We hardly had a week to digest Donald Trump's "Rot in Hell" Christmas address when we were forced to confront his New Year's babble—laced sociopathically with all caps—about "Radical Left Misfits & Thugs on their never-ending attempt to DESTROY OUR NATION through Lawfare, Invasion, and Rigging Elections."
His "welcome to 2024" lacked the cachet of his vulgar commemoration of the birth of his lord and savior, but on the road to derangement, Trump shows encouraging, though disturbing, signs of acceleration. What will now be referred to as the "Rot in hell" speech was another signpost if we care to recognize it.
After all, seminal speeches are often identified by a phrase or two: Dr. King's "I Have a Dream speech," or JFK's "Ask not." There was Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches" and Reagan's "Shining city on a hill." Would any sentient American be unable to trace the source of "Four score and seven years ago" or be unaware that it was FDR who, in 1941, spoke of America's "day of infamy?"
Political leaders and others throughout history have been identified by the turn of a phrase at an opportune moment: "Tear down that wall!" Ronald Reagan exclaimed, and the Berlin Wall crumbled. Where in the pantheon of courageous and meaningful statements does one place Trump's sad and pathetic "Rot in hell"? History will choose the appropriate landfill.
The term itself is problematic. Many will argue that hell does not exist in any theological sense. But for now, let's admit it exists in the real world, sometimes coming about by our own hand. In Gaza, 2000-pound bombs are leaving craters and corpses where apartments and people once existed, and on October 7 in Israel, bands of ruthless and sadistic Hamas thugs kidnapped, raped, and murdered more than a thousand innocents indiscriminately. Survivors of these events will never deny the existence of hell.
Sometimes, it exists beyond our control: this past February, an earthquake in Turkey left an official death toll of 59,259, and later, a freak Mediterranean storm killed more than 4,000 in Libya. We have seen the rubble of Ukrainian cities littered with the innocent dead and witnessed the victims of the Maui fires running for their lives. We don't have to believe in any Biblical hell to have a pretty good idea of what it is.
And that unrelenting horror and depersonalization is the fate the leading GOP candidate for president wants us to face for all eternity if we disagree with his bleak view of the world. His inherent and hopeless lack of humanity no longer shocks anyone, but it does render him unfit to lead, govern, or roam about freely in a civilized society.
And do not be so naive or nonchalant as to dismiss his hateful tirades as "Trump being Trump" or praise him as someone "who says what he feels." Most of us undergo a variety of emotions in a day—joy, frustration, love, disappointment, regret, etc., and achieving some balance or compartmentalizing allows us to exist in society. Donald Trump's variety is smaller: anger and vengeance. He may come across as a petulant child-man who has never been able to recognize any suffering beyond his own, but he is amassing a cadre of misfits and sycophants to assist him in tearing down all of democracy's guardrails. His holiday messages comprise a plan.
Or maybe it's a copy of a plan. In Putin's Russia, a man was prosecuted recently for wearing a blue and yellow scarf—the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Another faced a similar fate for scribbling an anti-war sentiment on a bathroom wall. If we can connect the dots between the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin and the authoritarian desires of Donald Trump, then maybe we're undeserving of the freedoms we currently have...you know, where we can wear a scarf that we like without being arrested.
Next November, we will have the option of eliminating from public disgrace one of the worst political figures the world has seen and one of the most abysmal human beings—a man lacking in common courtesy, basic empathy, and even a scintilla of Christian charity. And if you think that, like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, et al., he will ultimately destroy himself, you're right. But the destruction preceding that demise will go a long way toward showing us what it means to rot in hell.
So, I offer you an apolitical wish for a prosperous 2024—with a political caveat. Do not allow Donald Trump ever again to control the machinery of government. If we fail in that simple request, January 2025 may find us living in a much different country, one in which our personal freedoms will be systematically eradicated, and the experiment of democracy will have failed. Buying a "legal" scarf will be the least of our problems.