To say that the Trump Era is a transformational moment for America is so common as to be cliche, but it is true nonetheless. With the passing of American Hero John Lewis, this truism has never been more apparent.
Over the course of the Trump presidency, I’ve sat and watched as American icons and heroes passed one by one. George Bush. John McCain. Elijah Cummings. John Lewis. Prince. Aretha Franklin. Toni Morrison. Stan Lee. Barbara Bush. Charles Krauthammer. C.T. Vivian. Billy Graham. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. Carrie Fisher. Adam West. George Romero. Bernice Sandler. These are men and women who through their professional and personal lives made America a better place. These were flawed people all, but people who strove to do good and give unto others. And with their deaths, it feels as if an era of American History has been closing on us. The passing of the torch from one generation of Americans to a new one.
And what have the leaders of our time been doing with the torch given to them? The last four years have given them the opportunity to produce drastic change and good for the nation, and over and over again they fail to meet the moment we find ourselves in. We live in the midst of the worst pandemic in over a century, with no end in sight, and simple preventative measures have been politicized to the cost of thousands of lives. Our economy is in shambles, with more people unemployed and looking for assistance than any time since the Great Depression, and no plan is in motion to help millions of Americans struggling for the most basic necessities, such as food. We’re in the midst of a new civil rights movement looking for new and lasting solutions to the systemic racisms and injustices of our past and present. A new school year is coming, and parents and children will have to choose between getting an education and preserving their health, and possibly their lives. And still our leaders do nothing, and why? Because our whole nation has been refocused from a nation of many to a nation of one man.
Every day we watch as our country and institutions are poisoned and corroded by a bitter, angry old man who, in his 70’s, still has less emotional maturity than a 14 year old. A man who has moved with decisive inaction after Charlottesville, El Paso, and Tree of Life. A man who has actively attempted to brutalize those protesting the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. A man who calls for violence against his political enemies. A man who actively stoked a dangerous conspiracy theory in QAnon. And with the enabling of one of our major political parties and a massive news apparatus serving as state media on his behalf, never has our country been so desperate for the kindness and leadership of trailblazers like John Lewis.
This cancer upon America has been felt abroad as well. Congress has failed to keep Trump accountable after his unconscionable national security failures with Ukraine, Helsinki, Jamal Khasoggi, and our alliance with the Kurds. Countries like China are free to round up groups such as the Uyghers with impunity, and countries like North Korea are free to run roughshod over their people. In India, Brazil, and the Philippines, people are suffering from similar leaders who are hurting their countries in similar ways. And our allies and alliances throughout the world have been gutted to the benefit of our foes.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, America has been in a holding pattern, largely rudderless, looking for the way forward as a nation and as the leaders of the free world. In the Trump presidency, we see a nation given the mantle of leadership decide to shirk its’ duties for selfish reasons, to the cost of our allies, the benefit of our enemies, and the self-harm of ourselves as a nation. We have never been so impotent, so beleaguered, and so helpless, and it was a direct result of our own self-sabotage.
It is clear that as a country, we are at a time of choosing. Who are we as a people? What should our country look like? What do we value? Is it the defeated and nostalgic vision of Trumpism, or is it something else? This is incumbent upon each and every one of us as citizens. It is up to us to meet the moment our leaders have failed to recognize. It is up to us to exercise our rights to vote, assemble in protest, and to march in the streets against injustice.
Christian Thrailkill is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, musician, and columnist. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @Wolvie616