Every day, a fresh revelation, a new indictment, an ever more outrageous, rudderless expression of falsehoods, disdain, and amorality. Nothing is stable, nothing true, whatever was done or said yesterday or an hour ago is inoperative, a passing wisp descending to a graveyard where words go to be drained of all their life-giving blood.
We live in an eternal, impulsive now of rampant, chthonic chaos, of bottomless depravity, of such clear danger to our national identity, our very character as a sovereign, self-examining people, that all else seems to pale in importance.
One summons the angels that still beckon in family, friends, the arts, the comforts of a long walk, a good book or a warming drink on a winter night. But increasingly, those comforts feel if not cold, at least clammy, begetting an intermittent case of vertigo.
One yearns for the normal, for norms that may yet be remembered and reasserted as guiding principles for the common good.
And one thinks: For the love of God and this nation, Robert Mueller, HURRY!
Yes, a thorough investigation it must be, built brick by brick, with plentiful mortar to seal it tight and leak-proof for a jury of 329 million. But that thoroughness must be weighed against the steady, corrosive drips of torture inflicted on our people, our collective consciousness, our institutions that, however robustly they were designed to withstand extreme strain, are not immune to permanent rupture.
It is now the year 2019, and as chaotic and desperate as most every day of 2018 and 2017 felt in American politics, the one near certainty is that this will be the year that something even more dramatic will happen to further deepen our crisis and ask us anew, perhaps like at no time since the Great Depression or the Civil War, about who we are as a people.
And who our legislators are, both as people, and as freely elected guardians of the people’s welfare.
The election of a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in November served as a needed but limited brake on untrammeled power. But the final disposition of Donald Trump’s legacy as president will not be determined by Democrats.
Donald Trump has never fought fair a day in his life, and he would not let an inconsequential matter like the welfare and laws of his country deter him from using every tool and weapon at his disposal to fight for his political and business survival…
Rather, it will be Republicans who are called to face their moment of truth. They—legislators and common citizens alike—have been the great enablers, the excuse-makers, the look-awayers as they abided and excused the depredations of this wreck of a man, transparently devoid of all virtue, of a type few of them would invite to their home for dinner, engage for a business deal or trust with their daughter.
Conning themselves with the help of a con man, they have pretended the damage he has done virtually every minute of his tenure is a small price paid for a larger prize of policy achievements they have convinced themselves will redound to their and the country’s benefit. (They are wrong about every part of that, unless they are wealthy.)
So what will they do, these Republicans, if Mr. Mueller presents conclusive evidence—piled upon the mountains already used to indict an already unconscionable number of the president’s inner circle and fellow travelers—that the president of the United States willfully and repeatedly sought the assistance of and, in return, provided succor to, a longtime nemesis of his own country?
I think I know, absent a meaningful Republican abandonment of their bespoiled standard bearer, what Mr. Trump would do.
He would, following true to the form that has dictated every move of his presidency, fight it for all he is worth, refusing to step aside, blaming everyone else, encouraging his dwindled but still menacing base to take to the streets in protest, defiance and very possibly much more.
And if he were subsequently impeached and convicted? Would he exit, as the Constitution dictates, or hunker down, demanding that the Secret Service protect his inner sanctum while willing members of his base, eternally grateful for their right to bear virtually any and all arms, took to the streets of the Capital, forming a protective ring around the White House and shooting to kill all who would contest them?
Far-fetched? Anyone who thinks so has not been paying close enough attention to how desperately the president has sought to derail and discredit the Mueller investigation, and to what bottomless depths he will sink—and has already sunk—to defend and sustain his transgressions.
Donald Trump has never fought fair a day in his life, and he would not let an inconsequential matter like the welfare and laws of his country deter him from using every tool and weapon at his disposal to fight for his political and business survival, the two of them now joined at the hip as they are.
Several days ago, I awoke to a dream of two giant horse figures moving toward me in the barely dawning light. Maybe 100 or 200 feet tall, they were construction figures, dark, quiet and menacing. They were moving inexorably closer as I gazed at them on the horizon, and I knew they brought terrible portents of danger that would threaten our way of life and very survival.
And I also knew even in the dream, which finally woke me in alarm, that they represented the dark forces of the Trump presidency as it flails in ever more aggressive and desperate ways.
Will we be up to answering the threat they pose with our own inexorable force, moving toward a brighter dawn than we have experienced at any time through this nightmarish presidency? Will we finally render these years as a blemish, a temporary bout of insanity on this country’s jagged but usually well-intentioned trajectory of justice and truth-seeking?
Hard to tell.
The conclusion of the Mueller investigation may well tell us, at long last, “what happened.”
What happens from there will take its cues from the investigation’s key findings, and whether, if they point ultimately to presidential malfeasance, Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans decide to do anything about it.
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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Trojan horse by Stowe Boyd, San Francisco, California
“Chaotic Chaos” artwork by Saleh Dinparvar, Iran