The longer I live, the more mystified I become. You’d think it would be the other way around.
When I was young, I was a veritable Pangloss, living in the best of all worlds. I was a factory worker’s boy, the grandson of immigrants. We had a house, a lawn, a car. The land I lived in was free and powerful, and best of all, good. My parents said so; my teachers and priests agreed. I was a boy, but I knew my place in the cosmos.
Later came the larger story. The failings of the men we admired. The lies they told us. The entrenched racism that undergirded the whole society. The exploitation of workers and resources.
Yet somehow, I never lost faith. Things would work out. And maybe Pangloss was right – what did work out was the best that could have been worked out. We needed to stop whining, and get on with it.
But every week, President Trump comes out and rubs our faces in the worst of America. And it’s becoming harder to keep the faith.
The most recent example was that of Rob Porter, a state secretary in the White House and, by all accounts, an elective manager who made a significant contribution to whatever good order was maintained in this famously chaotic administration.
‘Every week, Trump comes out and rubs our faces in the worst of America. It’s becoming harder and harder to keep faith’
Unfortunately for Porter, both of his ex-wives have made allegations of domestic abuse – which Porter denies. The FBI were aware of this, and had informed the White House. Ordinarily, such allegations would prohibit an applicant from serving in the White House. Instead, though, he served for about a year – and the administration was embarrassed.
Big deal, right? A mistake was made. You swallow your medicine and move on. Except in this administration. Instead, President Trump made a public statement wishing him a ‘wonderful career’.
It’s not the worst thing for a president to give the benefit of the doubt. But in Trump’s case, a pattern has emerged: the benefit of the doubt has also been ordered to neo-Nazis and Vladimir Putin, and withheld from immigrants, protesting football players, residents of Haiti and El Salvador, and the officials of the FBI. President Trump is quite selective about who benefits from his open mind.
Far more dismaying than Trump’s lack of integrity is that displayed by his party. For nearly all my life, the Republican Party was the scowling, serious, adult party. We Democrats were the optimistic ones who thought money could solve everything, and who relied upon Republicans to be the grown-ups about spending. But under their new tax plan enacted by the Republican Congress, the US is shouldering a $1.5 trillion deficit. It’s an astonishing wager, unnecessarily dumping debt onto future generations in an effort to stimulate growth in an economy already chugging along at close to three per cent a year.
More than deficits, Republicans were hostile to Russia. Suddenly today’s Republicans have accepted the news of Russian interference in our elections with lassitude usually reserved for a rainy day. ‘Oh, well, too bad. I guess I’ll pick up the dry cleaning tomorrow.’ They’re greeting the ever-mounting indications that the Trump campaign was complicit as an excuse to level mindbending accusations against the FBI.
For three-quarters of a century, it was easy to be proud of being an American. But now I see my country as though in a funhouse mirror, with up turned down and in turned out, and with every scar and blemish and wart and wattle magnified a thousand times, eclipsing all that we remembered. It is a heart-sickening time to be alive.
Jamie Malanowski is former senior editor of US Esquire