What the onset of the Trump administration looks like for the common American.
The good news is the world isn’t likely to end in the next four years.
The bad news is your world as you know it just might.
If you have been convicted of a crime, if you have been unemployed recently, if you have been foreclosed upon or have a bankruptcy on file, if you have any unpaid back taxes or liens, if you owe outstanding child support payments or any IOUs to individuals or institutions that know how to collect IOUs, if your student loan debt is a concern, if a car payment is late, if your credit isn’t great…you might want to throw all the better sex/tighter abs/healthier diet resolutions out and stop believing that a phone upgrade is going to solve all your problems—and start fixing what’s in front of you.
America is the worst combination of an instant gratification and procrastination culture by design. The ability to only want more has been bred into most of us for at least three or four generations. Add in a sprinkle of rabid admiration for celebrity and the constant harangue of the American Success Story (just watch fucking ANY biopic ever, epic rise, epic fall, epic comeback—and when all else fails blow it up but come out unscathed in 360 slo-mo Michael Bay-style) and well, we’ve brainwashed ourselves into believing, mightily, that it can happen to me. It will happen to me.
…It most certainly will not.
The secret of self-sufficiency and accountability this manufactured image of success and patriotism does not preach is the years of hard work and rejection that led up to the big break …along with the other key ingredient: gobs and gobs and gobs, ridiculous and unfathomable amounts even, of natural talent—the kind which 99.9999 percent of us do not possess from our very first day.
The other type of success story we are spoon fed is of those who were not blessed with the natural talent but are gifted with something just as powerful—wealth.
And that’s it, only two roads to the palace and both have much to do with birthright.
We’ve seen both examples in our recent chosen leaders. Men like Obama and Clinton who scratched and scraped and scuffled their way out of a fatherless existence cutting up bramble for kindling behind the trailer park or selling sliced papaya on the side of the road, existing in oblivion before discovering there was a way out deploying their once-in-a-generation mojo.
Or, you can be a Bush or a Kennedy, born into entitlement and instilled with some familial moral compass to serve.
To date, whether you agree with the principles or policies of these families full-stack, those who did represent us did it with their hearts and minds in the right place. The rest of us might never have a family compound in Hyannis Port or Walker’s Point but you better trust and believe, mightily, they knew the most valuable thing of all—preservation of their way of life relied on the preservation of ours.
And that’s how we got away with this republic we call a democracy for so long.
But that is no longer the case.
What we have done is freely elected (somehow sticking to the arcane rules of electoral process against the world’s best interest ignoring the obvious clerical and philosophical err in the system) and put a wanna-be strongman, a soon-to-be despot and his billionaire surrogates who are so inherently vile, so corrupt and so conniving and untoward, not to mention unfunny, uncreative and downright cruel—they don’t even make an effort to be sneaky about it.
They want you to believe that lies aren’t lies. Guess what? A lie is a lie is a lie is a lie.
Their first action of the new year was a shady midnight repealing of their own ethics oversight committee.
This is just the beginning. Their mandate is to fuck us over, make us disagree, fuck us over some more, make us disagree some more—bleed our coffers dry and put us in jail when we get pushed beyond the brink.
They are, as a Paul Krugman op-ed in the New York Times recently pointed out, mirror reflections of the tinpot dictators who emerged in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Men who wield power and resist any type of dissent. Men who surround themselves with wealthy crony capitalists to have their sway. Men who erect gold statues of themselves while the growing numbers of the suppressed and poor starve.
This will be a corrupt regime that will pull every bad trick in the book to profit from the ills of absolute power, starting with the presidency. We know this because of what we do not know. We do not know whether Donald Trump is so heavily mortgaged to foreign interests that his ONLY financial lifeline is to leverage the power of office. We also do not know what his philosophy is for governance or whether he has any kind of grasp of the enormity of this undertaking. To date in the run up, he has only waffled mighty on positions and relied on soundbites and tweets which have done nothing but diminish the once perceived greatness and solemnity of the power of the presidential seal.
If we can glean anything from his actions and experience to date, it is that he will do anything he can to get what he can to set up himself, his family and his surrogates and leave it all scorched earth behind him. That has been the single legacy of his almost five decades in business.
No man or woman, no matter how charismatic or power-hungry, should be taking public office for the first time at the onset of their eighth decade on Earth. The only new enterprise someone of Trump’s advanced age should be undertaking is that of Walmart greeter. Even acquisition of that small skill set—becoming a convivial host and smiling at patrons…without grabbing them in the privates—would be far too lofty a task for the likes of him.
Beyond this, there is no policy for Trump and his regime beyond greed run amok, an absolute power grab, an opportunity for those who want to succeed to come worship at the altar and kiss the ring. He fancies himself a king, not a public servant. That’s not how America works.
Trump and his team, along with the ribald and radical faction of conservatism that pulled this nation out of the car and threw it on the street a la Grand Theft Auto, is about to ignore the rule of law, about to have zero restraint or restrictions, about to obliterate all norms that kept this thing afloat for the masses. And they will do it swiftly, vigorously and punitively.
