by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2022 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
On the fourth day of this month of July, the United States will mark the 246th anniversary of our revolutionary break from the monarchy of Great Britain—the signing of the Declaration of Independence, among the world’s most eloquent documents of political courage.
This holiday, my personal favorite, will be celebrated with the usual backyard barbecues and picnics in the parks and softball games and razzle-dazzle fireworks and streets full of joyful parades with marching bands and pretty girls twirling batons. As usual, families and friends will crowd the curbsides with hands over hearts in respect for wartime veterans passing through the streets, trudging along to patriotic tunes that swell the American soul with pride.
But this year, our pride and joy will be muted, if not extinguished by one or more of our recurring massacres at public gatherings.
For this year, we are at cultural war with one another—a “cold civil war,” if you will. One that few on either side of the resistible rise in blind conflict would be surprised to see become a hot war that could kill off our creaking democracy, a result sure to gladden the heart of a deposed autocrat hunkered down in a tasteless xanadu called Mar-a-Lago.
The better angels among us may only hope for a dissipation of a gathering storm. A malignant tempest of social resentments, bigotry, misogyny, willful ignorance, cruelty rained down on desperate immigrants, disrespect for intellectual and scientific achievement, preference for conspiratorial lunacy over clear evidence. All that and a fascist cult inspired by the Big Lie of Donald Trump’s invention: as ex-Attorney General Bill Barr put it, ”bullshit” about an election in November 2020 that Mr. Trump claimed was “rigged” against him, though a contest that in fact he decisively lost.
Perhaps I understate our deteriorating national condition. Then again…
…Last month came a series of explosive televised hearings conducted by a bipartisan committee of the Congress charged with investigating the natural result of Trump’s Big Lie—the deadly attack on the Capitol building in Washington on January 6, 2021. On the final Tuesday afternoon of June, the criminal rot of the Trump era lay fully exposed by way of extraordinary testimony from a 26-year-old former White House aide by the name of Cassidy Hutchinson.
Ms. Hutchinson was in the room, and rooms, where it happened. She told us what transpired among the mighty who conspired:
• Secret Service agents warned that the Sturmtruppen at Mr. Trump’s command, violent men in body armor with knives and pistols and Glock pistols and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, were seen flocking toward a speaker’s stand where America’s wannabe führer was about to instigate the deadly insurrection of January 6. Those warnings were ignored, as were similar warnings advanced on January 5. Trump knew! But did nothing to prevent the hell to come.
• From Mr. Trump’s own lips: Vice President Mike Pence deserved the wishes of a rampaging mob of Capitol insurrectionists chanting “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” as their confederates erected a gallows.
• Mr. Trump ordered police and the Secret Service to disable metal detectors around the perimeter of his speaker’s dais, as his way of welcoming armed fascists leery of having their weapons seized. After all, said Mr. Trump, “They’re not here to hurt me.”
• Mr. Trump was trundled into presidential transport by Secret Service agents who forbade him from joining the attack mob he dearly desired to lead for confrontation with a joint session of Congress tasked with the constitutional duty to formalize the 2020 election victory of President Joe Biden. Angered, Mr. grabbed the steering wheel in an attempt to swing the vehicle toward the Capitol and away from the safety of the White House. When an agent pulled away the presidential arm, Mr. Trump grabbed his throat with his free arm and choked him.
• Back at the White House at last, a partially calmed Donald Trump watched live television coverage of the insurrection from the dining room. But soon he erupted in fury, to the point of throwing his customarily ketchup-clogged lunch against the walls, leaving Ms. Hutchinson and a detail of presidential valets to clean up the mess—such behavior being a frequent display of Mr. Trump’s level of maturity.
• On numerous other occasions, Mr. Trump’s habitually vulgar speech and various temper tantrums were likewise on display.
Cassidy Hutchinson was telegenic, articulate, thoughtful, and poised. She was eminently believable, and Donald Trump knows it, though he dashed off a childish slur via the rapidly failing social media site he established after being banned from all others: “She’s a total phony,” for once in his life omitting his usual f-bomb as intensifier.
In this time, we are called on to choose a moral allegiance. In the style of a question posed by the wonderful old anthem of labor union organizing in the 1930s, proudly sung by the American troubadour Pete Seeger (1919-2014), we are asked, “Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?”
The opposing sides today are distinguished by color, just as they were during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. In that brutal episode of our history, slave states of the South sallied forth in sedition under the stars-and-bars banner of treason—the same banner as seen unfurled at last year’s Capitol insurrection, alongside “TRUMP” flags, many sewn by men and women forced to labor in Chinese sweat shops.
Southern soldier boys of Civil War I wore grey, Union soldiers of the anti-slavery North wore blue.
Now in the build-up to a potential Civil War II, conservators of democracy are largely drawn from the North and Pacific Coast, regions known in politicalspeak as blue states. The populations are rich with white urban professionals and those of African American, Hispanic, and Asian heritage.
Now in the gathering storm come insurrectionists from what are known as red states, largely of the South and West. They venerate the banner of treason, as noted. One sees in group photos of them a sea of Caucasian complexion. Their uniforms, as it were, include frumpy red hats available at the Trump memorabilia shop in Manhattan for $50 (€47.50) per lid.
