The day after Donald Trump descended the escalator and announced his presidency—the day after he called Mexicans murderers and rapists and still supported the lie of birtherism—that day-after when America didn’t rise up and revolt against this financial failure, this buffoon, this liar, this cheater, this racist, this all-round charlatan—that’s the day that disallows us from being disappointed by Wednesday’s Mueller appearance.
There’s a famous sports video in which former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green (he died in 2016) went on a post-game rant for the ages after his Cardinals lost a game they seemed ready to win. To a question about the Bear, Green screamed:
"The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were."
The rant continued, grew louder, and ended thus:
"The Bears are who we thought they were! That's why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"
Donald Trump is exactly who we thought he was and we let him off the hook. Of course we didn’t know our relatives, friends, and neighbors were
angry enough to vote for anyone who made empty promises to make their lives better;
jingoistic enough to vote for any flag-waver who promised a return to some ethnic purity;
misogynistic enough to fear voting for a strong, intelligent, and capable woman;
racist enough to take vengeance on the party who had placed a Black man(!) in the White House;
ignorant enough to think that shaking things up is always a good idea; and
weak-minded enough to trade all manner of immorality and treason for party loyalty.
It is easy in the days after the hearing to blame Mueller for not being forceful enough (true), or specific enough (true) or dire enough (true). It’s also easy to blame him for not calling Trump a flat out criminal when we all know the truth—his words in that report say so.
But if we all know the truth and we don’t act upon it, then the truth has no meaning anymore. Without some concept of integrity in our leadership, America becomes another third-world country, ruled by a self-serving authoritarian whose subjects complain at their own peril and who paves the way for other like-minded rulers to follow.
When Trump was elected, I remember thinking, “What if this is the last president of my life?” It was a silly thought: dead people don’t lament the president they left behind. But now I wonder if clones of Donald Trump will be the only president my children ever see. Who will prevent it in this country where we don’t seem to have the fortitude to do what needs to be done.
Puerto Rico’s former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló grasps the power of fortitude in the shape of people in the streets. The Women’s March in 2017 also showed us what was possible. Think of all that has happened since that day in January—all the lies and embarrassments, the avarice and depravity. Already we're searching for our next savior (FBI? SDNY?) now that Mueller has "failed us." If we're foolish enough to rely on that, let's also plan for our next day of reckoning when we go home brokenhearted.
If we simply keep waiting for the next savior to redeem us, all we’re doing is watching Trump descend those stairs, day after day. Even worse, unlike Bill Murray’s Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, we don’t get wiser by the hour; we just wake up every day at the same time and wait for help.
We live in a participatory democracy: we're the help.