“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” [Revelation 6:8 King James Version]
The tinderbox of social media explodes
It began with one combustible message
Over the July 4 weekend, I received a social media post from someone I had known well from our shared past; it is fair to say that for many years he has been my friend. I was aware that he had backed Donald Trump in 2016, and I assumed he might still be in the Trump camp. How much he was in it was made abundantly clear to me and many of my social media friends when he wrote a lengthy screed justifying his MAGA position.
For the next few hours my page was alive with outrage and attacks, as if the contents of my social media tinder box had been ignited with a blowtorch rather than a match. As the heat of the furious fire increased, my former friend maintained an almost robotic calm, a calm that is seen on the faces of mesmerized believers of false prophets.
Intractable position vs. rational argument
No argument could sway him, no rational comment countering his position shifted the hard right concrete upon which he had affixed himself with the bolts of a true believer. And this from a man who, as noted in his comments, was a Covid-19 survivor, cured by hydroxychloroquine and laissez faire medical advice even as the drug’s most ardent megaphone turns away from the deaths of 130,000 Americans (as of July 6).
In the end, at 4:30 a.m., after a fruitless attempt at sleep, I returned to the scene of the battle and sifted through the warm embers of all the comments — his and those of my other social media friends who had taken him to task — and I began to write. What follows is just one snapshot from a basket of similar pictures imaged by Americans who are fearful for the nation’s future under a second Trump presidency:
Try as one may, persuasion falls short in MAGA world
Nothing can move a mind that is resolute in its righteousness
The man you are backing is not a worthy opponent by any stretch, and no listing of his “accomplishments” while in office nor his bizarre support of a drug you took and were lucky enough to survive, can ever lift him above the mire in which he and so many of his adherents wallow. Trump rejects science. He rejects logic. He rejects any contrary evidence that questions his misshapen worldview.
Despite your assertion to the contrary, I do not blindly follow one news source; I do not take positions based on unchecked information, rumor, hearsay, gaslighting, lies, or idiocy. I am informed in part by my years in government, and by my associations with honorable men and women of both parties who are appalled at what they see in the White House. No…appalled is not the right word. Terrified is a better word.
Joined in a common cause
They and I, and millions of Americans on both sides of the aisle are terrified of the poseur who presumes to be president, though his presumption extends only to his racist, misguided, sad base.
If you question my use of the phrase “both side of the aisle,” I need only point you to The Lincoln Project, co-founded by George Conway, whose Republican credentials don’t often align with my Democratic ones [full disclosure: I once supported and worked for two Republican presidents and several Republican members of Congress]. Conway’s commitment to unseat and sweep Mr. Trump and his ilk out of office is as deep and steadfast as mine.
I cannot mince words — -cannot round the hard edges of my opinions — when it comes to my view of Trump and the horror of his presidency.
Here is a man who, long before his misbegotten run for office, was a failure in myriad respects.
Echos of a shameful era
Here is a man whose guiding star, Roy Cohn, was among the basest of the base — a hater of democracy, a trasher of reputations, an unrepentant thug whose claim to fame hinged on that most unhinged of politicians, Joe McCarthy.
That Cohn was (and seems to remain) Trump’s guide star should have awakened the nation to the peril of a Trump presidency.
We cannot, must not, look away
I cannot avert my gaze from the thousands of families caged at our borders, where even now one of the ugliest forms of discrimination — a black wall of hate — rises at a cost to our humanity that will take Biden and subsequent presidents years to make whole again.
No president in my memory has done more to separate America from its welcoming principles than Trump. And he revels in wielding a wedge of hate and a mallet of unscrupulous power, splitting the nation in twain to serve the slavering, pandering needs of his adoring base.
From his own mouth the dystopian division flows
If that were not so, how does he square any denial when, speaking from a podium set below the presidential sculptures of Mt. Rushmore, Trump made his case for national division perfectly and ineluctably clear (I pulled the quote from the official White House transcript) and said,
THE PRESIDENT: “And yet, as we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure.”
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing. They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive.”
Repetition and volume do not un-lie the lies
Of course there is no merciless campaign.
There is no threat to our children’s education; no one is seeking to indoctrinate our youth.
There is no wave of violent crimes.
There are no angry mobs of which his exaggeration alludes.
Inconvenient truths lift the veil of purposefully propagated mistrust
Yes, there are protesters.
Yes, there are those who deface and tear down statues and grab the media’s omnipresent eyes and ears.
Yes, there are legions of frustrated men and women who are tired of the burden of racism and social and economic invisibility.
Yes, there are countless small business owners and frustrated customers who suffer the effects of presidential and gubernatorial dithering and denial as the coronavirus continues to spread.
But these images and voices from angry events and aggrieved people do not augur for anarchy as a final course of action — though I must say they are entitled to such a vision.
The nation is ready for change
What such actions and expressed feelings are telling those of us ready and willing to listen is that the nation is primed for systemic change. Not incremental, play-on-the-edges changes, but full-throated change that can be sustained and captured in new laws, new ways of thinking, and new ways of treating each other. That is what I believe most Americans see and feel today. I believe that is what Joe Biden sees for the nation’s future.
“The nation is primed for systemic change”
What Trump cannot see — or what he sees and dumbly embraces — is that he is being manipulated by forces so dark and nefarious in their plans for America that their visions for our country put to shame the Hitlerian dreams of Reich supremacy of the 1930s. Blackhearted demons of Trump’s inner circle dance nightly on their stage of hate which is constructed of the transmogrified timbers of our recently-scuttled ship of state.
To those who resist my argument and my plea to review the path you are on, take this as the inevitable outcome of your choice: If Trump is the man you back, if you are sowing seeds for Trump and his Congressional toadies, the whirlwind you reap will catch you up and spit you out more broken than you can imagine.
Where honest voices are squelched, democracy withers
Such a projected outcome is not hyperbole. I am simply speaking truth to a godless, mindless, reckless, morally vacuous villain who would just as soon imprison me for my treasonous application of free speech.
If he had the chance to point his in-Justice Department at people like me — journalists who believe in speaking truth to power — he would do it in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it. Even if he thought he might lose in the end, he would do his best to quash my candor and J’ Accuse outrage.
Your support for Trump greases — with the oil of your blindly incensed acquiescence — the machine he operates to roll back decades of fragile work to mend the nation. Work that is as incomplete and imperfect as our union is. If that is your choice, then you fail to appreciate the sacrifices of millions of Americans who yielded up treasure and blood on the altar of freedom as down payment for the nation’s future.
Trump has no idea what that last phrase means, by the way…so self-absorbed is he in his strutting and bloviating and chest beating.
The threat is real and it rides the Pale Horse
Trump is a real and present danger…an existential danger whose face should appear in every dictionary under the definition of such.
I have no idea if Joe Biden will win. I try use what word skills I have to keep the message of urgency alive, but it will take more than one old writer to unseat the shameful man who has stained the Oval Office with his excretory oratory.
I say again, you are on the wrong side of history if Trump is your horse. A horse he may be, but it is the Pale Horse, and it carries on its back more woes, pains, and sufferings than there are stars in the heavens.