Unquestionably, the cup runneth over for historians notching Trump’s Top Ten Worst Feats. Make that Filthy Fifty or Horrifying Hundred. By gum, must we redefine infinity? Throw in looming felony convictions, millions in fines, even, yikes!, jail time for an ex-president! Good luck finding stuff that won’t qualify. Brace for years of countless, resistant five-year old liars, bellowing, “Trump did it way more than me.”
For 60% of America, this bitter cup already runneth over – swamping the rising swamp. We’re past the fail-safe threshold where enough Trumpers come to their senses, show they can learn from experience, even admit suckerdom and repent bringing down the plague of Donald. Fat chance. Though before hearing wing nuts at our back, let’s be fair: kudos for promoting and signing the Prison Reform bill. Even a blind chicken finds the seed.
But that solitary gain aside, Trump World is a smoking ruin, somewhere between the worst train wreck and the worst Civil War battlefield. Except it’s not over: children coming for freedom are dying at our border and under “our care.” So I posit Trump’s worst, most despicable crime is rewriting our national story – what America believes in – what in fact defines American greatness. Didn’t we once at least talk up humane, progressive ideas like diversity, equality, tolerance, fairness, compassion – crowned by our truly unique Yankee melting pot? To our everlasting shock, Trumpers scorn such self-evident truths as unfunny jokes.
From day one Trumpery never hid its reactionary nature. What else is maliciously slurring immigrants as criminals or disease-spreaders, in effect giving frightened evangelicals permission to turn cold hearts against terrorized asylum seekers and dying children? What – did ancestral Trump voters ship in from heaven loaded with goodness? Add in the drum beat paranoia the world’s richest country is forever victimized by sneaky foreigners stealing what’s ours. Because the economic and electoral systems are rigged, and Trump “tells it like it is” (ugh), this insatiable predator speaks for ordinary folk? Where did such marks grow up? Are laws and the Constitution scripted for them in hieroglyphics? Did FOX and Rush Limbaugh steal their brains?
Spewing distortions, Trump pulverized the positive, upward Yankee trajectory, willfully mocking not just “losers” and minorities but honorable values and goals – like a level playing field that keeps success within grasp, whatever race, creed and color. What else drew refugees and cheap labor that built our infrastructure, did the mining, planting and harvesting, often impaired for life after inhaling unfit air? Demonizing newcomers, whether “rapist” Mexicans or Muslims coming from the wrong airport, is anti-American; so is punishing struggling urbanites, boxed in by racism, with nasty “austerity” that withholds food, housing, health care, and education.
“Lock ‘em up” is the piercing, un-American, know-nothing cry – beyond Hilary to include “invasions” of families who seek solace and get only sneers. As with race, the Trump economic message is as simpleminded as it is un-Christian: “them that’s got get to keep it; them without, tough luck, and don’t come here.” Un-American trade policies (lying about phony national security threats) reject working partnerships by insulting allies and banishing diplomacy. “Overseas connivers” deserve imperious, reckless tariffs that inflate everyone’s costs. A triple whammy.
What reactionary hogwash when history’s most cynical politician wins office by pushing dark fantasies: “everything stinks, is rigged, and every other politician lies” – then on cue demonstrates what stinking, lying, rigged, garbage-spewing leadership means. “Only believe me” and “I can alone fix everyone” – represent Trump’s two most subversive commandments, threatening both our civil and moral stability.
Once upon a time
Before Trump, the American story line elevated opportunity and justice for the many, not just the few, appreciation for invaluable gifts diversity delivers to all – even our commitment to being a shining beacon on the hill. Now darkness and disorder reign. We extolled free speech, religious liberty, innocent until proved guilty – and at least rhetorically opposed bigotry, racism, and white nationalism. No one before Trump dared seek to jail his electoral loser.
Of course notable stumbles block a “more perfect union.” However much racism and injustice inform our history, before Trump we talked up democratic, moral progress that expanded human rights – trusting that fierce conflicts (over civil, voting, and women’s rights) contain opportunities for enlightenment and better laws. Trump disowns diverse populations, posits his coarse gut knows everything, and worst of all rejects good advice. Trump scorns not just our legal system but arrogantly alleges bad faith to legitimate authorities (scientific, judicial and environmental).
In short, to cheer on Trumpery sets one against this core foundational value – that anyone from anywhere, with hard work, good fortune and imagination, can make it. With Trump, desperate, non-white freedom seekers are stopped cold at the border, thus denied opportunities granted millions. It’s not as if we don’t need good workers. Instead of a community welcome, such dreamers face Fortress First America, where doors slam shut.
Before Trump, how many politicians condoned overt bigotry or inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Before Trump, stereotyping and scapegoating were not daily political currency. Now, a stubborn minority not only sees outsiders as out to get them – they turn cruel oversimplification into moral purity about “real America.”
Against the American grain
The narrative, in sum, that made America great stands opposite Trump fear-mongering and hellish vision. Though America was never the best, greatest, most moral country (a facile logical fallacy), Trump’s sectarian grievance crusade has dumbed down America, resulting in angry, baseless fixations that undermine world leadership. No one made America worse in such a short time. That makes Trumpery not only a tragic farce, but the greatest hypocrisy to spout hot air. That he scorns science and reason as much as he does foreigners violate what America works to stand for.
No country advances without a unifying, uplifting story line; no country remains stable without common ground and common values. Trump drops an A-bomb on positive narratives – and big surprise – thus degrades our national character and collective sense of self. Without a story with humane values and directions, predatory, self-interested jungle “morality” rules – leading to civil wars, military coups or, as today, utter chaos. Optimism withers.
The only way we resurrect our positive story is to incinerate this fake one, to reject Trumpery, hatred and racism, white nationalism and smug, tribal complacency. Until our legacy narrative is regained, warts and all, division will rule and corrosive conflicts continue. Even with impeachment, or forced resignation, the task exceeds Trumpery. We must offset for years a wholesale, Republican assault on the American story – and make clear Trump’s perverted culmination handcuffs our future. What are we morally, in the end, except our values, goals and story line that voice our higher angels?