Fear and Loathing in Washington

George Stephanopoulos said, “But away from the rituals of Washington, alongside the elation of [Donald] Trump supporters, there is deep anxiety, anger, and fear.” There is a lot of fear associated with the coming presidential election. Opponents of Donald Trump fear that if he is elected again, the United States will cease to exist as we know it. Trump will continue to sew anxiety, anger, and fear in his supporters and bring an end to this nation as we know it. His disregard for the rule of law will continue unabated if he wins and Republicans remain in control of the Senate. All norms associated with American democracy will cease to exist if we continue to be governed by a self-centered, egomaniacal tyrant wannabe. For the Republican Party, the only thing they care about is the continued accumulation of wealth and power.

If you watched any part of the Republican National Convention (RNC), you were probably struck by the expressions of fear that permeated the proceedings—namely, the fear that any failure to re-elect Donald Trump would result in the collapse of the American experiment if not the dissolution of civilization itself. Words to that effect were spoken many times; Trump himself, accepting the nomination said, “This election will decide whether we SAVE the American Dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to DEMOLISH our cherished destiny.” (The capitalization is original to the transcript.) Throughout the RNC, speakers argued that Trump would restore “law and order” and make America a safer country than Biden. Republicans focused more on what they call a bleak future under Democrats rather than on the record of Trump’s actions over the past four years because the record for Trump is so disastrous. There is nothing to praise, no matter how much they lie. 

There is no doubt Donald Trump plays on the fears of his audience.  He is a professional and highly-accomplished fearmonger who uses vicious and incendiary rhetoric in a pitiful attempt to generate support for his pathetic campaign. Trump will shy away from no outrageous claim to stoke the fires of terror in his followers. He majors in drama, paranoia, and conspiracy theories. He divides the world into “good guys” and “bad guys” and wants everyone to know that he alone can protect us from the “bad guys.” Trump is an egotistical, pompous, arrogant man who lacks subtlety and blurts out mistaken ideas. He is insulting, vindictive, and angry. Trump and his supporters use fear as a deliberate strategy to get religious but ignorant people to stand with the Republican Party, to get them on their mailing lists, and to motivate them to open their bank accounts and support that fear. Evangelicals and other conservatives support Trump because they want to be on the inside wielding power no matter the cost.

Democrats are struggling with their own fears. Following the Democratic National Convention’s underlying theme of unity over division, Joe Biden’s acceptance speech called on Americans to consider the gravity of this election, which he painted as one of the most consequential in history. Biden began his speech saying:

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light, and they will find a way. Give people light. Those are words for our time. The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division. Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.

If we look at the last four years, there is so much the Republican Party should be ashamed to admit happened under their watch. There are just too many items to list, but here are some of the reasons Trump is uniquely incapable of managing crises:

  • His White House is always in a state of chaos.
  • He thrives on conflict.
  • He values loyalty over competence.
  • He distrusts expertise and experts.
  • He can’t tell the truth; everything must always be “great” or “tremendous.”
  • His relentless need to attack opponents renders him unable to unify the country.
  • His lack of empathy for problems not personally affecting him.
  • His penchant for conspiracy theorizing.
  • His relentless and pathetic need for compliments and affirmation.
  • His top priority is never what’s happening to the country, but instead how it makes him look; how will it affect his reelection chances.

When Trump was running for president in 2016, many warned if he were elected, he would cause disaster (some even said nuclear war), but there was another group, perhaps even larger, who said, “Sure, he’s kind of a joke, but why not give him a shot? What’s the worst that could happen?” Now we’re finding out the worst that could happen, and he still has at least four more months in office. Some might believe Republicans are right to spread fear, but I argue they aren’t it just causes instability. The same people might ask: but what about the terror of the unknown such as the fear of the economy collapsing, the lawlessness running wild, the pandemic, devastating hurricanes, rampant wildfires, other disasters on a biblical scale? Well, now we know. At the 2016 RNC, Trump proclaimed, “Nobody knows the system better than me which is why I alone can fix it.” Now, Trump finds himself in what Biden called in his DNC speech, “one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced.”  Biden pointed out we are facing: “Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm. The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the ’60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.”This doesn’t even consider the problems the United States has faced over the last three and a half years, but Trump has failed to answer the call for leadership. 

Arthur Eddington, the English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, once said, “The pursuit of truth in science transcends national boundaries. It takes us beyond hatred and anger and fear. It is the best of us.” This is only true if you believe in science, which the Republicans seem to disregard. Conservatives throughout history have always held science in suspicion. They simply can’t deal with hard facts and truths. They prefer to use hatred, anger, and fear to get people to follow their agenda. Trump and his supporters have denied the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have denied the evidence that supports the use of masks to protect others. They have denied climate change as it ravages our planet. They refuse to face the cold hard facts of science. Instead, they bring forth the worse in humanity: willful ignorance. The Ukrainian-born author and poet, Vironika Tugaleva, said, “Peace and love are just as contagious as anger and fear. Your mindset affects the people around you and perpetually changes the world. The question is what kind of world are you creating?” When we go to vote in November, we should ask ourselves what kind of world are we creating? What kind of world are we voting for? Is it a world filled with light, love, hope, and unity, or is it a world of darkness, hatred, anger, fear, and division?

Biden summed up his DNC speech by quoting Irish poet Seamus Heaney: “History says don’t hope on this side of the grave, but then once-in-a-lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.” Biden concluded the speech saying:

This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme. With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God — united in our love for America and united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission.” May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here, tonight, as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation.  And this is a battle we will win, and we will do it together.  I promise you.

Will the United States vote for unity and harmony? I hope so. Or, will Americans vote for darkness, hatred, anger, fear, and division? I pray they don’t. I pray we can heal this nation. I pray we can work to end the racial strife that exists. I pray we can put an end to the homophobia that permeates this country. 

As Albert Einstein said, “Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” Thankfully, most Americans are not fools. Currently, the majority, nearly 53 percent, of Americans disapprove of Donald Trump. Dorothy Thompson, the “First Lady of American Journalism,” was expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 because they considered her offensive for speaking the truth. She said, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” I want to end with another quote by Thompson who described Hitler in the following terms: “He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill poised, and insecure. He is the very prototype of the little man.” If you didn’t know this quote was from 1934 about Adolf Hitler, who does it sound like she is describing? A 2017 ABC News/Washington Post poll asked respondents: “What ONE WORD best describes your impression of Trump? Just the one word that best describes him.” Some of the most common words that respondents gave were incompetent, arrogant, idiot, egotistical, ignorant, racist, asshole, and narcissistic. The words Trump opponents use to describe him now have become much more colorful and graphic in nature, but the same sentiments are still there. We have a court jester instead of a president, and on election day, he needs to hear his own words loud and clear, “You’re Fired!”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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