Burning Down The House.
In another place or another time, fate might have decreed that one Donald J Trump might not have blighted our lives for the last four years; unfortunately, it was not to be. Of course, millions knew of him from his stint as a reality television celebrity or seeing his logo in gigantic letters plastered across his garish skyscrapers. However, even though he thought himself to be famous, he could somehow never penetrate and ingratiate himself into New York society's elite.
His business, coupled with inherited wealth made him a billionaire (perhaps) his name splashed across vodka bottles, steaks, Chinese made ties and lurid casinos. He grew ever richer even with his bankruptcies and soaring debt to gullible bankers who lent even more money to him, all the while being egged on by trashy tabloids. His theatrics, bad business decisions and questionable commercial ethics left a trail of destruction across the country; This was a farce that was one day sure to end in tragedy.
However, fate is a strange mistress, and she truly outdid herself when this ill-suited and unlikely candidate became president of the United States. Overnight he was given a lofty pedestal to survey, not just his own country but the entire world whose populations often questioned the viability of an 'unprofessional' occupying the most powerful office on the planet.
His unexpected elevation unleashed a well of unfounded bitterness, spitefulness, lies and rage that mutated and grew like a cancerous tumour over his four -year tenure, meticulously eroding and destabilized the republic as well as his own party. Trump seemed hell-bent on undermining the concept of democratic citizenship, ignoring the boundaries governing the customs and norms that he felt irrelevant, he simply viewed them as cumbersome restraints on his absolute authority.
America was founded on a self-imposed, self-restraint platform outlined in that most brilliant of documents, the constitution. This slim volume which has endured for over two hundred years sets in stone the principles of respecting religion, free speech, the press and perhaps most importantly, the right to peaceable assembly. The constitution that begins with the words, "We the people", is a masterpiece in its simplicity and has endured largely intact for generations. A vast melting pot of humanity has sprung up around it following and abiding by its guiding principles; a system of checks and balances that are a loose affiliation of articles that adhere to the limits set by America's founding fathers.
Now, at the 11th hour of Trump's presidency, he flagrantly ignored those very principles of that most sacred document by inciting a mob, telling them he had been cheated out of re-election and urging them to take their grievances to the Capitol where his defeat was, at that very moment being formalized by both houses.
This attack was built on a wellspring of fury built on a tissue of lies, egregious lawsuits and refusal to accept that he and his party had lost the election. His assembled supporters were inflamed by the seditious rhetoric spewing from the podium and acting out of fealty to one man duly stormed that bastion of democracy.
Within minutes, television images were being beamed around the world depicting enraged demonstrators brandishing confederate flags smashing their way into the rotunda, calling for the heads of the vice-president and the speaker of the house. This distressing scene was reminiscent of the storming of the Bastille in 1815.
Five unfortunate souls lost their lives in the ensuing melee.
The blatant attack, dressed up in the unfounded concept of revenge, proved to be a catastrophic miscalculation. Trump standing behind a sheet of bulletproof glass ranted and raved, lamenting the fact that he had been cheated out of an election that he felt he had won in a landslide. It was he who pointed the way to the capitol building urging the rabble to cause mayhem.
Americans seem to identify their very existence by whom they voted for in the last election and some seemed more than willing to put aside their day to day lives, travel to Washington and stage a violent insurrection fueled by one man's childish and incomprehensible tantrums.
The unfortunate thing that we have realized is that millions of American citizens empathize with a president whose lies have been the solid foundation for their collective beliefs and cheer on his destructive behaviour with gusto. Somehow he has managed to weaponize his blatant narcissism and whimpering self-pity to drive mobs of healthy white men who have for years enjoyed untold privileges based solely on their skin colour. Trump's rhetoric led them to feel morally outraged by the fact that their success might be stripped away meaning they will have to endure the spectacle of their fellow Americans of a different skin tone achieve high office.
All of this from a white man who has lived his pampered life inside a gilded cage whose answers to any perceived problems could be solved by iron – clad non - disclosure agreements. Trump is incapable of showing an ounce of compassion even as millions or his fellow citizens are laid low by a deadly virus spreading across the county, taking the lives of four thousand citizens each day. He literally cannot do it, for his neediness and self-pity is all-consuming.
America depends on half, sometimes more than half of the electorate to accept a government for whom they did not vote. If learning from history is any guide, America needs to look no further than Abraham Lincoln's election. At that time, half of the electorate refused to concede that the lawfully elected candidate was indeed their president.
Well, we all know how that ended.
Compared to last week's extremist behaviour, fascism, the comparison that many are making, is entirely justified even though, post-riot some claimed to speak from an aggrieved position as if they acted with good intentions that nullified the law and indeed any logical reason. They slavishly followed Trump's rhetoric of, "You are the real people; you are the people who built this country." Now, one can easily read between the lines here as he is talking to a minority of white people who adore and empathize with him and he, in turn, has created a patriotic band of zealots who hang on to his every word.
For the media, Fox News's mendacious hosts and producers have to take a long hard look at themselves for they too have no excuses and have been entirely complicit in encouraging these heinous acts. For two long months, they repeatedly told Trump supporters that the election was stolen. They now dare to say the attempted coup was "understandable" as Trump supporters are aggrieved to think they lost. The likes of Hannity, Ingram and Carlson morally, if not legally should share responsibility for this travesty.
Trump's act of sedition has backfired spectacularly for it is almost sure that he will be the only president who will suffer the ignominy of a second impeachment after just one term in office. Washington thankfully is more significant than any sitting president, especially a candidate who believed that he had become the ultimate insider. Ultimately his boundless self-obsession made him blind to the fact that even his most loyal sycophants realized that they had everything to lose by associating with him.
Perhaps, when he leaves the Oval Office in disgrace and heads to the ‘Southern White House' he can comfort himself that he still has millions of followers, many of whom he urged to enter and destroy the centre of government. As he fades to black on our TV screens let us remember that those self-same people who attacked the capital shouldn't delude themselves that they will ever be welcome at Mar-a-Lago.
Bali, Indonesia 10th January 2021
Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several novels and short story anthologies. When he is not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali, he scribbles for several international and vox pop journals.