Meredith C. Carroll: Post Trump Stress Disorder
There came a moment in 2016 when I went from automatically accepting the existence of the sky to waking up every morning if for no other reason than to double check it was still there. A month and a day before that year’s presidential election, a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape exposed Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, followed 48 hours later by him creeping nefariously behind Hillary Clinton during a live televised debate.
It wasn’t so much the audio and visual shock and revulsion as it was the amount of support the eventual 45th United States President would retain and build on for equally awful and far worse antics that had me waking up for 1,567 consecutive mornings with a feeling of mild to moderate panic and dread that each dawn held the very real potential to reveal the apocalypse was not nigh but, in fact, now.
On Jan. 21, I slept through the White House’s first Trump-free sunrise since 2017. It was as if the blanket of existential depression that had been asphyxiating me for more than four years finally started lifting. Even the American flag that seemed to have been all-but hijacked in the Trump era by so-called patriots brandishing aggressively oversized versions of it, waved hopefully and with dignity, all 195,000 of them in the National Mall during Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, like a peaceful army of sunflowers on a mission to spread light across a dim and dusty field.
However, if my exhales since Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office have been sighs of relief, then my subsequent inhales are involuntary gasps, a side effect of remembering the nearly 75 million votes Trump more just than eked out Nov. 3. While he didn’t amass enough to win another term, his defeat shouldn’t discount that a staggering number of people whose lives and livelihoods were inarguably adversely affected as a direct result of his presidency went back anyway and asked for another helping.
In that I know how it feels to have your preferred candidate lose out on the presidency (and because I refuse to repeat history by dismissing how Trump rose to power in the first place), I empathize with the grief his supporters are experiencing. Yet when Trump assumed power in 2017, I mourned not just Clinton’s loss but also the unmistakable and abrupt end of humanity, decency, empathy and, ultimately (and horrifyingly), democracy from the Oval Office. The consequences were sinister and grave, especially for women, education, people of color, health care, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, world relations, the environment and science.
The difference now appears to be that what Trump’s supporters are bemoaning loudest is his personal loss, not anything tangible or that he did or stood to do for them, the country or humanity. And the truth is that Trump has hardly lost. He spent nearly $50 million soliciting donations to “fight the election results” by raising money to fund recounts and ferret out so-called fraud. The post-election, pre-insurrection fundraising public relations blitz ended up yielding more than a quarter-billion-dollar war chest. As it turns out, though, only $10 million of what was raised actually went to his legal fees and election overturning efforts. The New York Times reported Sunday that the rest of the money, some $175 million, is being stashed away for his and the Republican party’s future use, including a political action committee, Save America, that was newly formed by Trump and can be used to pay advisers and fund travel for his future political endeavors.
No one, not even Trump, seems to be clamoring for him to come back to finish the good job he was doing for the pandemic, the American people, international relations, affordable health care, racial equity or even the economy.
Trump failed to make either the coronavirus disappear or a border appear. Not only is he not lamenting what he could have done with more time, he’s stewing about what was done to him in the time he had. His base rooted for someone who only rooted for himself. They’re still rooting for him while he roots for the country to fail. I’d feel worse for his supporters if they stood as a whole to lose or get hurt by Biden. Except not only are they not in the new president’s crosshairs, but the lens he’s looking at them through is capable of seeing in more than just black, white and red.
Regardless if the senate acquits him during his next impeachment trial and he manages to shuffleboard off to stare directly into Mar-a-Lago’s gold-plated sunset, the consequences of Trump’s reign of terror will be felt, or suffered, for generations — just not by him.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.
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