If you could time travel back to 2016 and issue dire warnings about the Trump Administration, as soon as you mentioned the president tear-gassing peaceful protesters in order to engineer a photo op in front of a church while waving a bible around… well, your listeners would dismiss you as a deranged liberal spewing heavy-handed metaphors that defy belief.
And yet, here we are, in the clutches of a fascist Snidely Whiplash who is so comically corrupt, idiotically inept, and grotesquely authoritarian that he’s morphed into a human parody. Except nobody is laughing.
There is some comfort, however, in the fact that American society has deteriorated so far and so quickly that subtlety, subtext, and irony have all been trampled under the leaden heels of conservative fear-mongering and white nationalism. And that sliver of a silver lining is this:
We all know exactly where we stand.
There is no more justifying tortured syntaxes, misogynistic insults, or racist asides with mutterings of “What the president really meant to say is…”
There is no more dismissing neo-Nazis on parade as potentially good people in disguise, or claiming that the GOP is going along with high-caliber insanity in exchange for tax cuts.
There is no more shadowboxing the truth, rationalizing praise for dictators, or dismissing the fetishization of violence.
There is not a conservative or a liberal who is confused about this president.
You say that Trump wants to censor social media—a blatant kneecapping of free speech—solely because Twitter fact-checked one of countless lies? That sounds about right.
You say the president has “mused” (now there’s a quaint word!) about unleashing American military might on American citizens on American soil? Not a shocker.
Similarly, we cannot be too taken aback at the state of this country, and the morass of shameless, vile behavior that erupts forth every day.
So there’s a white woman in Central Park who calls the cops on a black man, knowing full well he could be killed because of her false accusation, because he dared to ask her to follow the rules? Yes, we could have predicted that.
And a homicidal cop in Minneapolis kneeled on a black man’s neck for several minutes, for no reason other than to inflict critical physical pain, without even the slightest concern that people were watching and videotaping for minutes on end? Hey, the only surprise is that it doesn’t happen more often.
And you shout that we now have nationwide—and even worldwide—protests against America’s systemic racism that have turned hundreds of city streets into rolling street battles? Honestly, who couldn’t have seen that one coming?
Yes, perhaps there is yet one sad, stupendously delusional Trump fan who is muttering, mostly to himself, that our jabbering chief executive is not as power-hungry as he seems to be, and that our nation is actually on the right track.
Well, I’m sorry, my friend, but when it comes to this president and this country, plausible deniability died long ago, brutally and decisively. Its essence was cremated, and then the ashes were scattered over cages holding migrant children.
The benefit of the doubt has been executed, and conservative “principles” have been revealed as the pathetic façade they always were.
Those moderate Republicans who still believe Trump will magically become a unifying leader? They are as real as Bigfoot.
And journalists who still believe that Trump won the votes of rural whites because of “economic anxiety”? They are some strange fairy tale or a half-forgotten urban myth.
Nobody truly believes any of those absurd ideas anymore.
Instead, we believe in the undeniable, the clear-cut and the perfectly obvious. We believe in rage and malicious motives and unquenchable greed. We believe in irrational fear and shrieking and the banging of heads against walls. We believe in those things because we see them every day.
It’s all out in the open now.
African Americans are sick of being targets. Progressives are tired of being polite. And racists aren’t even hiding it anymore. Everyone knows where one another stands.
And everyone is poised.