Dear Americans, you are royally–rather, presidentially–screwed. Your country has installed someone as president, given wide-ranging powers and even wider influence to someone who not only believes and acts like he is above the law, but declares it openly with no repercussions and only the briefest, strangled outrage, while his apologists and propagandists work unceasingly to mislead, normalise and gaslight your nation, a nation that should by now be camped permanently in the streets defending, if not mourning, its democracy.
When the election was won, and the attacks only intensified, I became suddenly aware, and horrified, of the likelihood of a second term. Now I am almost resigned to it. Memes aside, people are not getting tired of winning yet. The president’s popularity has not waned, contrary to all logic, because his support was never logical. (Plus the opposition has not changed in any meaningful way.)
Some of you voted for him because you thought it more important to deny rights to your perceived enemies even though it meant endangering your own rights. Some of you felt yourself forced to choose between terrible business-as-usual and something worse but new, and you chose new. Some of you believed the lies you wanted to believe, and many of you believe them still. And some of you just didn’t care, you felt powerless anyway, you’d long ago given up on a rotten state of affairs and chosen instead to watch with voyeuristic and masochistic ennui as the situation continued to, predictably, deteriorate. I wonder, what are you thinking now?
Five hundred days into this presidency, I’ve hit a major problem. The problem is this: I can’t even express what’s wrong anymore. As much as I want it to be true, this unfortunately does not mean there’s nothing wrong; I just find it increasingly difficult to enunciate the problem with anything approaching coherence. There’s all that stuff about the environment, for a start, and the thing with the financial markets; taxes, of course, and what they’re doing to education; there are the asylum seekers finding none, and trade disputes, and the military-industrial complex jonesing for war, and how many judicial appointees have there been now? Not forgetting the corruption and nepotism and weaponised incompetence, and the unapologetic racism, and the trampled rights of women, children, veterans, and seniors. And the insults and lies, oh yes, the lies, the big, beautiful lies!
That’s what the president of your country has achieved with the sheer volume and pace of his attacks. His has been a simultaneous, unrelenting and unflinching assault on everything within his purview. There is simply too much to fight over now that it’s become impossible to ever get to the point. All we do is snipe along the periphery. All we do is run from fire to fire, but there are too many fires and not enough buckets. Until, finally, even the language–the mechanics of communication: vocabulary, means of discourse–has been taken from you, as has the humility to seek understanding.
How many time have we heard, ‘In any normal news cycle, this would be big news…’? How many times have we heard, ‘This controversy would bring down any normal administration…’? Except this is no normal administration. Sometimes shame can be the most effective weapon against those in power, and sometimes it is the only one, but this administration is uniquely and utterly shameless. ‘We must not let this behaviour be normalised’, we said, but it has been normalised, even with me. ‘We must never get tired of resisting’, we said, but even I am tired.
So today, it was the president’s declaration that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. I can’t even remember last week’s drama. I see only the one right now, maybe because it’s a big one, but then they’re all big ones. And tomorrow another crisis will displace even this, and even as I fume and despair over that abuse, I’ll forget to wonder what it was I’m this moment telling myself not to forget to stay angry about. In fact, it’s taken me about 48 hours to sit down to write this, and already the headlines have been purged. Like a pitiable spectre who can form no memories, we stumble from trouble to trouble, outraged by all but powerless to change anything, not least of all ourself.