Donald Trump and the Decline of American Civilization
I am not normally a conspiracy theorist.
A year ago today, I was excited about an upcoming hockey game. It wasn't just any hockey game. My team, the Colorado Avalanche, were hosting an outdoor game at the Coors Field baseball stadium against the longtime rival Detroit Red Wings.
Not only did I have tickets, but I was planning to tour Coors Field the second they started building the ice rink. Indeed, it was hard for me to say if I was more excited for the game proper or for the Alumni Game that came the night before, when I could see all my idols from the 1990s playing together one last time.
Spoiler Alert: The Alumni Game was better. To be honest, it was the last really good Colorado Avalanche game.
In addition to that, I had my usual life interests going on -- work, family, money, weight, my cat. I walked through my life convinced I was living in the free world, in the best country in the world -- the United States of America.
A year later, I'm convinced I may well be witnessing the collapse of the United States as we know it. I believe freedom and, especially, democracy may well be falling to the wayside to be replaced with a nepotism-driven oligarchy.
I'm honestly afraid the checks and balances we all grew up learning about in grade school are failing. And we're helpless to stop it.
Donald Trump Insulting Women
Election of Donald Trump as President
I sort of liked The Donald a while back. Before he started being truly offensive in public, I thought he was a funny figure. I mean, that hair alone made him a figure to laugh at, not fear!
However, I remember in 2015 hearing how Donald Trump had made racist comments regarding illegal immigrants. Here's some of what he said:
“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."
Naturally, he received a lot of backlash, especially from the media. He was even forced to sell his shares in the Miss Universe pageant because the networks couldn't abide by such open racism.
I remember thinking, "It doesn't matter how rich you are. The American media isn't going to allow you to be so openly racist."
How wrong I was. Here we are just a year-and-a-half later. Not only is Trump still openly racist -- and sexist -- he's already started implementing his xenophobic and misogynistic policies. He's also trying to suppress the media.
Here's a sampling of the first five days:
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
- On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
- On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
- On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
- On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
- On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which de-funds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
- On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
- On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
- On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
- On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
And I never thought Donald Trump had a chance to become president. I mean, if his rhetoric was so incendiary that he was forced to sell the Miss Universe pageant, how could he be elected to the one of the most powerful positions in the world?! I mean, what Trump was openly saying were the skeletons past presidents all but killed to keep in their closets.
His commentary on women alone should have been enough for any political party to eschew him. (See video in the sidebar.) Plus, this is a man who's been accused of raping his own wife, Ivana, when they were still married. He's been accused of raping 13-year-old girls. That doesn't seem so far-fetched when you remember he's admitted to walking into Miss Universe pageant rooms knowing underage girls were undressed:
"I'll go backstage before a show, and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else.You know, no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant. And therefore I'm inspecting it... Is everyone OK? You know, they're standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that."
The contestants were as young as 15. None ever gave him permission to walk in on them.
But then, this is a man whose wife has posed naked. I have no problem with a woman posing naked -- unless she's going to be the First Lady, especially directly after a First Lady who caught flak for wearing sleeveless dresses! The hypocrisy astounds me.
Anyway, this post isn't about hypocrisy -- that would be a whole separate article. Instead, let's look at how the 45th president of the United States could well be the last democratically elected one.
Trump Mocks Disabled Reporter
Gaslighting is a term used to describe a manipulation tactic for gaining power. You might recognize it from the 1944 movie Gaslight in which a husband manipulates his wife until she believes she is losing her mind. Indeed, it's a technique used to make victims question their own reality.
Gaslighting is a technique used by abusers, as in the movie. However, it's commonly used by cult leaders -- and dictators.
- Blatant lying: Keeping you unsteady. It's a precedent -- you can't tell in the future what's truth and what's lie.
- Denial: The next step after lying -- denying it even though you know you heard what they said correctly. Gaslighters deny the lie so vehemently, though, that you begin questioning reality.
- Blaming others: When gaslighters are called on their lies and actions, they blame others for the "misunderstanding."
- Brushing off concerns: Another method political gaslighters use is disparaging concerns as "oversensitivity." They'll say their outrageous comments or actions were "just jokes."
- Accusing: Essentially it boils down to "I'm not the problem -- you're the problem."
Donald Trump has been doing this all along, ever since he announced his candidacy for the presidency.
For example, he mocked a disabled reporter. When confronted with the video (see sidebar) of the mocking, he denies he's mocking the disability. He says that's his rendition of what groveling looks like, not someone whose disability doesn't allow him to control his muscles.
