Sunday, June 26, 2016

The summer before everything changed, maybe

     The presidents were not all men of greatness. The briefest stroll through the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's exhibit on the presidents confirms that. There was dim party tool Warren G. Harding and crony catspaw Ulysses S. Grant. The feckless and imbecilic James Buchanan and the tragically twisted Richard Nixon. 
    You couldn't be blamed for thinking, "Donald Trump will fit right in with these clowns." 
    But I didn't think that. Instead I fought off creeping dread by focusing on the pillars of greatness: George Washington offering his resignation when he could have been king (told that Washington was returning to private life, George III quipped, "If he does that, sir, he will be the greatest man in the world.") Abraham Lincoln holding the nation together with his honesty and his Biblical eloquence. "All men are created equal."
     Britain pulled out of the European Union my first morning here. The news filled with the spectacle of a nation submitting to xenophobia and fear, leaping off a cliff at the behest of mavericks who had no plan other than to trash the system and see what happens next. It's like burning down your home to marvel at the pretty fire.
    And I couldn't help but feel: we're next. It's in the air, madness. Like before a war. "The lights are going out, all over Europe." 
     Usually it's a thrill. This time, it was scary to walk through these wide federal plazas, with their gleaming beige stone buildings. To think, "This is the Department of Commerce that Donald Trump will be responsible for. This is the White House where he will live." 
      With the bad news from Britain, as the country, in an act of collective derangement it instantly regretted, voted to be a smaller, more cut off and less prosperous nation, it was easy to suspect we had now entered a world gone mad, that the populist rage that has for so long simmered under our politics had truly exploded. Angry people don't weigh their best interest. They knock over lamps.
     Brexit is strike two -- strike one was the Philippines electing that murderous madman, Dutarte. Will Trump be strike three? Intelligence is out of favor. Sacrifice is out of favor. Patriotism, the cheap veneer zealots spray paint over their un-American acts. Trump's jaunt to inspect his property, his crowing that the collapse of the pound will help drive tourists to him, would look exaggerated in the Onion. I would have thought that such a performance would send Trump's fans away, shaking their heads. No, they love him even more, for being so self-centered, just like they would love to be, if only they had actual selves of their own to center around.
     That sounds alarmist, maybe even hysterical, and probably is. I hope it is. But the vendors are selling Trump t-shirts on the mall. A Trump sign is on display at the Smithsonian already. Vanguards of his arrival, perhaps, and reminders that he is already here, now, running somewhere. Donald Trump is a fact of history now. Even if he is—please God—defeated, he still ran.  No so deep a shame, really. Nobody walked around mourning that Barry Goldwater ran as the Republican nominee in 1964.
    But it could be worse. Maybe will be worse. Definitely could be. 
    The British leaving the European Union shows that people will act contrary to their self interest if you poke at their fears. The prospect of having some Turks move in down the street was enough to make regions opt out of something that was giving them economic benefit now, and they are only now realizing it, in what has to be the worst hangover ever. 
    The Washington Post ran this tragic paragraph Saturday:
     Polling showed the areas that had the most to lose and the least to gain from the Brexit are precisely those where the referendum saw the most support. In other words, the places — the most export-heavy regions —most hurt by the economic disruptions caused by Brexit could be the places that pushed hardest for it...
     The people who will be hurt most by Donald Trump — the uneducated, the poor — are those who most want him to wave his wizard's wand over their problems and make them go away. Like those who got health insurance through Obamacare and still hate Obama, their passions and fears overwhelming everything else.
     This is probably the last time I'll be in DC before the election. And I don't want to give the impression that I stumbled through the place in an agony of dread over Donald Trump. I had fun, as I always do. But those Trump t-shirts, and the enormous "TRUMP" sign outside the old Post Office, being developed into yet another one of his properties, no doubt using someone else's money. They seemed like warnings. The smart money says he'll give us all a good scare and then go away, leaving 53 percent of us sadder and wiser. But then, the smart money also said that Britain would stay in the European Union.


  1. I agree, it's in the air. Though I don't quite buy the logic, it does seem like "Brexit" and "Trump" are linked in some way. Maybe it really IS in the air, literally; an undiscovered virus spreading and causing temporary brain impairment.

