In some places—like Tennessee—it has become invisible.
It would be pleasant to avow that since the election of Joseph Biden, we no longer live in the Age of Trump, but it isn't true. The self-delusion, the vitriol, the arrogance, and the disregard for the most basic human needs—respect, tolerance, and acceptance—ride as high today as they did during his moronic and embarrassing term of office.
And we saw that same attitude displayed in full vigor this past week when the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two of its members and censured a third for staging a protest on the House floor against the proliferation of guns. The demonstration occurred mere days after a school shooting in the same state left three children and three adults dead.
No one will deny that the demonstration was a breach of decorum, but only the arrogance of Trumpism deems such a display of free speech deserving of expulsion. And only in the residue of Trumpist stupidity would the Speaker of that House, Cameron Sexton, compare the uprising of three anti-gun protesters to the January 6, 2021, uprising at the Capitol.
"Two of the members," Sexton said, "have been very vocal about January 6 in Washington D.C., about what that was, and what they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the capitol."
Depending on how you look at it? Let's try it this way. In that chamber that day last week, no property was destroyed, no duly-elected vice-President faced hanging, no arrests and imprisonments followed, there were no injuries, and no one died.
No. One. Died.
Before Trump stupidified the Republican Party, its members would have rejected such a specious and preposterous assertion and admitted that the upshot was merely this: three protesters were led out of the building. No Proud Boys with weapons—no mace-toting morons with Confederate flags—just three elected officials angry that the Republican Party of Tennessee—the Republican Party writ large—doesn't give a damn about mounting deaths from gun violence as long as the money from the NRA and other gun-loving factions keeps pouring in.
Today in Tennessee, a lot of good and honest people feel favorable about the work of the Republican legislators in tamping down this "perilous" uprising. Still, I'm sure there exists a question in the minds of many more as to what constitutes free speech and racism (the one white protester retained her seat.) and why the right to own weapons of war supersedes the well-being and safety of its citizens.
Admittedly, it is difficult these days to look at a section of the country ravaged by tornados and not feel sympathy for the average citizen standing near the remains of a shattered home or picking through the debris, searching for keepsakes and photos. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that they are us, just as we shouldn't treat every Trump follower like some sort of pariah.
But we can still demand more than stupidity and delusion from elected officials, and we can expect humanity and collegiality among a group elected to do basically the same thing. In a saner, less Trumpian world, the legislators who disagreed could have gone on doing the work they were elected to do. The prevailing majority might even have recognized the frustration and sadness inherent in the aftermath of the recent shootings and cut the protesters some slack.
But in the age of Trump, slack is something provided to self-appointed militia groups, tax-avoiding Supreme Court justices, and foreign autocrats. Everyone outside that world of yachts and guns still has rules to follow—even three legislators who thought it might be a good idea to try, at least, to prevent more children from being slaughtered in their schools.
"Radical" ideas like that will have to wait until the stench of Trumpism is cleared from our country and that arc bending toward justice that Martin Luther King Jr. foretold returns to the mainstream.