From April to June 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that deliberately separated children and babies — some as young as 4 months old — from their parents. In the span of six weeks, 1,995 kids were torn away from their parents. Some will likely never be reunited. On June 16, 2018, Trump lied about the policy, saying it was “forced” by Democrats. Once his lie was exposed, on Oct. 13, 2018, Trump explicitly advocated his barbaric policy as a deterrent. Those low points sparked international outrage.
These incidents enumerated by Klaas include exclusively those that occurred during the Trump presidency, not the run-up. So they omit such egregious cases as the Colin Kaeperninck disrespect-for-the-flag tweet, the “Access Hollywood” tape, mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, calling to ban all Muslims from entering the country or labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists.
How to Scuttle the Ship of State
In order for President Trump to sink the United States government–and the country–irretrievably he only has to continue along his same path. As we have seen in his daily tweets and even mainstream news coverage, he’s done an admirable job of sabotaging the government during his fist term in office, from defunding and dismantling vital agencies to deregulating business and finance, but he still has a way to go. A Democratic-Party-controlled House of Representatives is a hurdle he would have to surmount but there’s a possiblity he could turn the House around in the upcoming elections. He has won against the odds before–producing apoplexia in the Democratic machine–and the American electorate has been known to deliver other remarkable surprises.
The Immediate Result of a Possible Trump Defeat
But what if he were to lose? How would President Trump’s partisans take the loss? Would they just step aside for the new President elect? Can anyone really foresee President Trump leaving office without kicking and screaming? What is more likely is some sort of coordinated civil unrest, the maximum expression of which is civil war. Is that eventuality being prepared in the White House basement as we speak? Should it come to armed civil disobedience, which side would the nation’s police and armed forces come down on? Is anybody thinking about that? Or are they all just betting the farm on that comforting old saw: “It can’t happen here”
Suppose it were to happen, along with all the other horrific contingencies that President Trump’s administration has made possible. A full-blown American Civil War II would be a giant step towards ground zero. And we haven’t even considered the role of the Chinese and the Russians. Would they stand idly by? Or would they consider picking up a bargain out of the wreckage? Isn’t the Chinese’s own pictograph for “crisis” composed of two characters, one meaning “danger,” and the other “opportunity.”
Back to the Premise
How could a person like Donald J. Trump become the savior of the United States? It’s time to look at the historical precedents in other countries. In our time, since World War II, there have been two nations that have risen from the ignominy of defeat and total destruction, humiliation and starvation poverty, and worldwide condemnation. And they have achieved it in less than three generations. They have both rebuilt their countries and their economies, but more importantly they have recuperated their moral decency. Both have recognized, abandoned, repented, and apologized repeatedly for their agressive acts of warfare and crimes against humanity, their racism and historic rapaciousness. And their populations have assimilated a whole new set of humanitarian values based on democratic principles, respect and decency at home and abroad,
Those two countries are Germany and Japan. Located on opposite sides of the globe and with widely disparate cultural and social traditions, what did they have in common that permitted them to renew themselves in every conceivable respect? Their cities were systematically razed, their ideologies discredited. Their allies evaporated, along with their credit internationally. The only resources they could count on were humility, intelligence and determination. Granted, the $15 billion Marshall Plan was an important factor in European recovery but it wasn’t enacted until 1948. The first three years of Germany’s lone battle back from the gates of hell started from zero. Today Germany and Japan are two of the most advanced–and more importantly–most civilized countries in the world.
The Road to Rock Bottom
Is it possible that these are the very conditions that the United States requires in order to become great again? Could the current COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s characteristically inept handling of it be the detonator? From “We’ve got it under control…” to 55,000 deaths and counting is a long stretch, Mr. President. Will the coronavirus do for the Americans what the Second World War did for the Germans and the Japanese. Will it take them to rock bottom? If so, would the American public be able to muster the intelligence and determination–and most difficult of all–the humility to rebuild their entire world from zero?
It’s important to keep in mind, I think, that it couldn’t be achieved with traditional American values. No amount of self-reliance, dog-eat-dog competition and quick-buck capitalism would get the job done. It would require tremendous levels of selfless collaboration on the part of its citizens, something unknown in today’s highly-polarized United States. It’s not a given that Americans are capable of such a sea change in their hearts and minds. If they were, they might bring it off, just as the Germans and the Japanese did. That would make President Donald J. Trump, the principal agent for taking his country to rock bottom, in effect the savior of America, albeit by an ironically indirect route. If it should turn out that the Americans are not capable of working together intensely and disinterestedly, there are other nations with high levels of preparation waiting in the wings.