It’s like letting a tiger out of a cage in a daycare and trusting that the toddlers will figure out a way to defend themselves by throwing Legos at it.
Those who comply, who kneel at the feet of the nation’s first freely elected Dark Lord and become complicit or join in in the unraveling of the nation’s once great but now tattered fabric, may profit mightily and may find temporary safe ground for themselves and their immediate families. But at what cost? One’s soul? One’s convictions? Everything that is just and right?
The rest of us need to do ourselves a favor, right now while we hang on line for a credit counselor, and take the words, “It can’t happen here, this is America” right out of our vocabulary.
It can happen, and it did.
The ultimate irony is thousands, if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of individuals in this country will face the end of something starting this year: life as a private citizen, life outside of jail, life unmonitored.
We will face the gravest of grave danger (<-to paraphrase Col. Nathan R. Jessup, is there any other kind?) simply because we do remember what made America great: telling the truth, standing up for what we believe in and what is right, speaking out for those who do not have a voice and challenging the system with the belief that all men regardless of race, religion, gender, color, creed or nationality are—in fact—created equal.
Those who do hold true those values—not the ones who goosestep to some distorted and decrepit brand of patriotism that has everything to do with trying to save one’s own ass and NOTHING to do with actual loyalty to one’s own country or fellow man—those who chose to dissent, those who remember what freedom was like for their grandparents’ generation: hard-earned, hard-fought and quietly won; those who speak their minds, who protest, who suffer so another generation can have a brighter day, who believe in the arts, in compassion, in seeking and finding truth in a rubble of distraction, subterfuge and sleight-of-hand misdeeds—congratulations. You are Trump’s greatest enemies.
Remember, he rose to prominence during a time of relative peace and prosperity. God help us with every ounce of his strength if and when we do get attacked or our cardboard cutout economy topples over. As Chris Hedges recently wrote, those who speak out in times of crisis will suffer greatly: Any dissent, including mere criticism of the president, will be attacked as helping our enemies.
And his enemies will be destroyed, starting right here at home.
Nobody wants to suffer, and in today’s America we are the biggest cohort of non-sufferers the world has ever known. We call into customer service and cry travesty about things like a package arriving a day late or with a ding on the side. We take movie popcorn back to the concessionaires because it was “too buttery” even though we requested the butter. We have so much extra time and money and such low self esteem we voluntarily undergo surgery to turn our bodies into a fun house mirror version of what we thought our younger self must have looked like.
That is our culture.
Many argue Trump doesn’t have a mandate, I argue, by the amount of mainlined Donald we all take in every. Single. Day, that he does, bigly. Some argue he is not a reflection of our moral decrepitude and laziness, I argue that’s exactly who and what he is.
If there is anything uniquely American about his story it is that he will be the biggest fake-it-till-you-make-it Big Bad Wolf at the door in all of human history. Over the next half-decade he will not only move from owing millions if not billions to flipping the board into the black, he will also make his cronies and their surrogates including corporate CEOs, private equity firms, hedge fund managers, infallible Wall Street lackeys who let algorithms determine our economy’s course and have the audacity to call a total collapse a “correction”—become wealthy beyond any disproportionate amount we have already witnessed.
That’s right, those who will profit most do not create, they break. They smash and they burn and they shrug as if nobody saw it coming. And then they say, “Don’t blame me.”
On a more morose level, do not THINK for a moment that any of the Trump sons couldn’t dump a yacht full of dead hookers in the Hudson tomorrow on live TV and walk away without as much a slap on the gold-plated wristbands of their Cartier Astrotourbillons. In fact, a good portion of our society would cheer them on. Evangelicals especially would say the victims likely “had it coming and will be judged by God for their ways of ill-repute.”
That’s the society we live in. We passed sickness three exits ago and are going 120 toward absolute darkness. A society where those who do cling to the light, the writers, singers, journalists, artists, community organizers, teachers, healthcare workers, honest lawmakers and God-fearing clergy are marginalized, mocked of and ultimately, discredited.
The group taking power will quite literally be above the law and will pilfer and gamble and fail and loophole and roll over the corpse of the common man en route to greater and greater wealth.
The rest of us will be made fun of on the way to damnation.
But we have something they don’t. We weren’t born with it or into it, but it’s there. They can take our possessions, and they will. They can poison our waters and drill out the ground from beneath us, and they will. They can send us to war to die at their behest, and they will. They can tear up or signs, spit at our shoes, and steal our song lyrics, and they will. They can tear gas us and beat us with batons and take us into custody, and they will.
But they cannot take the fight in our hearts, they cannot steal that small chamber of good, of brightness, of what’s right in us.
That’s not for sale. Not in real Americans it isn’t.
And guess what? Believe it or not, there are still more of us than there are of them. You, me plus 350 million not-special-folks are about to be at the gate, ready for a fight, arms full of Legos to throw.
It is time to remember that. It is also time to get your affairs in order as if the world is ending.
Make no mistake, in 2017 the hero you need most …is you.