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Thomas Adcock: Death of The Donald

Death of The Donald

Wither Orange Jesus?

The buoyancy of hope vs. the fatigue of despair

By Thomas Adcock

Copyright © 2022 – Thomas Adcock

NEW YORK CITY, near America

Six days after his furious speech before a rally of his flag-waving flock—the afterglow to a courtroom triumph that would shortly boomerang—the plodding big-bellied man with an obvious diabetic condition and a sanctimonious worldview sat down for what was, to him, a routine midnight supper: two roast chickens soaked in gravy accompanied by sweet potatoes and rice, carrot and turnip mash, butter biscuits, and a hefty wedge of apple pie.  

Hours later he died in his sleep of apoplexy.

This may put you hopefully in mind of a swift fate for a certain someone still very much with us. But I do not speak here of the plodding big-bellied loser in the presidential election of 2020. Instead, I speak of a Christianist scold of yore—William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), a charismatic political needler and fellow presidential flop (three times!) known as “The Great Commoner.”

A lawyer by trade, Mr. Bryan spent the final year of his life prosecuting a Tennessee schoolteacher during a worldwide media spectacle dubbed the Scopes Monkey Trial. The trial’s namesake defendant, John Thomas Scopes, was charged with mentioning to his students the theory of human evolution from Hominidae simians, as postulated by the British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his colleagues.

Gadzooks! How dare Mr. Scopes fill young ears with such blasphemy?

Mr. Darwin’s theory ran afoul of the Holy Bible yarn about the Divine Creation of us creatures, in accordance with a passage of scripture that Prosecutor Bryan kept tucked beneath his vest and pressed to his heart throughout the proceedings, which he characterized as a “crusade” to protect all the god-fearing folks from “the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching science.”  

A civil fine of $100 was levied against the defendant, refunded soon thereafter when his conviction was overturned.

But the crusade of aggressive ignorance lives on, as seen daily in the United States, where the loser Donald J. Trump still insists, against all evidence, that the election of ’20 was “rigged” against him. Not for nothing is he a wily career criminal.

The Donald, as his late first wife Ivana called him, uses the Big Lie to feed the threatening frenzy of his followers as protection from having to answer for his crimes. In doing so, he has fashioned a three-way power structure: the neo-fascist Republican Party he commands, his mindless cult of the variously aggrieved, and a coalition of thugs and lunatics ready and willing to heed the next call to arms from what they hold to be Orange Jesus.

Meanwhile, the wheels of justice move even more slowly than usual as the Congress and the courts deal with the aftermath of the first of Mr. Trump’s criminal calls to arms, resulting in the deadly attack on the Capitol building in Washington on January 6 of last year.

Small wonder that Washington is abuzz with speculation and eager anticipation as to the manner of death awaiting The Donald, should multiple investigations into his numerous crimes in connection with January 6 fail to land him in prison.

“Natural” death—apoplexy on the heels of an ill-advised meal, on the order of what happened to William Jennings Bryan—is preferred. After all, Orange Jesus is hardly more physically sound than his predecessor. And, at age 76, Mr. Trump is eleven years older than The Great Commoner at his end. Assassination is out of the question; nobody wants to see The Donald as martyr. Ditto suicide, which would require some measure of integrity.

The Trump-Bryan comparisons are rife in Washington’s private conversations, so I am told. Indeed, there are similarities. Both losers were and are famous gluttons, both were and are in love with the orotundity of their own voices. But two differences are especially striking:

  • As secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), Mr. Bryan was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, amidst tombstones of the nation’s most honored heroes and distinguished public servants. When the time is up for Mr. Trump, his bones will likely molder in a grave at the golf course he owns in New Jersey, next to the grave he dug for Ivana in order to score a tax break on mortuary property.  

Whereas Mr. Bryan enjoyed the nutrition of roast chickens and vegetables and vintage wines, Mr. Trump is a teetotaling devotee of Burger King cheeseburgers, greasy French fries, and aspartame-laden Diet Coke.    

As the speculation and delicious anticipation steams along, official Washington is as customarily diverted as ever from the sorry state of everyday American concerns.   

“What do you call a country where nearly one in ten adults have medical debts and a broken bone can boot you into bankruptcy,” asked Arwa Mahdawi in a recent column for The Guardian newspaper of London. “A country where life expectancy has dropped for the second year in a row and poor people sell their blood plasma to make ends meet?

“A country where the mortality of rate of black women in the capital is nearly twice as high as for women in Syria?”

The answer, wrote Ms. Mahdawi: “You call it one of the richest countries in the world.”

Professor Kathleen Frydl of Johns Hopkins University is equally alarmed. She writes in The Conversation, a U.S. academic journal:

“In its global rankings, the United Nations Office of Sustainable Development dropped the U.S. to 41st worldwide, down from its previous ranking of 32nd. Under this methodology—an expansive model of seventeen categories, or ‘goals,’ many of them focused on the environment and [financial] equity—the U.S. ranks between Cuba and Bulgaria…[both of which] are widely regarded as developing countries.”

Such dismal ratings are nothing new. Structural disparities were first widely exposed in 1899  when the scholar W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) published his analysis of African American life in the urban North, “The Philadelphia Negro.” More than a half-century later, the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) found little changed when he decried the persistence of the “other America,” one where “the buoyancy of hope” was transformed into “the fatigue of despair.”

Walk the streets of any city in America and you will find despair in the people living as best they can in makeshift housing of planks and rocks and cardboard, or living below the streets in rail passages, or along the weedy shoulders of  beltways for automobiles and trucks. Walk the streets of any city in America and count the number of times you’re asked, “Change, buddy? Spare some change so I can get something to eat?”

Shades of Charles Dickens …” Alms for the poor?”

If America is ever willing to honestly address its poor showings in global surveys such as the U.N. rankings, we must contend with the impudent belief in our superiority over the rest of the world. Both the Democratic and Republican parties promote such falsehood, with Republicans more formal in saying so: The first line of the party’s national manifestos of 2016 and 2020 reads, “We believe in American exceptionalism.”

America is infinitely better at proclaiming excellence than in pursuing excellence. And in America, as I’ve said, the crusade of aggressive ignorance lives on, certainly in the person of Florida Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis—who could well become the next Republican president should Donald Trump fail to die before the 2024 election.

In the past few months, Mr. DeSantis has banned some eight hundred books from school libraries in his state, outlawed teachings of Du Bois in the area of structural racism, and sent poor migrants seeking political asylum in the U.S. to wealthy enclaves in so-called sanctuary cities. The governor is unashamed, and delighted that Republican comrades in other states have begun emulating his actions.

America is a capitalist country. As such, money is the measure of many things, including even personal worth. We may tell ourselves—and many do— that this is right and proper.

But much of the world’s people—most people—would disagree. Their contrary view is borne out by the U.N. study and others like it, all of which point to a bottom-line fact: America is a rich country full of poor people, which is at once morally wrong and politically unsustainable.              

        —Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag

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