“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism . . . Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.” Emmanuel Macron
Let’s face it, it is not getting better. Trump is slipping, and with his demise, any chance for normalcy is going with him. The sheer rash of angry incidents of acting out since the midterm election has eclipsed even his most erratic days since he has been in office. The day after the election he fired Jeff Session and installed Matthew “The Hulk” Whitaker as acting Attorney General despite questions of constitutionality and the customary line of ascension. He was just getting warmed up.
The now infamous post election press conference was the thing journalist’s wet dreams are made of – even if it was a little pathetic to see unfold. His attack on Jim Acosta was breath-taking. Trump came off as a quintessential demented, arm waving proxy for your worst nightmare over Thanksgiving dinner when Uncle Walter comes in wearing a red MAGA hat spouting Alex Jones conspiracy theories. Again, Trump was only getting started. Over the week since, he has attacked journalist at will, and oddly, often Black female journalists calling them stupid and racist. No irony there.
Then there came the European trip to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended WWI. To say the trip was screwed up from beginning to end would give too much credit to Trump. It was a holy hell and damnation tour for the Orange One. Whether it was French President Macron calling out Trump for his divisive rhetoric proclaiming himself a nationalist or Trump ditching a ceremony at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near Paris to honor American soldiers who died there (conflating a light drizzle to zero visibility and driving rain that falsely grounded his helicopter) or his general dismissive and flippant air that he displayed the entire ceremony filled weekend, Trump was the butt of criticism and satire.
For Trump, the only bright thing that occurred was when Vlad the Impaler Putin showed up – late – and gave Trump a pat on the arm. Trump’s grin was either one of servile servitude or the desire to take his and Putin’s bromance to the next level. I won’t go there. The rest of the time was pretty much an occasion for Trump to sulk and act like the crazy person he is rapidly becoming. Who wanders around in a cemetery in misting rain by themselves when all the fun people are gathering and paying homage to heroes of bygone days?
The list of Trump’s shooting himself in the foot just keeps getting more bizarre and longer. Attacking California as being responsible for the out of control wild fires, trying to bitch slap Macron because he had the audacity to suggest Europe needs an army to protect themselves from Russia, China, and yes under Trump’s watch, America in the future, and calling for banning our troops’ votes sent from overseas are just a few of the highlights of the past few days. And, of course, he skipped the Arlington memorial service on Veteran’s Day. Call me crazy, but his actions display a disregard of common sense, respect, and a shameful lack of understanding and empathy. Remember, this is the man his base supports and thinks can do no wrong.
Which brings me to the topic of civility. In an article by Aldous J. Pennyfarthing titled Gen. Michael Hayden: ‘We are off the scale dishonoring the office’, Pennyfarthing made a statement that took me back. He wrote,
I’ve long since realized there’s no point in fighting Trump supporters online. It’s sort of like playing tetherball with your dog. You’ll win every round, but your dog will think he’s winning and will never, ever, ever give up.
This statement led to an epiphany on my part. Since the beginning of summer, I have been going to several hardcore conservative sites to engage readers there in an ongoing, fruitless exchange of barbed messages none of which have changed none of our beliefs. I think I have said before that I felt like I needed to know the people I criticized and engaging the Trump base seemed the best way to do that on a one to one basis.
Predictably, Trump’s base parrots his administration’s talking points and those of Fox News. Their hatred for Obama is frightening in its intensity and misinformation. These are people who believe Obama is not a United States citizen, and he almost single-handedly destroyed the military. When you confront them with hard numbers about the growth of the military across the last four administrations, they can in their minds make it not so. This is one of many, many examples.
And yes, they still think Hillary should be locked up and believe that the day will come when she and Obama will be brought before the court system and face the music. It is weird beyond belief what these people can convince themselves to accept. Considering Trump’s actions over the past week, it is understandable why they accept the unacceptable with a leader who lives in a fantasy world of lies, deceit, and overt hatred for anyone who will not bow down at his feet and grovel.
It is not a stretch to say that civility, or lack thereof, originates at the top and flows down to the people on the ground. While Trump’s actions are an anathema to his detractors, his base sees his actions as indicative of what has to be done to make America great again. In Trump, however, they have a diseased mind for a leader for reasons not even they understand. Trump has no, nor ever will, respect his base. They are a means to an end and little more than canon fodder for the political warfare Trump needs to hold onto his tenuous grip on the Republican Party.
Yet, there is something afoot in Washington that is disturbing as it is interesting. Trump’s actions over the past week clearly point to underlying pressure and concern that has got the Orange One acting out like a 12 year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The Daily Kos reports in an article, Something’s up: Fox, Wikileaks, Enquirer, Drudge, Stein & Guiliani not tweeting, that the silence in the tweet universe bodes badly for the administration. Trump supporters Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi appear to be facing imminent indictments from the Mueller team. Don, Jr. is also rumored to be facing indictment if the rumor mill is anywhere near correct. This was expected by Washington elites and politicians who saw Mueller waiting until after the midterms before roiling the political waters by moving forward and risking condemnation from the Republican Party.
Ultimately, the center is not holding, and Trump’s actions take on new meaning in light of his incivility and sulking demeanor. Where will it end? If there are political gods and goddesses, Trump and his minions will face much deserved retribution as the walls of justice come crashing down around them. It can not happen too soon.