With the mental acuity of a two-year old and the logic of a fence post, Donald Trump has waded boldly into the weapons policies of two of our closest allies, the United Kingdom and France.
In a weekend speech to the NRA, Mr. Trump—never one to let his brain run ahead of his mouth—used his hands in a gun gesture and mimicked the shooting at Paris’ Bataclan concert hall where 90 victims died. For good measure he included commentary: “They [the terrorists] took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!”
If you haven’t seen the video (and I confess, whenever he appears on my TV or laptop, I don’t look), it’s a minute worth spending. You can always rinse out your eyes afterward. Or shower. Or both.
In the video our supercilious president lays out exactly what all NRA zealots want to hear: things would have been different if even one concertgoer had a gun. By extension we are to infer that one victim in Las Vegas would have turned the tide, or one student in Parkland, or one teacher in Sandy Hook, or one patron in Orlando. The simple mind makes all things simple.
Still, I understand the premise, and I don’t doubt that in a one-on-one situation, like a home invasion in an isolated area, the property owner with a gun may very well fend off the intruder.
But Las Vegas, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Orlando were far from one-on-one situations, far from normal or standard. Once you put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of a lunatic or a terrorist or someone having a bad day, hypotheticals lose their significance.
The basis for Trump’s denunciation of our allies, it appears, arose from a statement last month from English trauma surgeon Martin Griffiths, who told the BBC some of his colleagues had likened the Royal London Hospital in east London, where knife wounds were increasing in frequency, to the former British military base Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Trump drew from this a hospital overwhelmed by bloody corridors and mounting fatalities. Neither is true.
In fact, after Trump’s suggestion that Britons arm themselves, a fellow trauma surgeon stated that gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair. We all received a graphic lesson in that when we heard details of the Parkland shooting and the ammunition that twisted its way through the bodies of the victims.
Incidentally, and tellingly, Britain’s strict governmental policy on handgun ownership in England, Scotland and Wales evolved from a school shooting in 1996. Three years before Columbine; fourteen before Sandy Hook, and on, and on.
But this essay isn’t about guns. Not this time. It’s about us and how we’ve become inured to the degeneracy and corruption, to a president exploiting the deaths of 90 Paris concertgoers and using their families as political pawns. We all remember Trump’s sleazy rebuke of John McCain in the summer of 2015. That, in retrospect, was our new leader pointing out that decorum was dead, that courtesy and consideration were impediments, and that the only difference between truth and lies was in the spelling. America was entering a new pathway to greatness, unencumbered by democracy or propriety, understanding or empathy. We’re still on it.
We’re coming up on three years since Trump, his bone spurs having safely insulated him from danger, reviled an American war hero; and two since he reviled the family of another. Each new day brings a fresh assault on every facet of life that once defined America, while just below the surface the real damage keeps mounting: the environment, education, health care, the legal system, race relations, human rights, housing, consumer protection, and more. The attacks are ubiquitous. And we are not even halfway through his term.
Yes, let’s all look forward to November, but let’s also tabulate the damage being done along the way, and recognize that the president’s approval ratings, while still abysmal, are rising. To explain that last fact, we better take a look at ourselves.