By Vernon A. Williams
Take a deep breath. Bring it all in. Hold it for a moment. Now exhale. This is serious. You have been through a lot and it’s not over. But you are exhausted and have every reason to be, so a pause to gather thoughts and rejuvenate the spirit is not only well deserved, it is wise.
Looking back, it is hard to believe what the nation has gone through.
When this heightening of political divisiveness started five years ago, we shrugged off the very notion of an obnoxious television reality show host tossing his hat in the ring for the highest office in the land, the most powerful position in the free world, a bid for the presidency of the United States of America.
Mocking the prospect was not short-sighted and was far from disrespectful. No respect was due as the man who had just declared candidacy paid an audience of cheering witnesses $50 apiece to set the stage for what would become the most deceitful political career in history.
How could this man be taken seriously when he came out of the gates spouting racism, targeting Mexican immigrants as being predominantly rapists, murderers and dangerous criminals of every ilk? How could such an outburst in bigotry even be considered in a place boastful of being a nation of immigrants? It was pure lunacy.
No one should feel badly about being caught off guard by a presidential candidate who not only had no history of public service but when asked what he had ever done to reflect the spirit of community engagement, he responded, “I build big buildings,” though laughable, this was his serious response.
Just a casual glance at his personal and professional history provided more than ample evidence that this man’s bold expression of racism was no isolated occurrence. He and his father not once but twice lost government cases in which they were proven to have discriminated against Black tenants at their east coast properties.
This man openly denounced the prospect of an African American working in finance for his casinos. He took out a full page ad calling for the death penalty for five young Black men falsely accused of rape in New York’s Central Park. And even after they were totally vindicated by the courts of the land, he persisted in his death wish for all five.
Beyond his racist proclivities, many ignored a candidacy based on a plethora of despicable behaviors and conversations. Not only did he speak openly disrespectfully of females but was accused no less than two dozen times of sexual assault, harassment and even rape; not to mention his conceded consensual life of sexual infidelities and indiscretions.
With no strategic political plan of action articulated, he managed to best a field of 16 of the most prominent names in the Republican Party to win the nomination.
Then he upset the pollsters with a shocking victory that resulted from a “perfect storm” – which consisted of unchecked lies and allegations against his Democratic opponent, James Comey and the FBI muddying the waters with a Hillary Clinton conspiracy, interference in the voting process by Russia, unprecedented levels of voter suppression of his opposition, and abysmal Back voter turnout in key swing states.
By the time the world digested the reality that the unthinkable had become reality, the optimists once again underrated the evil that is much of America with the rationale that it would be a stumbling, bumbling administration that would not succeed in imposing his will; that checks and balances in our democracy would save us from the abyss.
Then we saw one man manage to collapse the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government – the latter with three Supreme Court appointments – into one self-serving governmental bulldozer, ravaging every traditional sensibility and sense of civility in his path. Congress transformed into willing minions as he unashamedly compromised all of the ethical safeguards built into our democracy.
He got away with placing more faith in a Russian autocrat than his own intelligence community; he got away with referring to military men and women who gave their lives for their country as “losers” and “suckers”; he insulted allies, American war heroes and Gold Star families; he got away with ignoring proven charges of hit men paid to kill U.S. soldiers.
He ignored a pandemic, causing tens of thousands of lives to be lost and closed his eyes to an uprising for social justice when the whole world was watching; he got away with praising white nationalists, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, racists as “good people” and just this month, he was key in leading a violent insurrection against the Congress of the United States in a failed effort to thwart the peaceful transfer of power.
You can’t make this up. There is no need. The horrific truth is enough to make the founding fathers – with all their hypocrisy, moral shortcomings and character flaws – spin in their graves. This man made the worst of his predecessors seem like saints.
But all of the corruption concocted by this individual and his sycophants did not work. Democracy, though tattered and bruised, prevails.
Though he is gone, we give all that he represented life if we don’t recognize that the evil which he fed existed long before his arrival in the Oval Office and continues to give off a stench in every level of city, county, state and federal government from coast to coast.
We don’t celebrate as though the menace has been defeated, but because the depth and breadth of OFFICIAL evil IN America and the dangerous potential for societal upheaval has been exposed.
Reverting to the outset of this commentary, you are indeed encouraged to EXHALE but not to RELAX. Stay focused, stay informed, strategize, unify across political and ideological lines for the greater good and never again coddle or underestimate unseemly enemies of freedom and justice – no matter what deceptive form they assume.
Make what happened over the past five years known in every corner of this nation, to every demographic, to every generation current and future.
More than ever we need to embrace the mantra that those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it. And any repetition of the strife and suffering of the past five years would be unbearable.