Britons sometimes have the most appalling luck when designating certain personalities what they refer to as “national treasures.” Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile were so designated at one time and are two cases in point. Many Americans may even know Rolf Harris. He was the composer of the song, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.” Savile may be less well known to Americans, but he used to be a regular participant in the London Marathon and was a fixture at various British charities. Both men were television personalities in Britain, on television shows that routinely brought them into contact with young children. And both were later found to be loathsome paedophiles.
One of Britain’s more recent “national treasures,” Jeremy Clarkson, was suspended and then fired by the BBC after a fracas when Clarkson punched Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon. The incident occurred after Clarkson was told there was no hot food available after a day of filming that iconic British series. Oisin Tymon was later the target of serious death threats as he was, perversely, seen to be the instigator of Clarkson’s dismissal!
Such is the ease with which the uncannily illogical public devotion and equally uncanny public ire can sometimes be aroused, even in a nation purported to be “civilized,” as Great Britain often is. Horrible people are too often and too unworthily consecrated as icons, and their detractors, even accidental detractors, too often unjustly vilified. These are facts known to all persons who hold the power of the public’s attention. And no one knows it better – and abuses it more – than Donald Trump.
Trump’s practice of casual and irresponsible invocations of anger against his political rivals and people he perceives as dangerous to him, anger that occasionally places those people in mortal danger, should in and of itself be an impeachable offense. Trump’s job is to protect the American people, not recklessly endanger their lives. Trump is a man who commonly refers to the mainstream media as “the enemy of the people,” who encourages violence against protestors at his rallies, who refers to violent, white supremacist thugs as “very fine people.” These aren’t harmless words, they are words viewed in fact by some as calls to inimical action.
When Trump speaks on a digital recording about the Ukrainegate whistleblower and the people who gave information to him, he is heard saying, “He’s almost a spy. I want to know is, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason. We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” No one is unclear what Trump means here. He thinks the whistleblower and the people who gave him information about Trump’s phone call to the president of the Ukraine should be arrested for treason and executed.
For Donald Trump, a crime is anything he doesn’t like, or anything that exposes his corruption, or anything that interferes with his getting elected, or anything that costs him money or prestige or power. No punishment is too large for the commission of those crimes, including death. Trump’s bottomless vindictiveness has been on display time and again in the years we have had to endure his usurpation of the Oval Office, in his words, in his speeches, in his tweets, in his inability to let even the smallest perceived slight go.
A recent Trump retweet of Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress says, “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Now, I don’t know precisely what Jeffress meant by a “Civil War-like fracture,” but I fully expect that Trump missed the word “like,” particularly as Jeffress forgot the hyphen, which is what Trump calls an “apostrophe” for reasons of pure ignorance. But one thing is clear to me. I think Trump meant an actual civil war, precisely of the same kind America endured from 1861 to 1865. And I think he hopes that’s what will happen, even at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. Because, in his endlessly vindictive little mind, no cost in blood is too great to protect Donald Trump.
It should be noted also, the American Civil War was not an uprising of Southern farmers with pitchforks against the might of the military of Abraham Lincoln’s North. It was a military defection of talented officers and men, many who graduated from West Point, like Robert E. Lee, who organized, trained and inspired a generation of crack troops. If it happens again it could very easily happen in the same way. Many in America’s armed forces are every bit as dedicated to Donald Trump as anyone in a typical Trump Nuremberg-style rally. We need to prepare for this eventuality. It’s better to be cautious and wrong than incautious and caught by surprise.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.