Letter 2 America for November 12, 2020

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Dear America,

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, FDR characterized the day before in a speech: "...a date which will live in infamy..."  Since Donald Trump reneged on his commitment to accept the election results--that was an uncharacteristic moment in his life, lasting but a few days--that phrase, a date which will live in infamy, has been cropping up in my thinking as something a real president said once that has lasting significance.  Donald Trump is a name that "will live in infamy" just as sure as he stands there as an obstacle to the peaceful transition of power in a country that has enjoyed such for more than two centuries.  Trump has thrown our international reputation as a nation of reliable political stability...a paradigm for the rest of the world to emulate...into question, and it may be that the effect of his infamy will never be undone, which evokes my memory of another presidential quote.

As everyone of my generation knows, Richard Nixon inflicted a constitutional crisis on the nation too over his role in the aftermath of the "Watergate break-in" that occurred in 1972.  On August 8, 1974, Nixon resigned and moments later his vice president, Gerald Ford, was sworn in as president.  In a speech he gave on that occasion, he said, among other things, "Our long national nightmare is over...Our Constitution works..."  If only we could echo Ford's comments today in our country, America.  But our long national nightmare may just be entering a new, devastating phase.  I can't help imagining Trump being escorted out of the White House in hand cuffs by federal marshals, our then former president ranting unabated about having won the election, and making every despicable effort of which he is capable, and he is capable of enormous despicable effort, to marshal what his allies call "his base" to his side to overthrow a democracy that has been the single brightest beacon of hope for a world in which hope is often a scarce commodity.  To put it concisely, Donald Trump could possibly nullify a couple of centuries of exemplary political stability just on a bizarre whim: that he is king...like Putin.

I say this somewhat ruefully, but I doubt that Joe Biden will say what is apt when he assumes office and Trump is just a nightmarish memory.  Biden is too civilized to slap a phrase on Trump's political heresy such as the two just recounted.  Trump deserves to go down in history with a memorable phrase, but chances are he won't.  He'll just be a pathetic tinhorn-would-be dictator, a miscreant who caused national shame and was the embodiment of the decay of his party into misdirected loyalty to party over nation.  But we will have an emblem of Trump's desperate egotism in the form of the Republican Party that enabled him, it seems now until the very end.  The fact that there are only two or three members of that party who have stepped forward out of the crowd to intimate the peril that Trump represents by congratulating Biden on his electoral victory is a kind of infamy all its own, and my guess is that the Republican Party won't live that down any time soon.  Of course, conservatives who's positivistic sanctimony enables them to assert impunity in advocating their sensibilities regarding both political and moral issues will cleave to the party because there is no other political infrastructure that will comport with their modus operandi. The frayed, if not torn credibility of the Republican Party will be their only possible allegiance as no one else will have them, and my bet is that the Republican Party itself will go the way of all things fairly soon after this whole sad, Trump episode ends.  Embarrassment will ensue, and even those who professed nobility in their dogmatic ideals will have to admit that there is at least an alternative to their moral certainty, rendering it anything but certain.  Trumpers will begin denying to their children that they voted for him, and then they will have to admit their folly, to themselves if to no one else, and a new party will be born, "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal..." as Lincoln said at Gettysburg.  And then we will have the security to go on for another two centuries building back what Trump and his followers undermined, if they did not destroy it: the national rectitude that has rendered us the most trusted nation in the world...at least until that unfortunate day in January 2017 when Shakespeare's witches might have said, "something wicked this way comes" as they stirred their cauldron of evil concoction. 

Who knew it could get this bad.  Who knew that the United States, a beacon of stability that all can see, could get so far off track that whether our democracy will endure became an open question.  We should all remember this historical pass and commit ourselves and our nation to "never pass this way again."

Your friend


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on November 12, 2020 11:04 AM.

Letter 2 America for November 4, 2020 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for November 19, 2020 is the next entry in this blog.

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