As We Wake From A Nightmare On Inauguration Day

As We Wake From A Nightmare On Inauguration Day January 20, 2021


I feel a little dizzy.

All day long I’ve felt like I was floating in the air.

It hasn’t sunken in yet that it’s over.

Well, it isn’t over. The fact is, we still live in the country that produced Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a symptom of the very cancers that grew up along with the United States of America; the cancers we profited from, the ones that made us a world power. Cruelty, greed, white supremacism, preening narcissism, these are deeply American vices and every bit as real as our virtues. The paranoid monsters we saw emboldened by Trump existed before him, and they are still here. The police are still violent. Poverty is still deep and inexcusable. The environment is still a disaster careening toward a catastrophe with no simple fix in sight.

But still, this part of the journey is over. I can take a breath now.

Donald Trump still exists; he vows this isn’t the end. But considering his poor health, his debts, the prosecutors looking into his tax returns, and the way the Republican party is finally beginning to turn on him, I don’t fear him anymore. He slunk away like an Ouroboros biting its own tail, and we’ll see what happens next.

I refuse to be a dominionist. God doesn’t have a political party. Both parties are deeply flawed, ungodly messes run by selfish people. Any other political party we could come up with would be a deeply flawed, selfish mess as well. No human political arrangement should ever be looked upon as the one carrying out the Divine will. The only things that come out of that manner of thinking are atrocities. When Holy Archangel Michael appeared to Joshua, Joshua asked him which of the warring armies he represented, and Michael replied “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” God is above us. We don’t own Him. We strive to make the least bad choice and that’s all we can do.

Still, it’s hard not to be a little awed that the bottom fell out of Trump’s ghastly movement on Epiphany. The shameful riot and coup attempt on January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas, was the last straw. Those who thought the idea was hysterical before began to realize that the alt right is a terrorist movement that wants to destroy our democracy– and, as bad as our democracy is, what the alt right would replace it with would be much worse. Suddenly, a great chunk of the holdouts became ashamed of the president. Suddenly, what was left of the glamour fell off. The spell was broken. Evil looked starkly evil. It’s hard not to see the justice in the feast day whose name means “reveal” being the day they were unmasked.

It’s hard not to feel relieved, seeing Christ invoked at the inauguration by Catholic and Protestant clerics, in the names of Justice and Healing instead of the dreadful causes who have been claiming to act with His authority lately.

It’s not that we haven’t woken up from a nightmare. We have. But we need to regard this waking as something like Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning. Be relieved that the nightmare is over. Be overwhelmed with joy that you’ve got a chance to change. But realize that you have to change now. We can’t be the country we were in 2016, or in 2006, or in 1806.

If we stay the same, this will happen again, and the next time will be much worse. The next would-be despot the alt right latches onto might be smart.

As it is, Trump’s lip service to the pro-life cause while doing everything he could to drive mothers to desperation has driven up the abortion rate from the first year he was in office. We won’t know the full death toll of that mischief for a few years yet, and when we do, those who put Trump in office will find some excuse for why it wasn’t them, but we have to know better.

As it is, his lying about the pandemic, refusing to expand the social safety net so we could take precautions and fomenting the alt right to violate safety precautions has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. The United States has lost more people to COVID than we lost to World War Two. We’ve lost far more people than any other country: twice as many as Brazil, nearly four times as many as India,  vastly more than China where the virus started, even though China has four times our population. This crisis is still ongoing, and it will be a long time before it’s over.

As it is, there are still a great number of people suffering in inhumane prisons at the nation’s border. Hundreds of children are still traumatized without their parents.

The planet we all have to live on is burning to death– a problem that’s been building up for a hundred years. But four years of denial has set us back even further towards mitigating it.

We are still a deeply racist country, and our police are still armed to the teeth to carry out that racism as necessary.

We are waking up from a nightmare: confused, dizzy, relieved, and that’s as it should be. But the next thing to do is to realize how fortunate we are to be waking up– because thousands of people did not survive this nightmare. And then we need to push off the covers, get out of bed, and change the world so the nightmare won’t happen again. There is so much more to do.

I am confident that, by the grace of God, we can accomplish what’s ours to do.

Now, let’s get to work.


Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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