I woke up this morning and dashed to my phone to check on the news. This isn’t necessarily a new development, but, for a change, I was kind of excited and a little happy with the task. It wasn’t some grim chore required to figure out if I need newer, safer filters in the biohazard bunker or check on whether the ACA is about to be totally scrapped; it was genuine, enthusiastic curiosity to see what was happening. And, blessing upon blessing, there wasn’t any real news. Oh, there’s still plenty of chatter and analysis about the election, Biden’s acceptance speech yesterday, and the vague schadenfreude at seeing a family of bullies start to cannibalize themselves over who gets the thankless task of pointing out to Donald that he has 70 days to clear his desk and leave, before security escorts him from the premises. But, apart from the news of the last week, for the first time in four-odd years, there wasn’t anything terribly new. No new random firings in the White House; no Congressional Purges, no dramatic bureaucratic reshuffles, no weird attempts to swindle China or anger Iran, there was no real news at all. On a Sunday morning. In America.
I’m not going to argue that the Status Quo is good, or even good enough — those of us living on the brink are still in constant danger, but it does feel as if it’s been downgraded from a constant assault to vaguely ominous threats from a creepy ex. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want either situation, but threats to life and limb are much better than open attacks on both.
I started reading Cliff Sim’s Team of Vipers 248 years ago, sometime in the late second or third year of The Donald Administration. I never finished it. There was a weird, Big Short sensation of, “Why are they confessing?” (I’m referencing that scene where Steve Carell’s investment team investigates the real estate market by talking to mortgage brokers) throughout, but the “I’ve had it” moment was when Cliff mentioned some brief spike in popularity and wrote something like, “So this was what it felt like to be popular.” That was the moment. That moment of having immense wealth, power, access and financial freedoms most Americans only dream of, then paused for a thin-skinned gripe about the opposition’s popularity. A brief, shining light of egocentrism and narcissism in a world of glittering opportunity. It defined this shambles of an administration better than any of Donald’s bizarre, xenophobic pronouncements or bullying. Impotent, fragile, white self-pity interrupting a busy day of running the most powerful country on the planet. It was what Donald ran on in 2016, it turned on him immediately after people found out what a rotten idea it was, and the election turned when that concept actually started costing people lives.
I think that’s the turning point and defining concept of this administration. Previous presidents have committed various forms of war crimes, corruption, and assorted criminality, but at least they had the decency to do it in shithole countries we didn’t care about. I’m not defending that, and I think we need to discuss Obama’s increased use of extrajudicial killings via drone and increased surveillance before handing the keys over to Biden and Harris, but Trump brought that malice, violence, and chaos to our own shores. 230000 Americans are dead, more than one person I’m fond of has caught this disease, and almost all of it could have been averted if The Donald Administration had quietly shut down public gatherings and issued a national face mask mandate back in February.
We can jest and joke and despise Obama and Bush, but there was never a similar sense of personal loss associated with them. Yeah, Bush treated sentences as if they were obstacle courses; Obama’s Blackberry was confiscated by the NSA due to security concerns, but the damage here was largely limited to the presidents’ personal embarrassment. Trump mangled sentences and spewed incoherent dog whistles to his friends on Reddit, and, even though we laughed, we nationally knew, on some level, as much fun as that joke was, someone else paid for it. In blood. Some poor black man somewhere was shot by police after Trump emboldened gun-toting racist cops after stating, “I am your president of law and order.” Someone’s grandmother died alone, in a hospital, after Donald told the nation masks wouldn’t help and there was no reason not to attend a neighborhood barbecue. The airline industry is still on life-support, and the thousands who lost their livelihoods because of that are in trouble. This administration’s antics might be funny — or entertainingly ironic, anyway — if they didn’t cost so many lives and careers. These moments were paid for in blood. American blood.
To all of my minority friends of all the varying minorities in America (if you aren’t a well-off, able-bodied, heterosexual white man, you’re not running at full-privilege) who survived the last three years, kudos to you. To us. Despite the best attempts by this administration to actually kill or permanently mangle us, we’re still here. Hooray; we’ll look back to this administration’s homicidally negligent policies as the moment when we learned who our real friends were. And, far more comfortingly, we’ve sort-of disproven that thesis that one third of the populace will idly sit by while another third murders the final third. We haven’t totally disproven it, and we haven’t ended the systemic inequities that paved the way for our flirtation with fascism, but, when push comes to shove, two thirds of Americans will mobilize, organize, and vote. And we don’t vote for the proper, moral choice by wide margins, but we vote for it by wide enough margins to win. And I agree with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez that moderate progressives need to acknowledge and work with those crazed finge groups on the left demanding an Equal Rights Amendment, fully-funded social services and housing, and all those other crazy, prejudiced hippie dreams, but that’s tomorrow.
Today, I’d like to tell everyone of an epiphany I had yesterday, cemented by Kamala Harris striding on-stage last night as Vice President-elect; a girl born this week will see and hear — not be drily told — that women can, with a lot of hard work and luck, be absolutely anything they want to be in this country. And that is a powerful message to everyone who has been attacked, disenfranchised, or debased by The Donald’s malevolence and incompetence: Our voices, combined, are loud enough to drown out the fascists and bigots. It’s time to get to work.