By Maria Behan
The popular imagination tends to glamorize evil: Dracula, Satan, Narnia’s White Witch. Moral abominations all, but at least they have an air of sophistication about them. And none are nicknamed Diaper Don because of a tendency to pass out drunk and piss themselves. Which, according to one of his classmates, was the case with Donald Trump Jr. during his years at the University of Pennsylvania.
I hesitate before repeating that story, because it’s a cruel one. But I’m not sure I need to expend much compassion on a man who worked himself into an impressive lather as he pronounced allegations of Russia-Trump campaign collusion “disgusting” in a voice that quavered with righteous indignation. As we learned recently, that was a month after Donald Jr. received an email promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” and responded, “If it’s what you say I love it.” Could there be more unmistakable evidence of collusion?
“Disgusting” is a word that some of us might apply to Don Jr. himself. Especially after looking at photos depicting him as the Great White Hunter, puffing himself up and grinning beside various magnificent creatures that he and his brother had just transformed into carcasses. Or when he sent out this tweet, accompanied by a photo of a bowl of candy: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” I didn’t agree with the Clinton campaign about much, but I love staffers’ nickname for Donald Jr. and his brother, Eric: “the Storm Troopers.” Look at any picture of them, with their slicked-back hair and resemblance to German soldiers from bygone days, and you can see why.
I know it’s petty to focus on appearances, so I’ll let Dorothy Parker do it for me. She once said, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” I’ll leave it at that…but if an image of a multi-chinned president flanked by his chinless adult sons pops into your mind, I don’t blame you.
It seems that Donald Jr. may finally have made a mess too big for any diaper to contain. So big that he may have mortally wounded yet another huge beast: the Trump administration. The damning information contained in Don Jr.’s recently released email chain—not to mention the revelations that likely lie ahead—disprove the administration’s foundational lie, which is that there was no collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and agents working for the Russian government.
The best indication of how serious the email revelations are is the fact that the windbag occupying the White House actually paused for breath. For a few days, President Trump made zero public appearances and issued few tweets. Then he scuttled off to France, where he literally hid away up in a tower, stuffing himself with rich food while the locals celebrated the French Revolution far below, in streets that had been designated “No Trump Zones.”
When Day Is Night and Night Is Day, It’s Hard to Tell Time
It would have been unimaginable in the days before Trump’s reign of lies, but the president and the Republicans who support him are trying to downplay the Russian collusion revelations—and they just may get away with it. Like his son and namesake, the president of the United States embodies and encourages the debasement that’s swallowing up what’s left of America’s critical thinking and moral compass. We’ve long been a nation where individuals can differ passionately, sometimes fatally, about what’s right and wrong. But under Trump, we’ve become a country where right and wrong simply don’t matter.
Catch me red-handed in the act of stealing, murdering, or colluding with a hostile government? No problem. I’ll just yell, “Fake news” and keep on going.
Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann warned of “the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.” The last three words are the ones she’s most famous for, and they’re often applied to President Trump. But the words that preface them are a chilling summation of American political discourse today. Is there a better description of the garbage language and logic that Trump and his minions spew out every day than “word-and-thought-defying?”
“We are dying, slowly, of stupidity,” is how Jill Lepore put it in The New Yorker last month. I tend to agree—but some of us seem to be more advanced cases than others.
On July 12, on his way to France to ogle the country’s First Lady and ruin Bastille Day for Parisians, Trump appeared to sympathize with the plight of Republican senators back home, who had heroically postponed their summer vacations in the hope of stripping away healthcare from the poor and disabled. Trump informed the reporters aboard Air Force One that getting to 50 votes is “this narrow road that’s about a quarter of an inch wide.” In an expansive mood, he added that, “I’d say the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is healthcare.”
Does the shambling baboon flinging turds in the White House think we won’t remember his other, completely contradictory, statements? Like this one: “I know that we’re all going to make a deal on healthcare. That’s such an easy one.” And this one: “You’re going to have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”
On the Middle East peace theme, there’s this: “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians—none whatsoever.” And this: “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
Of course, Trump is stupid enough to make all those statements—and not be bothered by the fact that his most recent ones completely contradict earlier ones. But unless they get their news from propaganda spigots like Fox News, Americans aren’t stupid enough to accept them.
Many of us feel a sense that surely (surely?) this latest, unmistakable evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion with agents of the Russian government will prove to be its undoing. But given the cynical, craven Republicans in Congress, it will likely take time. Meanwhile Trump is holed up in the White House, getting fatter by the day on the extra scoop of ice cream he insists on having with his dessert (the staff has been instructed to serve one to everyone else at the table, two for Jabba the Leader of the Free World).
If you’re not furious enough yet, consider this: That ice cream—not to mention the staggering travel and security costs as the entire extended Trump family jets all over the globe, dodging the press and lining their pockets—is paid for with American taxpayers’ money.
My fellow citizens and I may be looking at years of supporting a wealthy sociopath who didn’t ascend to power, he descended (yes, I’m talking about the notorious Trump Tower escalator ride at his campaign announcement; but I’m also referring to the colluding and hate-mongering that ensued). If I’m going to be paying for that bloated billionaire’s room and board, I want it to be in a jail cell, not the White House.
For more great Wild Word essays see:
How I Found Joy in Domestic Order by Annie Mark-Westfall
Why the Morality in Wonder Woman Matters by Reverend Rachel Kessler
Let’s Stop Shaming and Start Supporting Moms by Jami Ingledue