Four years in political review

Joe Whitcomb, Staff Writer

We have grown up in the era of Trump. He declared his candidacy the summer before our freshman year, and four years later, he is the sitting president. As such, we enter adulthood in a forever altered America, one whose self aggrandizing myths all caved in in the space of a few years. Much has been made of the causes and results of his monumental rise, but it is no mystery. For 40 years before him, America had deluded itself into thinking it had changed. We had passed the Civil Rights Act. We had passed the ADA and removed immigration quotas and put minorities on the Supreme Court. We hadn’t passed the Equal Rights Amendment, but a woman (Phyllis Schlafly) had toured the country working her hardest to convince us that women should stay home and not work, so it didn’t feel that big of a deal. We even had elected a black man to the presidency, a feat of incredible symbolic import, a supposed welcoming to a new century in a modern and permanently bettered America.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama is not the most indicative symbol of the new 21st century America. Donald Trump is. Obama, despite his war crimes and his austerity and compromises, showed what America could be. Trump shows America what it is:  formerly respected, egotistical, disturbingly ignorant, incredibly wealthy and devoid of substance, an inveterate liar, a racist who calls for children’s blood in public forums, a beacon to all who seek rot and hierarchy and destruction, a physical representation of Freud’s death drive.

That, regardless of political belief and situational acknowledgement, is the America we live in today. It is an America where an unimpeachable Donald Trump resides on a tacky throne, supported by unfazeable legions, as people die from Roxbury to Raqqa. And almost no one has any clue how to fix it.

Our grand decaying empire, having economically and militarily manipulated the globe for the last century and put millions of bodies into early graves outside Santiago and inside Fallujah and even earlier on the plains of the Midwest, is beginning to short out. Our Nero, our Caligula, has arrived and Rome is burning.

In some ways, this is to the world’s benefit. Twenty five years ago, fomenting and implementing a friendly coup would’ve been dirt off America’s shoulder, as it was in Haiti in 1991. Today, despite months of public pressure from the US government and the world media, the Venezuelan opposition has been unable to garner enough support to topple the Chavistas and institute a new U.S. friendly regime. United States military hegemony has been reduced in Syria and Iraq, and the “respect” we once attained through pure intimidation is no longer. But even then, the Trump administration ruins its unintentional positive side effects. Trump openly endorses US soldiers accused of war crimes. He sides with increasingly violent radical right wing governments in Israel, Brazil, Hungary, and the Philipines, having found kinship in fellow nationalistic and xenophobic “democracies” that routinely demonize (and kill) “outsiders” and deny ethnic minorities’ voting rights. He has refused to even report drone casualties, leaving the world in the dark as to how one of the most horrible American programs, one that causes children to fear blue skies, is being carried out. The Empire may be temporarily weakened, but the terror remains.

Domestically, the Trump era has slashed holes in the sails of progress. Trump stands in direct opposition to the full radical slate, opposing radical racial and sexual movements at every turn. He openly endorses murderous cops and jackbooted thugs, and openly denounces those who protest the undue violent deaths at those thugs hands. His first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, opposed federal prosecution of cops accused of shooting suspects. This is particularly significant because, under the radar, 4,246 people have been murdered by police officers since we started high school. That list includes Bettie Jones and Quintonio Legrier, killed by a reckless Chicago police officer a month after the Chicago Police Department was forced to release it’s internal video of the covered up second degree murder of Laquan McDonald, and Harith Augustus, a black barber in possession of a legal firearm who was illegally stopped and grabbed from behind, then shot as he fled. These last four years are littered with these stories.

We have endured so much it feels exhausting. Our freshman year, it was the campaign, a farce that exposed the deep intrinsic flaws in both our major political institutions. A Democratic National Committee made up of insiders and compromised lobbyists conspired to undermine one upstart candidate and forcefully impose a flawed establishment one instead, eventually having its elitism and ridiculousness publicly exposed. Never to be outdone, the Republican Party repeatedly tried to assure themselves their voters were better than Trump, while watching them gravitate toward the siren song of on its face fascism. The messaging changed in the blink of an eye: Willie Horton was no longer coming for you and your daughter, the Mexicans were. Republicans shouldn’t just believe “Support the troops” and “Back the badge”, they should support every troop and every cop, regardless of what they’d done (unless they were a trans whistleblower). From there, it was a race to the bottom, and more than enough of the public ate it up. Hillary and the elitist Democratic machine had no ability to resoundingly counter Trump, no policy that was as alluring as racism and violence and dog-whistling. They went high when Trump went low, and in doing so they imploded the broken system, trading lawful evil for chaotic evil at breakneck speed.

And since 11/9/16, we’ve lived in the Zone. On the precipice is nothing but decay or civil war, whichever comes first. A country this fractious and expansive, of such varying locales and customs, held together by a federal government ruled by cowardice and avarice, can not stand. Armed insurrections of varying moral character, an integral part of US history, have become more frequent than at any other time in the last 40 years. White supremacist assaults like those at Charlottesville and justified clashes with police in Baltimore and Ferguson chip away at the legitimacy of a government that no longer seems to be subject to the people.

This is the reality we face as we leave high school, as we become adults. It is an urgent fight, one that is not solved by impeachment or election or even outright combat. This is the chance to reshape the beast, to cull and mold America into a functioning society. If we can not do that; if Portland becomes not dissimilar from Mosul; if the empire finally comes home; we will see an immense destruction of order, the kind that always leads to immense suffering. Avoiding that will be the problem of our generation.