No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills: . . .
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
―Shakespeare, Richard II
These lines from Shakespeare were the first that came into my mind this morning on awakening to the confirmation that Donald Trump had indeed won the race for the U.S. Presidency. “No matter where, of comfort no man speak.” How can there be comfort in the hearts and souls of any sensible citizen who watched and listened to Mr. Trump and his entourage of mendacious minders and scrofulous surrogates over the past months? Mr. Trump now calls for the respect of the office he so systematically disrespected and denigrated, questioning the legitimacy of President Obama and threatening not to accept the outcome of the election unless he himself was elected.
On almost every count, Trump represents the opposite of what America needs at this critical hour. Where we have needed unity, he has sown discord; where we have needed reason, he has provided speciousness and sophistry; where we have needed refinement, he has bellowed out coarseness; where we have needed respect, he has brazenly spread disrespect (for blacks, Latinos, the disabled, Muslims, and, especially, for women); where we have needed sacrifice, Donald Trump presents a life-long history of extreme egotism and selfishness; where we have needed humility he has exemplified narcissism; where we have needed generosity, he has demonstrated the most extreme self-serving behavior. Most of all, where we have needed love, Donald Trump has spread hate.
Hanging over this presidency, as opposed to every other election since the beginning of the republic, has been the interference of foreign powers in the outcome of our democratic process. The hacking of private e-mails by the Russian government, the strategic release of the same by Julian Assange and the dishonest and distorted exploitation of this information by the Trump campaign were deliberate attempts to defeat Hillary Clinton and to promote Donald Trump and his naive, uninformed and dangerous understanding of the world.
Just as scandalous has been the Republican party’s systematic suppression of voter rights in the name of a completely invented “Voter Fraud” scandal. In many states, the shortening of registration and voting periods, requirements for photo identification, reduction of polling places (nearly 900 fewer in the presidential election), purging of voter rolls, disenfranchisement of felons who have paid their debt to society, deliberate misleading information about voting procedures, etc.—all aimed at suppressing the votes of minorities, the poor and other populations that tend to vote for the Democratic party.
Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of a Trump presidency has been his promise to appoint an arch-conservative, strict constitutionalist to the Supreme Court, someone in the mold of Antione Scalia. In fact, it is likely, given the age and frail condition of Judge Ginsberg, that Trump will appoint two Supreme Court judges, affecting the tenor of the court for several generations with judgments that have the potential to diminish the rights of ordinary citizens and to the benefit of the rich and powerful.
“Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.” One of the most tragic results of a Trump presidency is the fate of the earth, our common mother. Trump’s denial of global warming, his indifference to the natural forces set in motion by our selfishness, indifference and neglect, have the potential to cause greater harm to humanity than any of the retrograde policies that he might enact during his presidency. The death, devastation and destruction that are already attributed to climate change portend disasters that we can’t even imagine.
The presidency of Donald J. Trump: Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad tales about the election of demagogues.
Robert A. Rees, Ph.D., is Visiting Professor at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.