I’m usually good with words. I make a living formulating written sentences, at any rate. So when I shamefully admit that President Trump holds this bizarre power to render me speechless, I’m being somewhat rhetorical, yes, but I want you to pick up on my full meaning.
I’ve spent the past three months avoiding politics the way I might avoid the physical location of a loved one’s murder. It was too painful, too raw. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, talk or think about it. Period. I think I was in a clinical state of shock. I mean that literally. I knew what was coming and I knew to be petrified. From the moment I switched off the television on election night all the way up through inauguration, I understood in my marrow how frightening the reality of a Trump Administration would be. My news black-out wasn’t a failure of citizenship. My knowledge of Donald Trump and of American party politics was more than sufficient on its own to carry me, like gravity pulling a car running on fumes toward the gas station at the bottom of a hill, beyond the event horizon of election night to glimpse what an epic cataclysm the next four years could become. From Trump’s relationship with the press to his unscrupulous ties to foreign interests in conflict with our nation’s security to his psychopathic narcissism to the joy he takes in first making enemies and then casually ripping them to shreds, it has always been clear to me that we’d be entering a horrific, scary-as-hell moment in history.
We had literally handed over the White House to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Why would I want to watch that train wreck?
Days before the inauguration I tried very, very hard to strike a hopeful tone. I genuinely wanted our nation to succeed and to communicate that I was open to being surprised and even challenged by this fresh start. I offered the Trump Administration the benefit of the doubt. What in God’s sullied name was I thinking?
My fellow Americans of all stripes and creeds, it’s only been ONE WEEK. Trump has far exceeded the horrors of my imagination. This is where I get tongue-tied. I don’t even know where to begin: his calculated and diabolical campaign against facts and media dispersal? His willingness to stop scientific communication dead in its tracks, even when it concerns data that could help CHILDREN suffering from asthma? Actually moving forward on building a ridiculously expensive symbol that has zero functionality along our borders? Green-lighting RAIDS to tear our nation’s families in two? Actually making religious litmus tests for entry, much less membership, a real thing? IT’S BEEN ONE WEEK. I’m beginning to truly wonder which countries we’ll be at war with by this summer.
Here’s the rub, and what I should be leading with: What I’m most frightened of is the background radiation of Trump’s approach to governing. It’s not supposed to work, and the very fact that he won the Oval Office demonstrates that he’s capable of defying political gravity. But, conventionally, he can’t get away with what he’s doing. It’s not supposed to be possible. What literally keeps me up at night is the fear that he proves this convention wrong. American politics has always been an august and disciplined exercise in building consensus, adding friends and allies. Politics by the very definition of the word is an additive pursuit. You build coalitions and you find clever ways to create conduits of inclusion. You make your tent bigger. Trump has been in office for one week and every single action he has taken has been some form of kicking people out, punching them while their down, slamming the door in their face, and lighting fuses in people’s pockets. Name ONE action he’s taken that’s remotely reconciliatory to his political foes—who outnumber him, by the way.
Unless our politics is really THAT broken, by November of 2020 Trump should be polling in the low decimals. I HAVE to have faith that our nation won’t forget this past week. I need to believe we’ll hold Trump and his pack of wolves accountable for their simple breach of decorum–of this past week alone! Politics of Napalm can’t be allowed to work. It can’t last. It can’t be allowed to stand. If Trump’s legacy includes any victories whatsoever from JUST THIS PAST WEEK, the United States of America has lost something lasting in its heretofore noble fiber. We experience a very real degradation of our moral righteousness and our sacred code. The shining beacon of light on the hill that President Reagan once spoke of will have gone out. We’ve never been perfect, but we will now utterly lose the authority to point fingers and declare injustice in the rest of the world. That is a very real loss of righteous power. If this is God’s chosen nation, then we have undeniably failed Him. It’s an absolutely horrible, terrifying outcome. We’ve never been closer to failing the American Experiment. These are the stakes. After ONE WEEK, this is where Heath Ledger’s Joker has drawn the line in the sand.
After what happened in November, I don’t know whether or not we collectively have what it takes to win our moral high ground back. This is the question that keeps me sleepless and speechless. And I don’t even think we can wait four years to see what the answer is.