His constant accusing of the media for being against him is well documented. He ran the tidal wave of "fake news" and tried to apply it to long-respected journals such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
PolitiFact outlines 17 accounts of Trump saying something then denying it. All of the instances are well-documented with video or reporting in long-respected newspapers.
So, let's just say this: Donald Trump is gaslighting the United States of America. He's trying to keep us so unbalanced that we can't keep track of what's going on in our highest offices.
Here's where we get to the conspiracy theory.
Could the Trump administration be enacting a political coup?
On Friday, January 27, Donald Trump signed an executive order that immediately implemented an "extreme vetting plan" for people hoping to immigrate from seven countries:
All seven countries are predominantly Islamic, so the EO has been labeled a "Muslim ban."
Because the EO was put into immediate effect, chaos ensued at airports. People with visas and green cards were barred from entering the United States if they were from one of those countries. In some cases, they were even denied access to legal advice.
Despite the actions Trump had already taken (see list above), I was still shocked. I couldn't understand why the EO was being so hastily implemented. Didn't Trump and his advisors know the chaos that would ensue? (I wasn't shocked by the content of the EO itself -- nothing hate-oriented about Trump shocks me anymore.)
An editorial then surfaced written on what's not exactly a reliable website -- Medium. I scanned through it, and then I got very scared. Because the writer, Yonatan Zunger, did a good job of answering my why.
It all boiled down to Trump and his cabinet creating anarchy as a shield for their coup. Yes, I know that's fantastic conspiracy theory at its finest.
Consider this: The editorial proposes the rationale for Trump's coup as monetary. He can use his position as one of the most powerful men in the world to increase his wealth. He doesn't need to, of course. But ego is his driving force. When you're as wealthy as Trump, accumulating more wealth is simply a matter of showing off.
The editorial mentions "resistance fatigue." In other words, the American public will be unable to keep up with protesting all of Trump's outrageous acts.
Zunger also proposes that the Muslim Ban was a test of the system. How much could the administration get away with?
Well, we saw that the ACLU immediately sued Trump over the legality of the ban. They won the lawsuit. However, Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates for "refusing to enforce" the EO. She had told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump's EO.
Trump then ignored the hierarchy and replaced Yates with an attorney, Dana Boente, who immediately promised to defend the EO. Protests have been raging in airports since the order was signed, but it's made no difference.
Frida Ghitis of CNN -- admittedly a more reputable media platform than Medium -- proposed an even scarier scenario for Trump's actions. Vladimir Putin has been gaslighting Russia for decades. He's created a shadow government and a system of political theater that he manipulates at will.
Here's the thing: It was well-documented that the Russian government interfered with the US election by releasing fake news about the democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. What's more, Trump has openly expressed his admiration of Putin:
"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country."
So here's what keeps going round and round in my mind. Is it really so far-fetched to think that a 70-year-old billionaire who's gotten away with everything his whole life would stage a coup in the most powerful country in the world? He could do it for money or just for ego.
Maybe he's even being manipulated by politicos such as Steve Bannon and his own vice president, Mike Pence. Heck, Putin could well be pulling a string. Maybe Trump won't even care that he's being manipulated because it's all just one big reality TV show to him.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”— parliamentarian Edmund Burke
I never liked politics in the first place because I felt so helpless. Now that I genuinely believe we have men in power who are trying to destroy democracy for their own gains, I feel completely powerless.
So, what can we do?
It's so hard to fight against gaslighting. So don't. What I mean is don't try to enforce reality on what Donald Trump, et al, are doing. They are lying. They are manipulating the public. They may eventually control the media. Don't try to separate truth from fiction -- it's all "alternative facts" now.
What we can do is continue to protest en masse. We must show the world, as we did with the highly successful Women's March, that we don't agree with Trump's policies.
We must continue to call our senators and representatives. I don't know how much they can actually do. However, we still technically have a democracy. They are supposed to work for our interests.
I think we must find a savior, especially for our dearly-held beliefs. For example, I've decided to throw my lot in with the ACLU. They were the first organization to find success against Donald Trump. I'm going to make donations and start volunteering.
Finally, we have to get organized. The Women's March website is proposing a series of small acts for the first 100 days. There are several Facebook groups that are mobilizing. Indivisible Denver is a local one for me. MoveOn is an example of a democratic group fighting back.
I want to get back to focusing on my hockey team and my family and my cat and my work and my friends and the other little loves of my daily life. However, I refuse to be a bystander while the Unites States of America endures a coup. I may not be able to do much, but I'm going to do what I can.
I hope you do, too.
© 2017 Nadia Archuleta