Remember how you felt when you went to bed on November 8, 2016? Or awakened the next morning? As one friend said to me, it was like landing in a different country with all these strangers around.
They’re still here. So are we. And there are still more of us.
Those first few days after the election—when everything was theoretical—those were awful days. But, and let’s be honest, they were awful because we had trouble believing that a country like America—that had generally prided itself on honesty and inclusion—could have elected someone as ill-prepared and ignorant, as bigoted and intolerant as Donald Trump. The horror was unrealized but lurking.
But then the weeks went by and the theoretical became real, and it was worse than we’d imagined: Cabinet appointments, travel bans, exaggerated inauguration attendance, gratuitous attacks on the previous president, baffling attacks on his previous opponent, relentless attacks on the press. There were Flynn, Bannon, Conway, Manafort, Russia, Charlottesville, DACA, the perfidy of Paul Ryan, the double-dealing of Mitch McConnell, the asininity of Devin Nunes. And there are incidents you’re like to have already forgotten: David Johnson and his widow Myeshia, the suggestion to the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico that they tend to their country, his tone-deaf avowal that Frederick Douglass (who died in 1895) would someday make something of himself, his crowing to Houston hurricane victims about the size of the crowd.
I have tried to be philosophical, to maintain that the idea of America will undo Trump’s autocratic vision, but I’m past that. All I can feel after a week like this one is outrage. It’s not unlike what I felt fourteen months ago when it slowly settled in that Donald Trump had become the president of the greatest country on earth (a designation of America he would undo in mere weeks).
Lately I’ve been posting many cartoons, but none of this is funny—not his corruption of law enforcement, not his continuing to profit from his hotels where foreign dignitaries stay, not his autocratic approach to government. And the jokes we make at Trump’s expense are jokes on us. He remains implacable, impervious, immutable while we attempt logical arguments, make appeals to the Constitution, verbalize calls for humanity and justice. We talk like people whose world extends beyond ourselves, but we’re talking to someone whose world vision is narrower than we can imagine: the wall we mock has already been built, and it’s being guarded by Kelly, Sanders, Hannity, and other. Trump is sequestered safely behind it.
Outrage. Maybe it’s time to own it, to quit looking for chinks in the armor when Jeff Flake, or John McCain, or Lindsey Graham says something that is not totally outlandish. Trump is not moved by them, or by Collins, or Murkowski. Why should we be moved? The hope these politicians provide always vanishes with the next party-line vote or the next toilet tweet.
From them and from the other Congressional Republicans, I want nothing less than a public disavowal of the despot they have agreed to support, nothing less than a formal rebuke of his hypocrisy and belligerence.
The rest of us have compromised, looked for signs of humanity, welcomed the occasional scrap thrown our way, but in the end we—and I mean the majority of Americans—are on an island, having ceded the power of numbers to a minority of yahoos, dolts, and criminals.
So then, outrage works for me. I think I’ll just hang on to it. I don’t know where that will lead, but I really am afraid that if we wait until November to undo the harm that is accruing daily, November may be too late.
This country was founded by men and women who recognized tyranny and rebelled against it. History tells us that the revolution was never unanimous, never easy: loyalists stood in the way at every turn but ultimately lost out to democracy and human rights.
America of 2018 faces the same challenge, not from without but from within. I wonder how history will remember us.