In 2016, when Donald Trump was elected to be President of the United States, I was simultaneously dumbfounded and unsurprised.
I was dumbfounded because I couldn’t believe that such a human being, utterly unfit for political office and so utterly unformed ethically, intellectually and personally, could have won a Presidential election. But my Mormon nose has been pressed up against the window of America my whole life so I was somewhat unsurprised that almost every unresolved historical pathology of America: Racism; Manifest destiny; Exploitative capitalism; Anti-intellectualism; White supremacy; Conservative right-wing Christianity; Toxic masculinity, and Patriarchy could have incarnated in one human being so perfectly.
It was bound to happen.
That ugly thing a nation thought it had side-stepped will always take its toll one day unless it’s properly sent on its way.
And so, the rest of the world watches as the bodies of the dead mount and Donald Trump spends his daily briefings talking about how altogether awesome he thinks he is.
I care about this because Utah is my second home and many of the people I love most in the world are there now, bunkered down against a hail of insanity. So, it doesn’t really give me much satisfaction to watch the elegance of response to COVID-19 from my own government in contrast with the fatal mayhem that is currently ruling America.
One of the central responsibilities of 21st-century Governments is to create the conditions for human flourishing in a context of increasing heterogeneity and uncertainty. This makes the work of leadership one that requires intelligence, decisiveness, collaboration and compassion. A world leader should be rooted in ideas that have been substantively tested for the humanity of their reference points.
But this is not what Donald Trump’s administration has given rise to. Trump has stirred the pot of America’s prolonged attachment to a raft of unresolved historical injustices.
The Right-libertarians will accept the death of their fellow citizens as the price the nation will have to pay for the freedom to keep the economy going where and how they want.
The Christian fundamentalists believe they’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus and so are impervious to Coronavirus.
The US government bureaucracy doesn’t make it any easier because too many have been recruited from a cadre of sometimes very frightening people who’d shoot you in the face for a misplaced signature.
And the stark and terrible reality is, there’s nothing there. Trump and his cult followers have transformed the already disturbed cultural currency of America into an ocean of vapid, stabbing and dangerous meaninglessness. Language in this climate of swirling egos, flashing neon signs, and endless Fox News has been emptied of substance. The political debate is not about real lives and their value now, it’s between tangled false representations of reality.
And this rabid crowd of intellectually dulled frothers arriving in their Walmart tacticals (as my friend Brad so wryly noted) at the Salt Lake government buildings to protest efforts stop the spread of a deadly disease, is the pinnacle of all that is unsightly, untruthful and unGodly about America under Trump.
And, I really wish I could say that Mormons weren’t part of this reign of dangerous lunacy.