This is the week that I lost my faith.
This is the week that Donald Trump was acquitted of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress by a Republican Senate so cowed by his bullying that they are willing to empower him to shred the very document that they have sworn to protect and defend. He has now claimed total vindication and is completely untethered from any real or perceived limitations on his self-enriching, autocratic, vindictive tendencies.
Not that I expected any other outcome. There was never a snowball’s chance that the Senate would vote to convict. But still, there was always the tiniest glimmer of hope that a few members of what was once the world’s most revered deliberative body might suffer a bout of conscience and muster the courage to reign in the megalomaniac that occupies the Oval Office, even at the expense of their own cushy jobs. It did not happen.
This is the week that Trump delivered a State of the Union Address so filled with vitriol, division, lies, and mischaracterizations that it caused several members of Congress to stand up and walk out of the chamber and the Speaker of the House to rip up her copy of the speech even while he basked in the afterglow.
The venom and staged theatrics of his campaign kick-off rally (because after all that’s what it was) laid to rest any last remaining shred of decorum. He refused to shake the Speaker’s outstretched hand, and Republican lawmakers whooped, cheered, and chanted throughout this latest episode of the reality-TV show that was once our nation’s highest office.
This is the week that Trump bestowed the Medal of Freedom, which previously honored the likes of Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks, on Rush Limbaugh, a proud Birther, racist, woman-hater, and homophobe, forever debasing that proud award.
Limbaugh’s legacy will be that truth and adherence to democratic principals should unapologetically take a back seat to political power and self-promotion. Along with the likes of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the late Roger Ailes, and others, he has giddily ripped apart the very fabric of our nation by spewing lies and vitriol in order to boost ratings and ingratiate himself with the Republican elite. For twenty years conservative commentators have delighted in using the pain and fears of working Americans and twisting them into ugly rage that has done nothing but lead to the debasing of American values, all the while wrapping themselves in the flag, Christianity, and patriotism.
There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said elsewhere. There’s no outrage I can express that hasn’t already been expressed. There’s no ominous prediction for the future of our nation that hasn’t been spelled out by historians, political scientists, Constitutional scholars, and jurists.
After this week I no longer believe in the promise of America. I no longer believe that conscience will eventually win out over political expedience or the raw thirst for power.
I can only say that I have lost my faith that America, even while fighting its own inner demons, was nevertheless a beacon of light for the lofty ideals of the rule of law and adherence to constitutional principals in a world beset with conflict.
I can only say that for me, the United States of America still exists, but it is now a country with a flag, and an anthem, and an Olympic team just like every other country. But it’s no longer an ideal. This is the week that America died.