The Plague-Ground – Strike 4. We’re out.

“Where were you when….?”

Yesterday was one of those days.

I’d chalked up two of them in the past four years, to balance the two engraved in my brain for many years: November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and September 11, 2001, or Nine-Eleven.

My most recent Where were you…?  moments happened late on the night of November 3, 2016, when it was clear that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States; and on June 1 last year when police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from Mr. Trump’s path so he could pose in front of a Washington church, holding a Bible, upside-down.

They were my Strikes One and Two with Mr. Trump. On both occasions, I didn’t feel sick, like many millions of others did. I did feel a gnawing in my stomach, a sense of being untethered, a rising sense of…….well, it wasn’t doom, because I couldn’t imagine just how dreadful Trump would be as the US President. None of us could. If we were deeply partisan, we could rev up our worst nightmares and imagine how bad things would get. But those were, by definition, fantasies.

Not even the pandemic had that same quickly sickening effect. In fact, on  Friday, March 13th last year when my wife Jean and I fled up north to our cottage,  we were listening to the news in the car. Trump, criticized for his late and feeble response to this mysterious disease, announced that testing centers would open in Walmart and Target parking lots all over America.

I remember thinking: “Wow, he can really pull it out of the hat, can’t he?”

How pathetically naïve I was. Clearly, I still believed some things Trump said could actually be true.

By yesterday, 361,000 Americans had died of COVID, 21.4 million were infected with it, and ambulances in Los Angeles may no longer be taking stroke and heart attack patients to the hospital because their ERs are overflowing with COVID patients.

Then Wednesday happened. That was Strike 3 for millions more around the world.

Two of our American friends living in Toronto said they’d spent the afternoon crying in front of their TVs. It took until late afternoon for America’s President to tell the protesters: “You have to go home now….So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

By yesterday morning, there were rumblings of resignations from staffers in The White House and elsewhere in the Trump administration. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Canadian-owned Shopify blocked the President from using their sites.

By mid-day came the many calls for the President’s impeachment.

By last night, Trump admitted for the first time that he had lost, though, of course, not in so many words. What he said was: “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th.  My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

It seems that this time, he’s finally crossed the line, he knows it and he knows when to shut up and lie low, which he’ll do until January 20th when Joe Biden is inaugurated. One credible report has Trump flying to Scotland that day to visit his golf course. This prompted Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, to proclaim: “We are not allowing people to come into Scotland … and coming in to play golf is not what I would consider an essential purpose.”

In those two weeks between now and the 20th, at least democracy and America can lick their wounds, clean up their vandalized landmarks, and think about a brighter saner future under their new President.

Wait a second.

What did I just say?

Am I delusional?

How could I forget the first rule of dealing with Donald Trump? Don’t believe a word he says. Ever.

If he says he will work for a smooth, orderly and seamless transition, why have I not learned that the next days will be rough, disorderly and deeply harmful to America?  Donald Trump isn’t going to slink away. He never has, and why start now when his notoriety has never been higher?

Every insurer, every money lender and psychiatrist will tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

So get ready for more “Where were you?” days, more “I’ll remember that till the day I die” days —  in the next 12 days.

“More” includes the virtual certainty that he’ll pardon himself.

I also think that smaller groups of domestic terrorists, having breached the US Congress, will try to do the same in State Houses across the land. Having committed the bigger act, it feels not only safe, but right to commit the smaller one.

Because, as Voltaire wrote in 1765: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Strike 4. We’re all out.

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20 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – Strike 4. We’re out.”

  1. Morrison, Laurie

    Hi Bob – as always, an interesting read. I just a thought I would offer up a response. I am not sure he will pardon himself as he would have to admit he did something wrong and based on past behaviour that will not happen!

  2. All I can do is reiterate Bob’s words: “Don’t believe a word he says. Ever.” Even if he follows through with a peaceful transition of power, a) his “base” won’t take it lying down; b) he’ll keep stoking the fires; and c) Biden, Harris et al have a very steep mountain to climb to right the ship (very mixed metaphors, I know, but you get the meaning.)

  3. I was curling when Kennedy was assassinated, I had just returned from riding my horse when 9/11 happened. I remember being astounded when Trump won and all the rest that has happened since is just a nightmare. I will not forget what I was doing two days ago and hold my breath for the next 12 days.

    1. I was at TCS in Grade 9 when Kennedy was shot. I was in New York for 9/11…and I’m hiding from the plague when Wednesday happened.

    1. Right, it will be televised. I now refresh my NY Times homepage every 15 minutes because the lead headline changes that quickly.

  4. Well said as always Bob.
    As an expat from the US, I have spent the last four years being an embarrassed American. I am now beyond embarrassed and am trying to come to grips with my anger and bewilderment at the scope of it all.
    Thank you for your insightful words.

    1. Mark — Thanks so much for connecting. I remember once Jean and I were with a group of bicyclers in New Zealand.
      We all sang our national anthems, except oddly for the American couple who remained silent. When the host asked
      why they wouldn’t sing their anthem, the husband replied: “We’re ashamed to be Americans….under President Bush.”
      Oh, those halcyon times!

    2. Jane — It seems you survived both Christmas and New Years! I must say the events of the past three days are like the breaking of a fever.
      While it’s only 12 more days of Trump, I can’t imagine what he’ll get up to.
      Cheers. Bob

  5. Thank you, once more, Bob. It’s so demoralizing to follow this saga daily; yet we are watching history and the entire American system (Dream?)–political, social, moral, economic–suffer wave on wave of challenges.

    Thought: Trump resigns and Pence then pardons him . . . (Not original; on the radio).

    Many reviews of the past few days appear to be “chess moves” where Trump has managed the board and Biden/Dems must consider the next event:

    * Move– call in the Guard and suburban police on Tuesday night or Wednesday at 9 a.m.. Responses–Trump tweets that Dems create a martial-law state when only sacred, peaceful, American right-to-gather is in play; risk (which has risen bitterly to the fore rather immediately) that the more peaceful approach will backfire and be compared to the Black-Lives-Matter demonstration of the past summer; risk that the world press will be filled with photos and film of Washington under siege for the second time in a year.

    * Move–fail to investigate 5 deaths at the Capitol as criminal acts, perhaps murders. Response:–unprecedented systemic failure to have law enforcement proceed in the face of heinous misdeeds

    * Move– fail to prosecute known invaders at the Capitol, with ample messaging, photos, selfies and sound videos, for trespass, mischief, destruction of property and other federal capitol-region offences available and publicly braiodcast (some openly pre-meditated or incited): Response–invitation to hold marches, occupations and destruction with impunity; systemic failure of law enforcement to proceed as warranted.

    * Move–so late in the circus that there is complete failure to hold Trump and crew responsible in any meaningful way Response– sets a dangerous precedent for impeachment and 25th Amendment proceedings (note comparisons to and legal arguments from Nixon situation raised on the first impeachment round) in the future

  6. I believe that it’s time for all of us to start calling this what it is: the rampage of a psychopath, to whom the American people have given the keys to immense power. Trump is a narcissist, has no moral centre, and no empathy. The only thing that motivates him is his own power and ego. Let’s stop pretending that we’re dealing with a normally responsible adult. We can only deal with the beast if we know it for what it is.

    1. Kay — Indeed, we’ve been polite for far too long. As Yeats said: “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”

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