I have been spending (ok, wasting) an inordinate amount of time since the US presidential election on social media reading about, commenting on, passing along and, mostly, being aghast and anxiety-riven by the baring of raw, biased and often woefully uninformed views of many of my fellow citizens exposed one tweet and one post at a time.
It’s not that I’ve been taken by surprise. I’ve been prepared for this (here, I’ve posted as far back as March 2016 on the topic). Nevertheless, the utter recklessness that has first installed, and now supports, Donald J. Trump as president is jaw-dropping. I feel as if Duck Dynasty Nation has decided to ride shotgun in a car-jacked vehicle with Trump at the wheel, and it’s hurtling into a direct head-on collision with the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, I, my family, friends, neighbors and a tremendous number (really huge number) of other Americans have found ourselves trapped in the back seat of that car, and there don’t seem to be enough seat belts to go around.
Yes, we have marched, and will march again. Yes, we have donated to groups vowing to fight the delusional rush toward self-harm. Yet, something inside my own head keeps saying that the American electorate needs to learn a lesson, and that it won’t come from any quick aborting of Trump and the radical Republican agenda.
I do not wish to be either cynical or cold-hearted about the harm that will come to many innocent people from the vindictive and bullying efforts aimed at all the “others” among us and beyond. But, exactly what long-term lesson will be learned by Americans from some sort of deus ex machina conclusion to the current situation? An outcome like an impeachment, trial and conviction would only serve to keep the Trump fans still enraged and embittered (they are still sore, even as the winners). They will remain trapped in the grip of forces like fundamentalist/nativist theology, lazy consumerism and a self-defeating distrust and complacency of learning.
What they need is an outcome that hits them, their co-congregationists and communities, something that lays bare for them the falseness of their prophets. They need to rediscover a world that is not all “us against them,” one where engagement and compromise with others is the norm of civil society, not grudges and retaliation.
Sad to say, that won’t come without pain for many innocents beyond that group. I am not, repeat not, hoping for any development as catastrophic as what the people of Germany and Japan experienced from their flings with nationalistic imperialism. Even though they emerged from those horrors as exemplary global citizens, it is a price too high to wish upon any group.
What’s needed is for those communities and states that have drunk the Republican Party’s anti-government Kool-Aid for decades to discover how quickly things turn bad for them and not just the anonymous other when that despised bureaucracy is taken away. It looks as though health care will be the first point of their encounter with reality, and that’s already been well documented. Another likely near-term candidate is the American food market, where the lust for immigrant expulsions, if fulfilled, would almost assuredly lead to massive labor shortages on the farm and rapidly escalating food prices.
And, of course, there will be the long-running debacle of Trump-mandated trade protectionism and trade wars. Sure, some manufacturing may come back, but at the much heavier price of lost markets overseas and unavoidable manufacturing automation by the manufacturers who do relocate here.
That doesn’t even begin to factor in the long-term implications of totally redrawn political alliances globally, with America’s influence, prosperity and national security that has come with it evaporating before our eyes.
This means that I and those I know will not be immune to the negative effects. Yet there is no escaping such an outcome if a lesson to last generations is to be learned. And it’s not a matter of not wanting an presidential administration to be successful. Rather, it’s the eyes-open realization that its reckless and authoritarian policies, demeanor and ideology can never lead to success as defined by a democratic society. After all, be it ever so humbled, there will still be no place like home.