Farewell to Democracy?
The Lady Will Remain Standing
‘I would have opened fire’
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2023 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
Consider these few hours in the repugnant life of a certain bailed-out criminal suspect, adjudicated sex abuser, world-class liar, and renown deadbeat who commands one-half of an American political duopoly that has devolved into a fascist confederation of the rich, the rascals, the racists, and the rubes:
It was a Monday afternoon in late September when the suspect, odds-on favorite to capture the Republican Party nomination for next year’s U.S. presidential election, wandered into the Palmetto State Armory gun shop in Sommerville, South Carolina.
Whereupon, he was bedazzled by the display of a Glock 9-millimeter pistol sporting a leather grip stamped with the likeness of his distinctively fluffy, yellow-haired head.
“I want to buy it!” he told the eager-to-please shopkeeper.
In the cause of history, a campaign spokesman accompanying the fluffhead—currently under civil and criminal indictment on a combined ninety-one charges ranging from business fraud to violation of the U.S. Espionage Act—sprang into action. Quick as a flash, he photographed the happy meeting of customer and merchant: Donald J. Trump fondled the Glock in his pudgy hands, the shopkeeper wore his widest grin.
Whereupon, the photo was posted to Truth Social, the Trump-owned internet site visited by few persons beyond journalists and the indictee’s most ardent fanboys and fangirls. The caption enthused, “President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”
The fraudster and probable traitor added to posterity by sharing a Truth Social post from an admirer who swooned over the gun shop photo, thus: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year. LIKE A BOSS!!!”
Note: In communiques from Trumpworld, capital letters and exclamation points are de rigueur.
But soon thereafter, another of Mr. Trump’s handlers stepped before the klieg lights of television news cameras to deny that the boss had indeed purchased a Glock. After all, federal law prohibits anyone under indictment for a crime that would require a minimum of one year’s incarceration on conviction from buying or receiving or otherwise possessing a firearm—and wouldn’t an upstanding disgraced ex-president wish to be in compliance? Not. (Incidentally, the 77-year-old Donald Trump could die in prison if found guilty of even one of his pending criminal charges.)
What the handlers and mainstream media failed to mention was the boss’s two-gun armory, as Mr. Trump himself attested in an interview some years ago with the rightwing Washington Times newspaper: a Heckler & Koch .45 caliber pistol, and a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver.
Also unmentioned was the concealed carry permit held by Mr. Trump, granted to him by the city of New York. Further missing was a reminder of his February 2016 interview with the rightwing French magazine Valeurs Actuelles.
“I always carry a weapon on me,” he told the magazine. With reference to the December 2015 terrorist mass shooting at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, Mr. Trump added, “If I had been at the Bataclan, I would have opened fire.”
Donald Trump’s antipathy to rules and regulations that apply to normal people was a hallmark of his single term in the White House, per victory in the election of 2016—a surprise result, even to himself. One of his very first televised pronouncements as the new president: “Can you believe it? I’m the president!”
For four long years, those with willing eyes saw beneath the greasy bronze skin of the ill-mannered Mr. Trump a profoundly ugly soul. Some were attracted to the ugliness: his fondness for violence and combative rhetoric, his proud history of sexual assault, his strident xenophobia, his autocratic impulse, his abhorrent personal conduct and aggressive ignorance, his bigotry and arrogance.
Especially the messianic arrogance. Among his sweeping promises to the electorate during the campaign of 2016 was this: “I’m the only one who can save this nation.”
Donald Trump is fascist to the bone.
And he is a showman. With his endless mass rallies during this, his third campaign for the presidency, Mr. Trump stages megalomaniacal entertainments unlike anything since Adolf Hitler toured the German countryside, whipping up the masses with the original slogan coined to evoke a grand mythical past—Mach Deutschland wieder großartig! (Make Germany great again).
