Being from New York, I've known for years that Donald Trump is little more than a carnival barker in an expensive suit. Most New Yorkers know this. Even though most of New York consistently votes Republican, (more people who vote democratic live in NYC than in the rest of the state combined, so as goes "the City", so goes the state), we all know that Trump is little more than a self-aggrandizing hump that lives to trumpet his own worth.
Make no mistake, New York has its share of rednecks, tea party knuckleheads and people simply fed up with the status quo, just like the rest of the country. I lived for more than fifteen years in a town completely run by one party, rife with false patriotism, flags everywhere and an earnest population that thinks they are part of the "real America". And, we still thought Donald Trump was a joke.
A joke, however, that says what some people think.
Politicians have to say what we want to hear. If they actually say what they think, or speak the way some people really speak, we have been conditioned to clutch at our collective pearls and be shocked. Shocked, I say!
After decades of expecting our leaders to pander to our ears, and play footsie with our fears, we have the audacity, the utter gall, to be shocked when a guy like Donald Trump says what he thinks.
What he says is reprehensible, but not all that different from the way many people think. Don't believe me? Take a ride through any neighborhood and count the "Trump" signs. Trump says what his supporters want to hear. He says what they say to each other.
They say the things that political correctness and common sense dictate cannot, or at least should not, be said. They say things that they said when they were young, before they grew old enough to know better. They say things that are marginalized, pushed down and shunned in our "enlightened" discourse.
But, they can only be pushed aside for so long before they return, often ferociously. They have come roaring back in a cloud of half-truths and demagoguery that even Tea Party pundits could only dream about.
And, it's all my fault.
I created Donald Trump. I allowed my country to be the kind of place where the news and social media can manufacture controversies like the dentist & the lion and Harambe while real things like Brexit and Wells Fargo are allowed to fester until they are so far gone that there is nothing anyone can do about it.
I created Donald Trump. I allowed my country, since Reagan's first election, to be divided by the religious right and to fall into the trap of playing people against each other while the plutocrats line their pockets.
I created Donald Trump. I have been alarmed when political bullies like Carl Paladino or Paul LePage make racism or demagoguery mainstream, yet I do not call for their complete and utter ouster from public life. Some people like them, I think. Some people believe in them. Some people, as in LePage's case, actually voted for him. So, I shake my head and move on with my life, comfortable in the hope that "someone" will deal with it.
I created Donald Trump. I allow myself to click on the link promising to show me the "shocking" thing this celebrity or that celebrity has done. I have allowed our media to dismiss the logical for the fantastical. I have not stood up and said "No More!" when evolution and creationism are talked about as if they are equal in merit.
I have stood by and watched, my mouth full of aerosol cheese and Slim Jims, while the best and brightest of us get shouted down, only to be replaced by calls for Colin Kaepernick's head and Kanye 2020.
I have created this monster. Or, at least, I have allowed this to happen. But, and you knew this was coming, didn't you? I didn't do this alone. Nope. You were right there alongside me. Whether you were clutching your pearls or cheering him on, you and I created Donald Trump. Together. Not the guy, of course, but, the kind of environment where someone who says the kinds of things he says can flourish and grow.
We did it. Maybe you're not sorry. I am. Maybe you are. It doesn't matter. He's here now. And don't think for a minute that Donald Trump is the problem. If it wasn't him it wouldn't be someone just like him. Someone would have filled that void. Someone would have flourished in the environment we've created.
I'm not shouting into the vacuum, asking, "What will he do if he's elected?" I'm looking into a mirror and asking, "What have you done?"