I have a lot to unpack.
My emotions have been spiraling and erratic for the past few weeks, and while I knew generally what it was about, Inauguration Day has really brought it into focus.
I am furious at Donald Trump.
I have couched my long-brewing fury in derisive jabs and heartfelt counter-messaging. Sometimes I was “good” and focused on the things I stood for instead of his negativity. Anyone linked to me on social media knows the various ways I have responded over the past five years.
But as we finally, finally say goodbye to this awful representation of humanity in his role as our elected leader, I look back at what his “reign” has meant to me, and it leaves me paralyzed with fury.
The last four years of my life should have been some of the brightest of my entire life. I have earned for myself a comfortable life with people and animals who love me; I relished traveling with a frequency that would have left my younger self in awe, including a two-week cruise circumnavigating the Caribbean Sea. I have so many great memories and experiences that I can look back on and that can inform and enrich my future.
But lurking in the background, and around every corner, was the menace of a corrupt, immoral leader who threatened the existence of that well-being. I count myself fortunate to only have experienced a shadow of the gloom and havoc that he handed out like candy at Halloween. And in the years to come, I am not immune to the far-reaching shadow of his historically poor court appointments and his political cyncism at all levels of federal government. But, by and large, aided by the cushion of my various layers of privilege, I was shielded from any direct material consequences.
But then 2020 happened. The events of last year represented the predictable outcome of a corrupt, rudderless executive branch. We could have, and I believe probably would have, successfully mitigated the damage of COVID if we had had a coherent, expert-led, science-based federal response. We also would have fared much better in our national dialogue about race if we had not had, as our leader, a buffoon tear-gassing peaceful protestors so he could pose solemnly in front of a church he never attended, quite appropriately but unintentionally holding a Bible upside-down. And no other living American could have turned an indisputable election result into a bone of contention that mobilized hundreds of protesters to mount an insurrection against their elected leaders, causing death, destruction, and dishonor.
Some have layered context onto Trump’s term as president, saying that he did not create any of these bad things that people, furious like me, blame him for. He didn’t create COVID, or racism, or anti-government protesters and conspiracy theorists. These things are true.
But saying that misses one very important perspective.
Would you explain to the ant that was just incinerated by a diabolical child that the sun was already hot, and the child was “just” holding the magnifying glass to harness that heat? Would you blame the sun, or the child?
The concept of responsibility can be squirrelly. People can’t always know the downstream results of their actions. But Trump earns an extra-special asterisk when it comes to this metric. The fact that he never cared what the downstream results of his actions were means to me that there is no issue with laying these outcomes at his feet: lack of confidence in fairly administered elections; hundreds of thousands dead because of the unhindered spread of a new communicable disease; millions struggling financially because of the impact of that disease on society; an entire nation struggling psychologically with a new reality imposed on them by the restrictions we need to slow the spread of the disease; his own followers, dead, defending his self-serving made-up-in-advance theory that the election was stolen from him. All of it–all of it–all of it–his fault. Because he didn’t care.
I am one of the least impacted by the trajectory of the last four years, but I am struggling. I have gone through the past two months in a daze, just as I went through this same two months in a daze four years ago. Then, I waited fearfully for this unqualified toddler to take the mantle of the presidency, scared of the damage he could cause. Now, I have waited fearfully to see what further tantrums this toddler will throw before he storms off to his room for good.
I am so scared, and so scarred, by the experience of living through this presidency, that I refuse to publish this essay until the inauguration is complete, and the Biden-Harris administration has been sworn in and has taken residence in the White House. As un-superstitious as I am generally, I will not take the risk of jinxing this transition by exhaling even one second too soon. I will not let my guard down thinking that this hell is over until I have some objective assurance that this toddler and his feckless cronies have exited the premises and slithered back under all of their respective rocks. [Author’s Note: I am so furious that I don’t care that I’m mixing metaphors. In my furious state, toddlers fit under rocks.]
I don’t want to overstate the importance of installing new leadership. All the bad things we’ve lived through together in the past few years won’t go away overnight. They won’t even budge for a few months, probably.
But with the child’s magnifying glass taken away from him, I feel confident, at the very least, that we ants won’t get instantly incinerated. Which is better than nothing.