be aware that dangerous times lie ahead.

I thought of this Friday when, for the first time I actually considered—not out of fear but out of rational thought—that Donald Trump could become president, that the latest email flap would be the one that pushed him over the top.

Winter may indeed be coming.

In may ways, though, America’s winter may have begun already; and like many changes of season, it occurred so gradually that we didn’t notice it. The nation’s winter will not be marked by snow or wind or cold, but instead by our diminished status in the world of nations.

There has always been a degree of snobbery in being an American. Sometimes we call it pride, and often it has been justifiable because we were “the land of the free and the home of the brave” (as if other countries were composed of shackled cowards). But there was a greatness here too—a kind of start-from-scratch democracy born of a people’s revolution that was pretty much unprecedented. And though there were setbacks along the way, we always seemed to be moving forward—to make a show, at least, of being better. The Civil Rights Act, the recent legalizing of gay marriage, our tradition of coming to others’ aid—social advancements didn’t always change people’s minds, but they established proof that we continued to grow—became more tolerant, more aware, more educated.

But face it, with every step that makes a Trump presidency more feasible, we have to own the fact that on the world stage, we fare no better than any other nation—not if for all our talk of civil rights, we support a racist  for president; not if we claim to espouse gender equality but willingly defend a misogynist. Don’t forget, for all our pride in the Statue of Liberty and its inscription, millions of voters keep waving placards and wearing hats that express their admiration for a xenophobe.

A week ago Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat wrote a piece about the dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Today he took on Donald Trump, and the results are much more frightening. Read it if you’d like a fuller understanding of how dangerous a Trump presidency would be.

A fuller understanding is what we need. A well informed electorate would never even consider a Trump presidency, and yet here we are.

Maybe we can stop winter from coming, but the days and nights do seem colder.

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