EVEN IF WE SURVIVE TRUMP, HIS REIGN OF CARNAGE WILL BE AMONG THE COUNTRY’S STARKEST, MOST INSIDIOUS LANDMARKS*
Untitled, Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
How Will History Reference This Period?
The confluence of events over these last four years is like no other during my lifetime. America’s deep abiding trauma — mortal, race- and class-based, economic, environmental, psychological, emotional, political, geopolitical, institutional, constitutional — will be Trump’s legacy.
To borrow a phrase from my jurisprudence professor, the GOP is “grooving on the rubble.” Utah’s Senator Lee just tweeted the quiet part out loud, exposing his full-frontal assault on liberal democracy and endorsement of authoritarianism: “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish, rank democracy can thwart that.”
As minorities become the majority in the United States (and white people become the minority), Lee’s racist view is simple: Trump and his white separatist ilk know better than a diverse electorate what “liberty, peace, and prosperity” mean and how best to achieve them. In their racist minds, Trump’s assault on democracy and the election is therefore justified. Lee (and everyone else) knows Trump can’t win on the merits of a free and fair democratic election.
To the extent Trump’s destruction is not irreversible, and if the GOP does not succeed in stealing the election and destroying what’s left of self-government in the United States, historians and pundits opine it will take years — decades — to repair the damage Trump and company inflicted on government institutions and alliances throughout the world.
The lives of many Americans — the ones who didn’t die as the result of Trump’s disastrous incompetence and divisive rhetoric — are forever changed. If you’re not in the top 1%, those changes are likely not a good thing.
As with any devastating event or circumstance — the 1918 Pandemic, the Great Depression, World War I, Pearl Harbor, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, Oklahoma City, 9/11, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq — the United States is fundamentally changed.
People will look back on the Trump era and its GOP-enabled carnage as a defining landmark in American history. In many ways it is more insidious than its predecessor tragedies, save slavery, the Civil War and Oklahoma City, because it arises largely from within. The country cannot unify against a common enemy. We are the enemy. Polarization, overagainstness, racial and religious animus, hubris, selfishness and ignorance resulted in a Trump. He took the baton and relentlessly stoked the worst, most divisive human instincts for his own aggrandizement, power and control.
I would happily live with the outcome of a verifiably free and fair election in the United States, unimpeded by voter suppression and foreign interference. A majority of people in the United States want the liberty, peace and prosperity such an election would represent. They ought to have a say in what those ideals mean and how they are achieved. If that happens, Trump’s reign of incompetence and divisiveness, his assault on truth and science, his destruction of constitutional norms and institutions, and his utter lack of leadership and stewardship will end. Only then can the long road to America’s recovery from Trump begin.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s next novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming and Norway, will be published by Signature Books this fall. This novel, The Contortionists, the story of a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community, is a psychological page-turner.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers