Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Two years ago, I wrote an essay that discussed a quote I’d discovered the year before that:
In January of 1973, United States Ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady sent a telegram to the State Department in which he described the regime of Uganda’s Idi Amin as:
“Racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic.”
At the time, I was reprising this quote specifically in response to Donald J. Trump’s demands for a military parade and for implying that any Congressperson who failed to applaud for him during the State of the Union address was committing a defiance tantamount to treason.
Yesterday afternoon 52 Republican senators voted to acquit the president of high crimes and misdemeanors, after having previously decided that their duty to hold a trial was not as important as their need to perpetrate a cover-up of crimes that the House of Representatives’ impeachment managers had laid out in painstaking detail over a course of several weeks. The House had called forth as many witnesses as they could, with others simply defying subpoenas on order of the president, and the Senate had voted not to hear additional witnesses or see other documents despite firsthand information being leaked to the press by Trump associate Lev Parnas and former National Security Advisor John Bolton at a daily clip. Then, after refusing to see additional evidence, all Republicans save Mitt Romney (R-UT) claimed that there was not enough evidence to convict, and they then brutally drove a dagger into the heart of accountability.
As of yesterday afternoon the president and his minions have begun making overtures of retribution to be visited upon all who defied him in word or deed throughout the investigation and cover-up, and the cowering invertebrates in Congress intend to sit back, let it happen, and gamble that they will remain on the tyrant’s good side.
And yet one thing I can guarantee is that while history will remember and judge the names of these senators who voted to acquit on all charges, shortly after the vote itself Donald Trump forgot most of their names, and that he will only bother to remember them the next time he needs something or should they ever cross him.
As an exhibit in watching an authoritarian dictator operate, it’s worth watching the video of Saddam Hussein’s infamous 1979 purge of his own Ba’athist Party, in which he named 68 men as traitors and had 22 of them summarily executed within hours after they had been condemned. Their own party comrades were among those in the firing squad, being compelled to kill their fellows so as not to draw further suspicion upon themselves. See the nervousness and fear in this room from all except Hussein, who casually smokes a Cuban cigar and relishes every second of his power to command death or survival.
I do not expect Trump to escalate to this level of demanding names and executions in front of cameras between now and November. America still holds in its collective consciousness a notion that there are constitutional and social barriers between ourselves and such notoriety. I do not think we are ready to recognize how fragile those barriers have become over the past three-odd years. If Trump began demanding not metaphorical but literal heads on spikes a month from now, you would see more senators than just Romney balk at the suggestion, and you would also be terrified at how many could still discuss the request as reasonable.
Even as I say that: Keep in mind that when Fred Guttenberg — the father of a Parkland shooting victim, a gun control activist, and a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — raised his voice in protest at the State of the Union, he was not only removed from the chambers, but removed in handcuffs.
These will be frightening times ahead. Hold fast.