Hangman, have you not done, yesterday, with the alien one?” Then we fell silent, and stood amazed: “Oh, not for him was the gallows raised.”
He laughed a laugh as he looked at us: “Did you think I’d gone to all this fuss to hang one man? That’s a thing I do to stretch the rope when the rope is new.”
The Trump ascendancy is now in full force and the opening gambits during these first weeks are disturbing. He has stretched the rope. The Trump “travel ban” marks a new low because it attacks our national conscience on so many levels. The slipshod management style that marked the unveiling of this policy indicates the lack of concern for consequences or its impact on real human beings. The administration simply couldn’t care less what its citizens think, its constitution allows, or its courts have cited in past rulings. What matters to Trump and his band of interlopers is the message it sends.
There is little doubt this early in this regime’s tenure that they are all about “the message.” Muslims are only the first to get the message — they are not welcome. They are the easiest target and the first misstep on the slippery slope. No need to wonder who is next because the targets have already been identified. In Trump’s America, those who are “other” to the white, hetero, Christian, male world are all in the crosshairs. And like the narrator in Maurice Ogden’s “The Hangman”, those of us who comply because we are not affected by the current pogroms are especially at risk because we have become complicit by our inaction. Those who comply because they expect and willingly will accept the fruits of this administration’s theft of other’s rights will someday succumb to the regime’s relentless abuse of power. Whether they hope to find jobs more plentiful, or think their financial holdings will prosper at the expense of others, their day will come Their cowardice is only exacerbated by their own greed.
Now is the time for heroes. The protesters in the streets are generally young, vulnerable, and powerless. Among them are the first wave of victims, the “others,” for whom those who disagree but are not yet victims, can empathize with from afar. The regime’s fondest hope is that their bravery and public displays will, as time goes on, gradually lead the rest of us to wish the protests would end, and the riff raff would just go away as their plight becomes an inconvenience. The regime is counting on our need for comfort and order.
Who are the heroes? Well, of course, we all should be, but some will be more impactful than others. Republicans with conscience are the first in line. While Democrats can always be expected to serve as the loyal opposition, the regime will sell this as self-serving politics. No what is needed is formidable opposition within their own party. That is what it will take to curtail the regime’s unlawful behavior. At this moment, Paul Ryan and Rudy Giuliani represent the regime’s enablers. They play both sides in the battle, protesting only form and not substance. These are the modern day quislings — 21st century cowards. Prime candidates for true patriot status could arise from the McCain’s, Graham’s, Bush’s; from Rand Paul, and John Kasich. Others, like the gelded Mitt Romney and Mario Rubio, can only swell the tide, their moral authority stolen by Trump’s deft manipulation.
The Press and academia, especially scientists, are important to the cause as well. The assault on our democracy is very real and dangerous. It is waged on our courts, the rule of law, and our perceptions of tolerance. It is not unlike previous perversions of our constitution’s intents. Most are born of fear and distrust, of a contrived sense of weakness and a lack of national resolve. Trump’s regime has not written this book, only followed a well worn script. McCarthyism, the Klan, Know-Nothingism, and the paranoia of Nixon’s Watergate are all precursors. Each has a plot that includes constructing crises. McCarthy built his on the fear of communism — the “red scare”; the Klan on the hatred of blacks. Richard Nixon was confronted by war protesters and his own demons, and his straw dog was an ill conceived war in a small Asian nation. A war waged as much to save face as it was to prevent the fall of dominoes. The know-nothing movement feared Catholics and immigrants. The Trump populist regime borrows from them all. Like Nixon and McCarthy there is a real question of sanity and sobriety intermixed with Trump’s mindlessness and lack of curiosity.
As the hangman approached his final victim, his response to “why me?” and “why now?” is prescient:
“— and then with a smile of awful command he laid his hand upon my hand. You tricked me, Hangman!” I shouted then. “That your scaffold was built for other men. And I no henchman of yours,” I cried, “You lied to me, Hangman, foully lied!”
Then a twinkle grew in his buckshot eye: “Lied to you? Tricked you?” he said, “Not I. For I answered straight and I told you true: The scaffold was raised for none but you.”
As with the Hangman, Donald Trump has told us what he intends. If we expect to survive his maniacal rule and prosper, we are fools. If we plan to do nothing and hope to survive, we become enablers. Our only course is to resist and become the inconvenient reminder of what truly has made America great and continues to keep it that way. His promise to make us “great again” is a perversion of the truth. He could no more make America great than he could deny the fact that America made him rich.
This is a time for American heroes. Will you wait until the hangman’s noose is placed around your neck or will you choose to step up? Will you choose to be bullied and lied to, or will you choose to speak out?