Has it only been a year? It feels like a decade has passed, or a lifetime. How can so much have changed in so short a time? But it has. If we look behind us, we can see the crack in the ground where one era of our history shook free from another.
Let’s pause, then, and try to take stock of everything that’s happened, and all that we’ve lost. And then you and I together can lift our eyes to the future to try and scrounge up what hope remains.
The old country, the way things used to be, is gone. Let’s start there. The United States as it was on January 1, 2017 no longer exists, and it isn’t coming back.
That nation was the undisputed leader of the West, a country that stood by its agreements, invested in diplomacy, and projected a sense of stability and security worldwide. It sat at the heart of the creaking but still functional liberal international order, and, through alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, kept some of the monsters of the world from reaching too far.
But I come to bury that country, not to praise it. Its intractable cultural fissures, its deep and toxic legacy of slavery and segregation, its arrogant and too-often bullying foreign policy, white Americans’ complacency, gullibility, and fear, the insatiable greed of its corporate titans, and its crumbling and flawed political system all helped create the mess we’re in now.
And so that country mutated into this one, and many of us who should have known better lost the vain belief that things were always getting better, that history was a straight march from ignorance to progress. “How is this happening in 2017?” I’ve heard said again and again, with such bewilderment and grief. How were we so wrong about this?
It’s not just the president’s fault, though a lot of it is. His tweets, the horrible, thoughtless words that fly out of his mouth, his scandals, his lack of respect for and understanding of the institution he leads and embodies, and his embrace of the worst elements of American society have happened so rapidly and often that they’ve left us numb. In the beginning, we were outraged, but now? Now we’re just so tired. We know what Donald Trump is; we just want him to stop.
I wasn’t prepared for his very public embrace of white supremacy, his naked hypocrisy, and his absolute inability to learn from his many mistakes. I should have been, but I wasn’t.
All of this is also the fault of a major American political party being willing to defend and enable this behavior. I had no idea just how cowardly and meek all these big-talking men in the GOP would turn out to be when it came to actually defending the republic. Instead of wanting to actually know what Russia did to interfere with our election, and what role, if any, a sitting president played in it, they have instead launched attacks at the FBI and the free press, and tried to distract by waving Hillary Clinton conspiracies around.
Yes, they also passed a bill to make the rich even richer while driving the deficit up. Oh, and they sabotaged the only health care law that’s actually made life better for the poor in generations on the way. But that almost seems normal by comparison.
So that’s where we’re at. Now what?
The elections late in 2018 could go very badly for the GOP, and I hope they do. Any party that sells out the integrity of our elections, embraces racists, and safeguards a dangerous, foolish, and corrupt president in their pursuit of power deserves to be crushed at the ballot box. But I don’t count on anything. The alternative, sadly, is the Democrats, who are excellent at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Still, at some point the Republicans will pay a price for this past year. Maybe it will be in 2018, or 2020. Maybe it won’t be until 2022 or 2024, but it will happen.
Nothing lasts forever. Someday, Donald Trump will be gone, the spell will be broken, and the howling mob of the so-called “alt-right” will scuttle back to whatever dark, sticky place they came from. And then, when it’s all said and done, we can start to build a better country than this one.
2018 is an open book before us, pages blank. I can dream, and I do.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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