As the Guardian of London newspaper described Mr. Trump’s own magical mythical traveling circus:
“Twentieth-century music from Abba, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston booms from loudspeakers. Video clips of allies such as the broadcaster Tucker Carlson and Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán receive cheers and those of foes such as Joe Biden…elicit boos and jeers.
“The former reality TV star enters to thunderous cheers and chants of ‘USA! USA!’ People wave signs bearing his name and snap photos on their phones [and wear] ‘I Love Trump’ T-shirts.
“Trump plays the parts of demagogue, divider and standup comic, serving red meat to supporters who revel in shared grievance and the thrill of transgression.
“The slogan then [in 2016 and in 2020] is the slogan now: ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA), emblazoned on a blue backdrop where Trump [typically speaks] for eighty minutes…[F]or his supporters, the phrase has taken on added meaning: MAGA is now imbued with nostalgia for the Trump presidency when, as they perceive it, borders were strong and fuel prices were low.”
It is tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s rally-goers as a cult of cretins, thus to ignore the rabble. But we must not cede our attention, for such a cult is a powerful enemy of civil society. Warned the German philosopher, historian, and playwright Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), “Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.”
The American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) wrote of a cult Everyman in “Death of a Salesman,” his masterwork: “His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”
It is likewise tempting to dismiss Donald Trump’s fascination with a Glock 9-millimeter gussied up with his own preposterous image as a trivial matter, worthy of a mere footnote in the regrettable history of his life.
Mr. Trump’s antics and outrages have exhausted us. The stupidity of his cult has exhausted us. The headlines have exhausted us.
In a departure from his customary wisdom, a friend of mine remarked over a pleasant meal we shared, “I no longer pay attention to the television news programs, and I long for the day when the name Donald Trump disappears from the papers.”
Henry Giroux, the Canadian-American scholar and cultural critic, begs to differ. In a recent essay, he argued for attentive alarm:
“Trump has accelerated both his lies and threats of violence for years. What is disturbing, if not dangerous, is how the mainstream press refuses to analyze such threats and Trump’s addiction to violence as a central element of fascist and authoritarian politics. We know from the study of history that such threats led to executions, torture, imprisonment, and death camps—think of Pinochet, Pol Pot, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s trials…
“Yet the mainstream media simply reports the violence issued by Trump and his lackeys as mere description, uncivilized rhetoric, and undignified. Silence on this issue is a form of complicity, and the mainstream press is further legitimating such violence through their tone-deaf reporting.
“There is more at stake here than a lack of journalistic responsibility, there is a refusal to imagine what the end of democracy, if not humanity might look like if this culture of lies and violence continues unabated and unaccountable.”
However the world may regard the United States these days—dripping with the blood of gun slaughter? stupid enough to be flummoxed by Donald Trump and his talent for delaying the justice he richly deserves? still in recovery from his attempted overthrow democracy two years ago by way of the Trump-inspired deadly insurrection of January 6, 2021?—there is the mighty Statue of Liberty. She rises over the great harbor of my city, as an artful structure of universal respect.
There is a sonnet engraved on the pedestal upon which the statue stands as the welcoming symbol of my country, the oldest continuing democracy on Earth. The sonnet’s title, “The New Colossus,” was authored by the poet and social activist Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), whose words I have known since schoolboy days:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift up my lamp beside the golden door.
Donald Trump and his cult mock the nobility of “Lady Liberty,” as the statue is known. They would replace the sonnet with a vicious rendition in homage to the worst elements of American life.
They will die one day, Donald Trump and the rest; fascists must die. But Lady Liberty will remain exactly where she is, and schoolboys and schoolgirls will continue to memorize the poetry of Emma Lazarus.
For as Friedrich Schiller wrote:
There are three lessons I would write—
Three words—as with a burning pen,
In tracings of eternal light.
Upon the hearts of men.
Have Hope. Though clouds environ now,
And gladness hides her face in scorn,
Put thou the shadow from thy brow—
No night but hath its morn.