Each time I hear the TV promo announcing the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States I get this surreal feeling that I am dreaming and will soon wake from this farcical nightmare. The feeling quickly passes and I realize that this is real and America is really about to install a man with no public service experience, who’s been shown to be an egotistical, misogynistic bully, whose mental fitness is questionable and worse of all, may be an unwitting foreign agent. If this were any country but America one could imagine the powers that be stepping in to stop this slow motion catastrophe. A French commentator on a recent news program observed that he was surprised not to see riots in the streets.
But America is not (yet) a banana republic. Either Americans are so sanguine about the role of government in their lives that its leaders are irrelevant or their faith in the resilience of the American system is such that it can survive any challenge. I believe that the true answer is somewhere in between. We have become so conditioned and stratified and so many political divisions exist within the populace, having been nurtured for decades by politicians, that there is no consensus on what would be an appropriate action. There are the rabid Trump supporters who believe in the blather he utters; those who revel in his seeming “thumb in the eye” of the establishment; those in the congress who see his ascendancy as a chance for power, and those, like myself, who are still immersed in disbelief and are unsure of how best to proceed. The result is that we simply watch; some believing that he will follow through on his rhetoric, some hoping that the office will change him and he won’t be as bad as it appears, some believing that he can be controlled, some resigned to survive the worst and the rest praying that this won’t be the end of civilization as we know it. A big bet has been placed on the American experiment. It survived the first big test, the Civil War. Will it survive the “Donald”?