Trump Has Poisoned the Fourth of July

Trump has poisoned the Fourth of July. He has soiled the flag he so perversely gropes. He has poisoned America, and every single American

Bradley Burston
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U.S. President Donald Trump holds an American flag plaque in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds an American flag plaque in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.Credit: Bloomberg
Bradley Burston

What's it feel like to get poisoned? The question occurred to me while I was watching yet another Trump campaign rally, then reading another presidential tweet in which, were it not for Trump's policies, undocumented migrants would "pour into and infest our country."

In speech after speech, tweet upon tweet, Donald Trump needs you to know this: He is the sole exterminator for the nation's pest infestation issues. Turns out, though, the pests he's targeting are you and me – that is, anyone who does not vote Trump.

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What's it like to feel poisoned? Some describe a feeling of heaviness, dizziness, nausea. Vision is compromised. It's difficult to make yourself move.

Others describe a burning sensation, a horrible aftertaste. Still others, "a general feeling of restlessness, and of impending suffocation."

Some poisons are tasteless, all but invisible. They can work slowly, over time, undetected, eventually causing headaches, drowsiness, stomach issues, and irreversible harm.

What's it like to feel poisoned? Right now, if you're living in Trump's America, or for that matter, Netanyahu's Israel, turn on the news. This is what it feels like.

Trump has poisoned the Fourth of July. He has soiled the flag he so perversely gropes. He has poisoned America, and every single American.

Say what you like about the American president and the prime minister of Israel, they know their poisons. They know exactly what works on whom. They know that poison can inflame the base even as it paralyses the majority.

The most potent of the poisons at their command, the most selectively deadly, is power itself. It is power – the promise of it, the privilege of it, the proximity to it, the sheer blinding gleam of it – that seeps its way into every one of us, whether tunnel-visioned delirious loyalist to the evil regime, sworn if frustrated enemy of that regime, or simply one of the enormous mass of bystanders who enable evil by letting it ride as the new normal.

Trump, the more unsubtle of the two, makes this all too obvious. Yet, obvious or not, it still works.

Trump's message to "his people" gains greater clarity with every campaign rally carried live by Fox News, at times twice a week or more:

"I know power," Trump is telling his people, not in so many words. "I was born to it. You can have it. YOU CAN HAVE IT RIGHT THIS SECOND.

"YOU CAN HAVE POWER. Tweet for me. Troll for me. Berate and silence and bully and tease for me. Keep the remote on Fox, and don't touch that dial.

"Believe on my name. Believe in my lies. Lie for me. Lie to the depths of your soul. I will save you before all others. You are my people. I will save you from home invasion, job loss, rape, the miscegenation of your offspring. I will save you from gutter religions, violent criminal aliens, brown people, which are the same."

What does it feel like to be poisoned? The question occurred to me when I went back and watched Trump campaigning in Duluth, Minnesota, at the height of public outrage over his order to separate children of asylum seekers and other migrants from their mothers and fathers. 

On his direct orders, more than 2,300 children had been taken hostage for political advantage. Some of the children were toddlers. Many were being held in large cages. Many were being held thousands of miles from where they had been stripped of their parents, and even their favorite toys. It was entirely unclear when the kids would be reunited, or even how.

But in Duluth, all was well. All was, in fact, Already Great.

"The greatest phrase, I think, in the history of politics is on all of those red and white hats that I see out there: "Make America Great Again." And that's exactly what we're doing. [Applause] Make America great again. And you know what our new phrase is in two and a half years. You know what it is, right? "Keep America Great." That's what it is. Because that's what we are. [Applause]"

In the crowd, a protester raised a sign. And that's when the poison really began to flow. "Go home to your mom, darling!" Trump snarled. On cue, the crowd erupted in boos, mocking the demonstrator, as Trump upped his game. "Get him out of here! Out!"

At the word "Out!" the chants began: "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Then, as the protester was taken out of the hall, the president shifted into high gear: "Was that a man or a woman? Because he needs a haircut more than I do - I couldn't tell. Needs a haircut."

There was no turning back. The poison ran freely in the aisles.

Democrats wanted only to open the borders, creating "angel moms whose children were killed by criminal aliens."

Power? Stick with me, kids: "You know, a little thing I was talking about today. You ever notice they always call the other side 'the elite.' The elite. Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. [Applause] I'm smarter than they are. I'm richer than they are. [Applause] I became President and they didn't. [Applause] And I'm representing the greatest, smartest, most loyal, best people on Earth - the deplorables. Remember that? The deplorables. [Applause]"

"How guilty is she?" he continued, his voice rising in scorn and outrage. The crowd immediately took the cue: "Lock – Her – Up! Lock – Her – Up!"

Here, Trump let the poison spread into new channels:

The environment? "Under the previous administration, America's rich, natural resources, of which your state has a lot, were put under lock and key, including thousands of acres in Superior National Forest. You know what that is, right? Tonight, I'm proudly announcing that we will soon be taking the first steps to rescind the federal withdrawal in Superior National Forest -- [Applause] -- and restore mineral exploration for our amazing people and miners and workers, and for the people of Minnesota -- one of the great natural reserves of the world."

John McCain, a war hero now dying of incurable cancer? It was time to lead booing for him as well, for having opposed the president on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"We had a gentleman, late into the morning hours, go thumbs down. That was not a good thing he did. That was not a good thing for our people, for our country, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican," Trump said. And when the booing wasn't loud enough, he signaled for me: "Not nice. That was not nice."

Then, with a detour in which the proudly public serial adulterer and self-described sexual assaulter described two political enemies as having hurt their spouses by having an affair, he ventured on.

"By the way, is there anything more fun than a Trump rally? Is there? Seriously. [Applause] And we break every attendance record every single time, just about. [Applause]."

Part and parcel of the fun was the passage in which Trump called the news media "very dishonest people," presiding approvingly over loud chants of "CNN Sucks! CNN Sucks!"

It would be a full eight days before murder suspect Jarrod Ramos would walk into the newsroom of the Annapolis Capital Gazette and, according to surviving witnesses, shotgun five people to death.

What's the antidote to all this poison? Once the poison's in – and at this point, it's in all of us - how can we fight off the symptoms, beginning with paralyzing despair and demoralizing dread. What can we do to begin to reverse the damage?

The answer, I believe, is to use Trump's power and poison and use it against him. It's all a question of momentum, Trump said in Duluth. In fact, it may be a matter of taking to heart, adopting, and turning against him one of the few lines in the speech which were not Trump's own:

"We will never give in, we will never give up, and we will never, ever stop fighting for our country or for our flag or for our freedom."