Not who we are supposed to be
You may have read in the press of late, brothers and sisters, that Donald Trump wants to bring back public executions. Ever the entrepreneur, he also wants to sell tickets. Maybe turn it into a weekly media event, a pay-per-view extravaganza. He even spoke of bringing back “possibly even the guillotine,” should he be re-elected to the White House.
But I think the mainstream media has missed the real reason why this latest Trumpian revelation is so shocking. It isn’t because it’s horrifying, the kind of thing a mediaeval monster might do, or that it violates the Constitution’s proscription against cruel or unusual punishment. To be sure it’s all those things and more. But what’s so startlingly appalling is that no one is surprised.
I used to find it infuriating that journalists would sometimes ask if Donald Trump is “one of the” worst presidents “in modern history.” Now I find it almost charmingly endearing, even naive in a chilling sort of way, the way a five year old child might be naive.
Trump isn’t merely the worst human being to ever occupy the White House, he’s the worst human being alive today. He’s so much worse than the worst president that it’s really become a silly comparison, like “who’s worse, the guy who cut you off in traffic or Adolf Hitler?”
Trump mooting pay-per-view public executions is exactly the kind of thing we expect from him because he’s a monster. Trump can murder a million Americans and still enjoy his junk food dinner. We know this is true because he has done just that. Trump isn’t just a rapist without remorse, he’s a rapist with public contempt for his victim. He doesn’t merely cheat on his taxes, he gloats about it.
Here’s one for the books. Donald Trump redirected money intended for a charity for children with cancer into his own private bank account. He didn’t even bat an eye about it, as the saying goes.
That kind of thing is a career-ending revelation for the rest of us. It would make most of us public parahias wherever we went. It’s the kind of thing a comic book villain would blush to be caught at. Trump? Nah, it’s just another day in the life. Hardly anyone even noticed it.
It isn’t even so much that Trump is a monstrous bastard. The truly sickening part is what Trump has done to most of us. He’s changed us all from the inside out. He’s made the unthinkable not just thinkable but commonplace, so much so that many of us are inured to the horror.
America has now reached the point where it tolerates monsters. We tolerate daily mass shootings of children. We sit back and watch people of colour being murdered every day by police officers for nothing, for merely sitting in their homes and watching TV. We watch kangaroo courts in Congress that destroy the lives of innocent people and we make bets on the outcome. We have become like the ancient Romans. Hardly anyone remembers, for example, that Hunter Biden is a private citizen who struggles with addiction and never harmed any of us.
So pay-per-view public executions? Sure, why not? It’s the kind of monstrosity that monsters like Trump have made us into. Most of us would get no pleasure watching such a nightmare, but Americans would probably put up with it the way Americans put up with thugs slouching through Walmart with AR-15s over their shoulders and a Glock tucked beneath their overhanging bellies for good measure.
What we are willing to put up with is what we are becoming. It’s terrifying. And I honestly don’t know what to do about it. All I can do is keep proclaiming to anyone who will listen that this is not who we are supposed to be. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.