Trump’s Gives Dark, Fearful Fourth of July Speech
One nation, under God, greatly divisible, with liberty and justice for some
The building swayed back and forth, rolling like a drunk trying to walk a straight line down the street. For a few seconds, we all held our breath on the 11th floor of the hotel in Woodland Hills. It began slowly and rose to a rhythmic crescendo. We stepped away from the windows and walked to the door. There was no telling how bad it would get it. A minute later, it ended.
No one was worse for the wear where we stood. Many were scared. A few screamed. A few others put their hands in the air and tried to speak in tongues. It was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, but the ground didn’t split open and swallow us. That was metaphorically saved for the rantings of a tin-horned dictator pretending to represent the United States in a speech in Washington, D.C. that day. President Donald Trump’s chaotic and rambling Fourth of July speech, made in the rain and in which he either embarrassed his critics by striking a major chord for the greatest achievements of the American Republic; or embarrassed himself by talking about storming the ramparts and conquering British airports during the Revolutionary War, was a typical diatribe from Trump. Filled with patriotic images, talks of greatness and incoherent babbling, it—as many Trump speeches do—seemed to be a haphazard assemblage of ideas vainly searching for meaning.
All of Trump’s speeches resemble the ramblings of a fifth grader who failed American history, but loved comic books. It’s more of a condemnation of the speechwriter than the man who gave the speech, if not for the fact that Trump hired, promoted and continues to use such untutored minds. On the same day Trump spread his rhetorical feces, National Public Radio released a story talking about the Vindicator newspaper of Youngstown, Ohio, which is destined to close next month, making Youngstown the largest city in the nation without a major newspaper. Between the rain, earthquake, newspaper closure and the continuing debate over the sanity of the U.S. president, there was little forgotten on Independence Day—with the exception of our independence.
How independent are we? How united are we? The existential ennui of the American people was never more on display than on that rainy, earth-shaking day in the United States where fewer people heard independent voices communicating the importance of our independence. Trump has but one message: Don’t bother believing what you see with your eyes. But Trump’s message isn’t just a demagogue’s wet dream. His wasn’t a speech without purpose. It wasn’t a speech that spoke to the moment. It was a dark and clear message: There is no meaning. There is no soul. There are only words to which you can attach any meaning you want at any time to support or insult the president, and of which he will do the same.
If we cannot recognize the fool in the rain is merely a fool standing in the rain spouting nonsense, then we will be the ones excised.
Words have a fluid meaning in Trump’s mind. Communication is not based on facts, but feelings and words. His Fourth of July speech in D.C. thus was the perfect speech for our times. It spoke of the cacophony, chaos, ignorance and fear felt by billions across the planet. It may well be the most perfect speech for the moment. The President relished his role of propagandist in chief, and of his mistakes he of course blamed it all on the rain—or at least his elaborate description of overrunning the airports of the British during the revolution. That gaffe that generated more Internet energy than his administration’s previous misstatements about “Covfefe,” “Alternative Facts,” “Bowling Green Massacre,” and Little Rocket Man. Trump didn’t care. He rarely does. He was on to ravage other pastures.
His sideshow antics continued the next day on the South Lawn, and we all commiserated over his latest vanities, pronouncements and intentions as he boarded Marine One and headed off to Bedminister, where he’s put more than a $100 million on the national tab for another extended weekend of golf and relaxation. Anchors and pundits discussed his latest actions with sincerity and while offering pithy comments, they also either told us the world is about to implode or the world is on the cusp of bursting into an evangelical wet dream of euphoria. The earth appeared to shake in response, reminding us if we care to look at things logically, then humanity is nothing more than a swarm of pestilent fleas residing on Earth until Mother Nature shakes us off her back.
But we collectively do not care about that. We cannot even face that. We can only see what’s in front of our face. The Donald knows this and takes full advantage of it. Those who call him a moron and a boob may be correct, but they aren’t addressing the totality of what we face. Trump remains but a symptom of our plight. He is the staphylococcus bacteria infecting our political body—a mere carbuncle that some pre-pubescents take joy in popping with great affection as they gaze into the mirror and groom themselves in the morning. What led to Trump? A lack of education? A lack of good sense? Jesus? Is he our salvation? Our redemption? Our condemnation? Or is he the huckster of the moment taking advantage of our continued naïve nature, ignorance and preying on our hope for redemption and the belief something better is ahead?
In truth, aren’t we the boobs and morons? Millions of us put him in office, with a little help from his Russian friends. Perhaps and ultimately, Trump might be the mirror into our own collective souls. In that case, we are the carbuncle and Trump is only showing us ourselves. If we cannot recognize the fool in the rain is merely a fool standing in the rain spouting nonsense; if we cannot look beyond it, or recognize it, or do something about it, then we will be the ones excised. Trump is a sad, strange little man who is the envy of some, the pity of others and to me is merely another rube selling snake oil. I ask questions of this man, and watch as he consolidates his power in the White House, not because I’m enamored of him or because I do not like him, but because it is my job. That is, ultimately, what every reporter does at the White House. We show up and put up with a lot to ask questions.
With fewer independent voices, it becomes easier for anyone, particularly a demagogue like Trump, to drive their points home.
The president makes our jobs more excruciating, more difficult and more painful. He does this to every reporter at the White House, whether they are employed by Fox, CNN, NBC or the unlikely blog that has an audience of less than a 100. While newspapers continue to collapse, as in Youngstown, the president continues to hammer his message home. With fewer and fewer independent voices, it becomes easier for anyone, particularly a demagogue like Trump, to drive their points home and convince a great God-fearing nation of the righteousness of his twisted and demented cause.
As the buildings swayed, the rain fell, the president blew hard and another newspaper closed, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash put it all in perspective. He announced that he was leaving the GOP after growing “disenchanted” and “frightened” by party politics. But Amash didn’t join the Democrats. He said in an op-ed for the Washington Posthe would remain in Congress as an independent. Amash had been at odds with his party for a variety of reasons, including government spending and health care. But it was when he called for Trump’s impeachment that he found himself irrevocably at odds with the GOP.
Trump, of course, spent the morning of Independence Day tweeting, “Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest and most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party. No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser.”
Chaos will always be chaos. Trump will always be Trump. At this point, we know what he is. He isn’t an earthquake. He isn’t the rain. He’s not honest. He doesn’t care about the free press, an independent judiciary, legislative branch or anything remotely resembling our democratic principles or values. He is a demagogue consolidating his powers and incoherently babbling profusely to confuse us as he does so. In the end, we need to remember H.L. Mencken’s advice about all politicians and limit Trump’s powers to an irreducible minimum and reduce his compensation to nothing.