Finally, Donald Trump is gone from the White House. The time to hope that democracy can prevail is back, however challenging, in view of the shocking events that took place at the Capitol. As we begin the hard work of moving forward and restoring faith in America, we can work toward a hopeful and secure future, despite the continuing pandemic and a plethora of political travesties, including possible widespread collusion that runs deep and wide.
The task of undoing the legacy of disasters we inherited after four years of ignorant, destructive, Draconian policies and actions, and an attempted coup, is Herculean. All that we have endured during the Trump administration was perpetrated by a monumentally corrupt administration devoid of human instincts and moral behavior. It will be hard to clean up the mess. In the words of a New York Times editorial last month: “Corruption and abuse of power are the most urgent issues in need of addressing.”
The effects of years of corruption and abuse are hideous and potentially long-lasting. Many of them are addressed in the Protecting Our Democracy Act introduced by House Democrats last September. A landmark, comprehensive package of reforms, the act was designed to “Prevent presidential abuses, restore our system of checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect our elections.” It’s worth reading.
Among the damage we must now address are four troubling issues. The first involves two women: one brilliant, the other potentially damaging.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a legal genius. The victories she achieved while on the Supreme Court are legendary. She argued six critical cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them. On the court she helped win landmark decisions that changed the face of America for the better.
Compared to RBG, Amy Coney Barrett is a lightweight, demure but deadly, given her presumed proclivity for taking the country backward. Her legal experience and history hardly qualify her for a seat on the Supreme Court. She has none of the experience that leads to the court, and almost no experience practicing law.
The point of this comparison is that we stand to lose every advancement in civil society that RBG helped effect only to see our country returned to a time when racism and misogyny prevailed — unless we balance the Supreme Court by adding new appointees and end the flood of unqualified conservative judges to federal benches.
The second abhorrent legacy of the Trump administration is the plight of children torn from their mothers, forever psychologically damaged by unspeakable evil. Who can bear to see the faces or hear their cries from abusive camps? How can we not weep for what the Trump administration did in America’s name? What reparations will be sufficient for incarcerated children denied decent food, medical care, human touch, and a bed? What can be said of a boy who couldn’t stop crying and was mocked by guards laughing at distraught toddlers. What will soothe the parents of children who died in custody?
How do we repair this crime against humanity, this unbearable cruelty? How do we remove the stain of our country’s sin? Perhaps arresting the architect of this atrocity, Stephen Miller, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other government officials who sanctioned ripping kids, including nursing infants, away from their parents would be a good start. Shutting down ICE is another.
Then, there is the stain of our extraordinary COVID crisis, a killer virus that was ignored, dismissed, and inflamed by our own super spreader-in-chief, whose ignorance, contempt for science, lies and politicization of a public health emergency led to the world’s worst infection rate and tens of thousands of excruciating, unnecessary deaths, massive family trauma and a collapsed economy. I believe the Trump administration’s lack of an urgent response to the pandemic can legitimately be viewed as negligent homicide for which he and his enablers must be held accountable.
Finally, and especially in view of recent events, underpinning everything else for which we must atone is the damage done to our democracy, which once offered a beacon of hope around the world, Gone, too, is the respect global leaders held for us as a nation, now mocked and reviled. The blindfolded Lady Justice and the robed Roman goddess Libertas atop the Statue of Liberty must have wept for all that had been lost and must now, somehow, be restored. Will we again open our arms to “[the] tired, [the] poor”? Will we “lift [our] lamp beside the Golden door,” free of our national shame?
It will take years, perhaps decades and new generations, to bring us back from the brink, to serve justice, to commit to human rights for all, to embrace our common humanity, to behave responsibly, to reject the underbelly of a nation that showed itself to be undeniably racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, as well as so terrified of women that it tried desperately to control our bodies.
Dare we hope that we can do the hard work required of us? Can we truly commit to never subjecting ourselves, our progeny or our country to another national nightmare? Are we capable of changing our children’s legacy?
Can we agree that anything else is unthinkable?