Special note: each frumpy lid features the embroidered slogan of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, “Make America Great Again,” an adaptation of Adolf Hitler’s campaign slogan of 1932, Machen Sie Deutschland wieder Großartig.
At immediate issue, many of us Americans reasonably imagine the worst to come: another brutal historical era, with a full-blast shooting war as the logical coda of horror in a country of 330 million jittery people who own some 400 million guns (that we know of). According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the consequences of our national gun fetish are these:
• One hundred and eleven Americans are shot and killed every
day, or 40,515 per year.
• Two hundred and ten Americans are wounded by firearms every day, or 76,650 per year.
Guns need people to maim and kill. People need guns to do themselves in, one way or another.
Thus, shortly before Cassidy Hutchinson revealed her disgust with Donald Trump and his regime, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a conjoined monstrosity of rulings (as predicted in this space a month ago, by the way):
• Reversing a near half-century of legal precedent, the court struck down a 1973 federal law that gave women the right to abortion, nationwide. In their dubious wisdom, six justices of the nine-member bench—as currently constituted, all of them stalwarts of the Republican Party, three of whom were appointed to their lifetime posts by Donald Trump—determined that the ’73 decision was “egregiously wrong.” Why? Because the word “abortion” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, a document written in 1787 and ratified in 1789.
Accordingly then, abortion policy is now returned to the fifty state legislatures for disposition. Immediately, half the states under Republican control either outlawed abortion under most circumstances, including as the result of rape and/or incest, or indicated that draconian bans are forthcoming. Women and their doctors—and practically anyone else involved in the abortion process—could face prison time for violating such bans.
In Texas, the Republican legislature instituted a program of cash bounties for vigilantes who guide police and prosecutors to lady lawbreakers, their dastardly doctors, and even the errant Uber driver who delivers a pregnant fare to a medical clinic.
• In a twin 6-3 ruling by what now may rightly be called the Trump Court, justices struck down a century-old New York law against carrying a concealed handgun in public unless a critical reason for personal defense can be proven; most other states have similar restrictions. Effectively, the high court ruling means that anyone anywhere in the U.S. may now pack hidden heat. What could possibly go wrong?
Virtually all leaders of the Democratic Party and millions of ordinary Americans—women and men alike—voiced immediate objection to the Supreme Court as our premier institution of constitutional law, particularly as regards the abortion matter. In cities and towns throughout the country, rage in the streets was heard and is heard still.
Those who dared protest against the Trump Court’s reversal of abortion rights were attacked by those in favor of mandated birth. In the small Iowa city of Cedar Rapids, for instance, a truck driver plowed his vehicle into a crowd of dissenters, sending one person to a hospital and injuring several others; police declined to effect an arrest.
The pro-Trump social medium “Telegram” advises its “patriotic” readers to “bring rifles and men” to further demonstrations against the Trump Court.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump-loving Republican who represents the suburbs of Atlanta, supports both high court decisions. Of ending abortion rights, she declared in a Tweet: “If you are pregnant, God made you completely capable to be a mother, and he (sic) will provide for you.” Of guns, she spoke of a crucial need to train young children in the use of weaponry capable of warding off would-be murderers who invade schoolrooms with AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, America’s best-selling firearm.
Post presser, one headline read (and I am not making his up): “Marjorie Taylor Greene admits arming fetuses is ‘impossible.’”
Darren Beattie, a former speech writer for Mr. Trump, also linked the court’s rulings. Via his own social media site “Revolver News,” he crowed:
“BREAKING: It’s now legal to shoot women having abortions in New York City with your Supreme Court-issued concealed handgun.”
To be sure, Ms. Greene and Mr. Beattie are laughing hyenas on the outré end of the right-wing political spectrum. But they are entertaining on television and thus taken seriously by millions of voters for whom entertainment is practically everything.
Other voters, those Americans capable of sound reasoning, hope that the elegantly stated creed of a loyal patriot of the past may illuminate our benighted present. By which I suggest the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), known by the pen name Mark Twain. In his 1889 novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” Mr. Clemens wrote:
“[M]y kind of loyalty [is] to one’s country, not to its institutions, or its office holders. The country is the real thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags—this is loyalty to unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it.”
As with all good things, all bad things must come to an end. Throughout the history of bad things, even the most despicable characters have felt the crumbling walls of their ignominious lives.
Certainly Benito Mussolini, father of fascism, knew this in April 1945 when Italian partisans raised their rifles against him and his young mistress, Claretta Petacci. After which, the corpses were hanged upside down in the village square of Giulino di Mezzegra.
In the same month of 1945, certainly Adolf Hitler, cowering in der Führerbunker night after sleepless night knew the time was ripe for two capsules of cyanide—one for himself, one for his mistress Eva Braun—as Allied bomber planes shrieked over Berlin to end his “thousand-year Reich.”
As I write, federal and state prosecutors are preparing criminal and civil cases against a man who knows many sleepless nights in the elaborately cheesy bunker of Mar-a-Lago.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, co-chair of the congressional investigative committee, offers counsel for fellow Republicans who continue in ardent defense of the previously cited wannabe führer: “The day will come when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Thomas Adcock is our U.S.correspondent.
His essays with us here.