    If I didn't still have faith in our citizens to make the right decision come November, I might be terrified. But it's not gonna happen, I keep reassuring myself.


  2. I hope that "Brexit" isn't foreshadowing Trump as President, but I'm too pessimistic to entertain the idea that it won't happen :( The world is going backwards, or this is part of a process that is progressing us all forward towards a much more tolerant, thoughtful and intelligent world. Let's hope that hope matters.

  3. A Donald Trump presidency? If we're lucky his biography in the future will be on the back of a cereal box and reduced to: See office seeker, disappointed. But with proper preparation we can survive a Trump presidency. Imagine your car breaks down at night in the boonies, miles from the nearest town, and out of cell phone range. During the trek to civilization you are intercepted by aliens, not the illegal kind, but the type that have to register with NASA. In a monotone voice the say, "Take us to your leader." Now a smart person such as myself, unlike Richard Dreyfuss, would never get in a vehicle with stranger danger aliens. Still, it would be so embarrassing to admit Trump is your leader, and provide directions to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. That is why I've memorized the Papal address, 00120 Via del Pellegrino, Citta del Vaticano.

  4. Don't forget Herbert Hoover... Bush Jr. etc

    The pound sterling will go up again. Why should Britain have to pay for certain economically unsound nations in Europe? The exit isn't all bad. Heard on the news that certain Scandinavian nations are thinking of doing the same thing. Germany too is paying an unfair share into the union while certain nations drag it down financially.

  5. @ Bass-Trump put his foot in it again with the Scots and he is falling in the polls some here. There may be hope yet.

  6. I remember thinking, once it was confirmed that Bush/Cheney rigged the intelligence to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, that they could not possibly be reelected.

    Who would vote for people that bankrupt the country, oversaw hundreds of thousands of deaths, brought home countless young Americans without limbs, and ensured the middle east would be unstable for generations? They subverted fundamental American Ideals to invade a country on false pretexts. They created a war to work out Bush's daddy issues. They enriched the vice-president and his cronies. No one could vote for these men who had been revealed as odious creatures.

    You remember the results.

    The possibility of a President Trump, as demented as it sounds, seems entirely possible to me in the wake of 50 years of mad Fox/Limbaugh fevered memes creating an alternate reality of xenophobia, bigotry, and hate. The GOP and it's enablers have created a monster of fearful, angry, misinformed voters and the monster has gotten away from them.

    Murdoch, as close to a Revelations level beast as we have in this world, has been shitting in the British nest as well as the American nest and we see the results in Brexit. Heaven help us if we end up with Trump in charge.

  7. Switzerland is doing very well without being in the EU.

  8. If it's any help, the latest national poll (ABC/Washington Post) gives Clinton a double digit lead.

    Tom Evans

  9. The French Revolution wasn't a good idea from the aristocracy point of view but it sure made the peasants feel good.

  10. Terrorists acts,amplified and distorted by the Fox/Limbaugh hate machine, have a lot of folks scared, here and in the UK. One gray-haired woman asked about Brexit by a reporter answered bitterly,"Leave. I want Britain to be British." Trump wants "America to be great again." These slogans/comments can be read as," There are too damn many brown faces in our heretofore white nation and it's scary. What to do? Vote Leave and vote Trump. Problem solved..

  11. So far, over 3 million in GB have signed petitions for "Regrexit", demanding another vote. This should serve as a warning, don't ride a populist wave and get stuck with devastating results when that wave hits reality and crashes. We don't deserve Trump, no matter how screwed up many think things are. It could and would be worse.

  12. One of your best. I'm going to quote a few gems on my own Facebook page (with proper attribution, of course!).

  13. Rather ironic, isn't it, that a nation whose "empire" was built on the subjugation of unwilling peoples should be so xenophobic?

    Bitter Scribe

    1. Never thought of it that way; very astutely observed.

  14. My apologies for neglecting your main point and focusing on the introduction! I'm pretty confident that history considers U.S. Grant to be a man of greatness. Reasonable folks can disagree on the nature and quality of his presidency, but he had pretty much proven his mettle before the election, wouldn't you say? I haven't read too many after-the-war accounts that suggest Lincoln was completely misplaced in his confidence in Grant or that all Grant's military success was due to luck or screw-ups by his opponents.