WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s almost unfathomable to watch it up close, the wholesale destruction of the bases of American political leadership.
Here in Washington, however, you get a front-row seat to the greatest horror show on Earth, and there’s no changing the channel.
Some days are worse than others.
In the morning
Occasionally, I accidentally turn the radio on when I wake up, and there’s Steve Inskeep telling me about the latest violation of a longstanding legal norm or that President Donald Trump decided to help a Chinese company with well-documented links to China’s military and establishment. Or maybe I’ll be blow-drying my hair to the sound of a Canadian politician expressing her astonishment that we would sanction our closest — in almost every possible sense — ally.
Maybe I’ll be walking toward the nearest subway entrance and be handed a copy of the WaPo Express, a miniature Washington Post that’s handed out at many subway stations. What’s the headline? Could it be something about the politicization of intelligence and law enforcement for the President’s own ends? Ah, yes, it is.
In the afternoon
At lunch, I might walk over to a sandwich shop with good sandwiches but also a TV blaring. Coverage might include a story about Oklahoma’s own Scott Pruitt. Recently, it emerged that he spent $1,500 on some (no doubt) lovely fountain pens. Unfortunately, American taxpayers were the ones who paid for them. “At least,” I’ll reassure myself, “it’s not another horrifying revelation in the Russia investigation.” After all, those tend to come on the weekend, so they can hit the Sunday edition of the papers.
Then, there’s the separation of parents and children — just the latest horrifying turn of events. The president of the United States (!) decided that it was a good idea to separate innocent children — who have done nothing wrong — from their parents as they fled violence in Central America. The children are being punished for the fact that their parents loved them and risked a long and arduous journey through unforgiving terrain, often on foot, that they might escape the horrible violence plaguing their home countries.
Never mind that the United States contributed to this violence, fueling the civil wars of the 1970s and ’80s. Never mind that Honduras has the world’s highest rates of rape and sexual assault. We are, for lack of a better word, torturing innocent children in order to deter people from seeking asylum from violence for which we bear a large degree of responsibility. To quote one of my favorite Twitter accounts:
… Trump’s concept of making America great again involves making everyone in the world but his fervent cultists and foreign despots think America has gone to complete shit.
In the evening
When I get home or check my phone, maybe I’ve got a WhatsApp message from a friend in Austria: more shock and horror at that day’s developments. Tariffs on more of their exports. Trump’s decision to try and blow up the Iran nuclear agreement while also trying to make a similar agreement with North Korea. Shock that our political system seems frozen and unable to stop the constant self-harm as the situation gets worse. If you feel bad, imagine how they feel watching their most valuable partner tear itself apart and renounce the faith its allies had placed in it.
Just the other night, the Virginia Republican Party selected Corey Stewart as its nominee for United States Senate against Tim Kaine. For those of you unfamiliar with Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, his watch party featured a speech by Jack Posobiec, the primary propagator of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Brexit has been ‘Trumped’
It’s not just the fact that all of these troubling events keep happening, it’s further troubling that rationale escapes me. Was this hyper-partisanship all really about tax cuts for the insanely wealthy? Is that really it? Surely, I hope, it can’t be. How a superpower collapses is one thing, but so willingly? Why? To what end?
It’s the second-greatest now. Brexit’s been “Trumped.” We’re all living in the shadow of Trump — the spectacle of a superpower collapsing on itself. We’ll be here for a while, and I’m already pretty numb to its cruelty. By the end, I just hope we can look at ourselves in the mirror.