Is there a more perfect metaphor for the present state of our union than infection?
“Toxic” is the word often chosen to describe Trump’s outbursts and rally screeds.
The polls tell us that the Trump administration has “only” a 40% approval rating. U.S. population is around 330 million right now. Forty percent of that is 132 million. That is 132,000,000 people in these United States who support Donald Trump as President. That ain’t peanuts.
It seems I’ve always been aware of this, for lack of a better word, sordid underbelly of the country, but there are ways in which we have been able to keep them from infecting the rest of us. Even some who might have been inclined to join with them, thought better of themselves and their reputations to join the Klan or another white supremacist group.
There have been times in my life when I hung out in the underbelly, made friends, maybe influenced people. They accepted me and I didn’t hate them. I didn’t have to because at the time, neither of us threatened the well-being of the other.
But the rise of Donald Trump has acted like a virus, breaking down civic defenses and spreading poison all through the system. It has woken up a dormant fear inside all of us – not just those who flock to Trump, but those of us who find him appalling. Trump has convinced his 40% that they are in danger from the 60%. Even worse, Trump has convinced all of us that we are all in danger from one another, and he might be right. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the interwebs are filled with helpful hints on how to talk to Trumpy uncles or cousins with #MeToo tee-shirts. We are warned to be careful at voting places. We worry that Trump could refuse to leave office if he is not re-elected. Some of us might be making contingency plans if he isn’t. Some of us are painting protest signs on the chance that he is.
Meanwhile, the infection seems to have taken all the hold it can for now. The majority still holds the healthy heart of the nation and is standing firm. Still, it feels tenuous, fragile.Today's news that Jerry Nadler "fainted" at an event, sent a shiver of dread down my back. As if our resolve balances on the head of a pin, or the aging heads of Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Nadler. I seem to remember movies in which a town on the verge of riotous atrocity remembers itself and turns back. I also remember movies in which the mob, on the verge of being persuaded to disperse, hears a gunshot and surges forward, pitchforks held triumphantly high. I always used to say that when the barricades go up, I know which side I’m on and who I’m shooting at. I just hope I don’t recognize anybody.
Somewhere Hunter S. Thompson is wishing he had stuck around for this. I miss him. We could all use a booster shot against the infection of fear and loathing.