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Is America Officially Embarrassing?

In so much of growing up, the real lesson was in the measures. In school, you had to learn cursive, even if you didn’t see the application for it, because it balanced the informality of chicken scratch. Your burgeoning opinions were kept in check not by the existence of (very real) youthful stupidity, but rather the idea that you have to listen to the other side—this being reinforced by classroom incentives, detentions, parent-teacher meetings, peer beatings, et al.

Yet we were equally taught the importance of civic duty. That though you may not express every feeling and concept you take to heart, you should still feel them and feed them. And that the other side had just as much teeming beneath the surface so, like always, mind your measures.

Even when rightfully angered, the measures sought explanation. A flawed premise did not maketh a flawed person, or even a flawed belief system. The measures (and a lot of atrocities) brought America to a position of unified strength no one in civilization has ever known, nor probably will ever know. Think about it: worrying about a lack of defense spending is to worry about a budget worth more than the next eleven countries’ combined. Developed nations take shots at the US in the press—nations worth less than Kansas (pre-Reaganomics). Facts like these serve the narrative that the press is wildly overreacting. They are looking for a story, looking for clicks—the stock market is at an all-time high, the recession dead, the Middle East only bombed when we feel like it.

Measures were a good thing. How do you unlearn a good thing? If there is an answer, we did not discover it in time. I watched a nation allow a draft dodger to criticize the capture of a POW, accept a Purple Heart (like a Cracker Jack prize), and attack a deceased Gold Star recipient’s family. I watched a thrice-married, dick-measuring advocate of sexual assault capture the evangelical vote. I have watched a man make zero mention of monthly ISIS attacks on Islamic holy sites, non-ISIS attacks on mosques in Canada and Minnesota, or stabbings in Portland; I have watched said man decry Obama for not labeling radical terrorism as strictly Islamic and take up the mantle of fearmongering opportunism. Boasts of no taxes paid, no taxes disclosed, six bankruptcies, fraudulent businesses, 700+ untraced charitable claims… “Not dinner table conversation.” Anything—and that includes nuclear proclivity, voter suppression, incited violence, cronyism, hypocrisy, endless and blatant lying (seriously, humor us), stealing a SCOTUS justice, dystopian Boy Scout rallies, birtherism, state-run media, election collusion, homophobia, game show hosting, fascist immigration policy—could be soothed by “He’s not Hillary.”

And that is why America is officially embarrassing. Not because (less than half of) the people voted for Trump. Not because Hillary was a better candidate—she was, but God what a duel for the penultimate. America is embarrassing because no one will claim responsibility for Donald J. Trump and the unprecedented failure that he is. Not even finger-pointing. Responsibility. A simple “This was an error we are working to fix and prevent.” People are nervous, helpless, and mostly hoping for an expedient outcome, re: Mueller, but overall life goes on. Our representatives cannot pause ambition in the wake of a President asking about the launch codes? We cannot give up deference to ingrained civility long enough to ensure our own survival???

The sterling hallmarks of an embarrassing and doomed fucking country:

– Cling to his ill-fitting pant legs—off the world’s edge, if need be.

– Pretend that your name on a ballot was a meaningless gesture. After all, lots of other people voted for him, too. And what about those third-party voters! What about the DNC! What about Bernie! (The socialist Jew I am just so sure conservatives were lining up to vote for.)

– Suddenly “see the light” of his evil (which has been powered with a backup generator).

– Stern, feckless condemnation.

– Apathy/Silent terror/Tuning into Stephen Colbert as protest (guilty).

– It’s bad, but wake me for the Clinton trial.

It’s tempting to think that Trump is just a nasty virus that must pass through any democratic system. That our legal, Congressional, and journalistic branches need to be tested. We are not the first country to elect a populist narcissist—and if he’s the most insane, it’s only because Caligula didn’t have Twitter. But unlike (no, I’m not comparing them, even though McMaster advisor Sebastian Gorka belongs to the Hungarian Order of Vitez—a Nazi faction) Adolf Hitler, Trump did not arise from the untenable yoke of postwar reparations. He was not thrust to the throne by an impoverished, revolting populace. He took office after eight years of Barack Fucking Obama. De-escalated Bush wars, no more recession (whether by the administration’s doing or not). A man so popular that many Republican candidates stopped evoking him as a bogeyman. A president so well-mannered that his social scandals were tan suits and Dijon mustard—an honest-to-God role model for the entire planet. The only way to provoke a furious reaction, really, was attaching ‘-care’. (Could go down the whole road of ‘Actually OCare was the skeleton of RomneyCare; the original draft would reduce costs until HMO-backed Republicans remembered they need to pay for re-election; the states that accepted Medicaid expansion fared far better’, but it’s not the issue at hand.)

Thus, there’s not a single other explanation for continually creating Trump The Symptom than: “gerrymandering” and “there are currently more dumb people in America than smart people, or even average- and below-average people”. Democrats can be dumb. Independents can be dumb. Republicans can be dumb. I am frequently dumb. Being dumb is not a sin, nor is it a flaw (unless willful). It’s a handicap. But above all, it is not an excuse.

People of average intelligence and talent live incredible lives every day. If they do not seem outwardly exceptional, they can have found inner peace, personal enrichment, or at the very least, the ability to be a kind and decent person. A nation of average people can be every bit as strong as days past. (We may have to import our Top Men from Germany, like China does, but that just fosters inclusivity.)

But the question is not whether the President is an embarrassment. It is not whether we are embarrassed to have him represent our nation. Those ‘Yeses’ ring to the heavens. The question is: when does a nation of average- and below-average people become an embarrassment itself?

Today. When it is proven beyond all doubt that Trump was not a fluke or a glitch in the system. When a 2020 re-election campaign is a legitimate concern, as is having the election itself. When the President treats nuking millions of people with the same caution as ordering an appetizer, and remains President. When the President of the United States thanks Putin for expelling diplomats (aka spies), with an ongoing investigation into collusionWHEN A NEO-NAZI PLOWS INTO CIVILIANS AND NO ONE IN CHARGE CALLS IT TERRORISM.

I think that’s all. Leave California alone.

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About the Author

Chris O'Toole (Colorado State '12, Chapman '15) recently finished a Screenwriting MFA. He has written for Livestrong, CBS, and other publications. Love, hate, and job offers can be sent to: otool102@mail.chapman.edu