Even though we live the age of information, it’s surprisingly difficult to keep tabs on the state of America. If you feel like every time you open up your browser there’s some bit of weirdness going on, you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s small stories, like members of Mar-A-Lago getting tours of Air Force One. Sometimes they’re huge stories, like one-year-olds in immigration court. Then sometimes they’re just perplexing, like our relationship to the World Health Organization and the subject of breastfeeding. And that’s just the last week.
Every now and then a tweet will pass through my echo chamber from a wide-eyed Democrat lamenting about how things would be so much different if Trump hadn’t become President. And I get why that thinking is comforting; sure, there would still be battles to fight, particularly when it comes to immigration, but at least you could brunch without worrying about what kind of madness your phone is going to buzz into your life. In a world without a Trump presidency, you might even be able to go a whole couple of days without ever hearing about what the President was up to.
But this is our reality, Trump is our President, and, while no one really wants to admit it, America needed this kind of wakeup call.
Left or right, if you disagree with the policies and decisions of the Trump administration, you have to acknowledge that they’re not happening due to his will alone. They’re happening because there are literally millions of your fellow citizens out there who think these things are good, from the rustbelt workers whose economic anxieties I’m supposed to sympathize with to the elites in the upper levels of government. Not only do they think they’re good, but they have no problem in participating in the administration's actions.
To get a one-year-old in front of an immigration judge, think about every single person that had to be involved to make that happen, getting a paycheck to be part of that process. These kids are isolated from their parents, taken in by men with guns who had no problem with it, watched by guards who have no problem with it, fed by cooks who have no problem with it, transported in vehicles with drivers who have no problem with it, so on and so forth. Even if they are “just doing their jobs”, they’re still getting a paycheck to be part of the process.
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And that’s how it goes for all the things we hear about from this administration. Lawyers have to defend the Muslim ban. Members of the White House communications team lie with straight faces. There are countless, faceless citizens of the United States working for all of these people doing all of these things you might find racist at worst, disagreeable at best, doing their jobs and cashing paychecks and making sure everything goes according to plan.
This is the America that some people have dreamed about for years. This is the America that the Republicans want. It’s no longer a straw man or a hypothetical or a thought experiment. It’s here. It’s real. And as awful as it might feel, we’re better off knowing that these people exist.
Far too long have we let ourselves as a nation be lulled by the idea of American Exceptionalism. We ignored the warnings, from our citizens of color and our citizens who are LGBT, about what was under the red, white, and blue myths we were being sold. But to confront those things is hard, and going to brunch is so much easier.
But my hope is that people will remember this America long after Trump is no longer in power. That they’ll remember what their family members, friends, neighbors, and citizens were willing to support in the name of “making America great again.” We know the America they want,