When I was younger, as I’ve mentioned, I was keenly interested in the Watergate political scandal. It was the story of our time. And it served as a metaphor for the lies and whispers surrounding me.
We had a neighbor, a family we became so friendly with, that they built a back gate in their fence so we could easily walk back and forth to one another’s homes. I called them Uncle and Aunt. Their kids were in our house, I was in theirs. We often tanned by their pool together, and had barbeque dinners in our backyard – idyllic summer days and nights.
Except their oldest daughter’s eyelashes began to fall out. And their youngest daughter would occasionally cry and scream inconsolably. Their mom smoked Pall Malls and laughed her deep, full laugh – she made life happy somehow. And me, I just kept reading and having conversations with grown ups, especially her:
“Do you believe that Jesus was real? Do you think my POW will make it home? Will my Soviet Jew ever be free? Do you admire Woodward and Bernstein? What’s wrong with our President? Do you think we’ll we pass the ERA?!” And so on.
My parents became increasingly involved in private conversations. Sometimes I could hear them through the bedroom door. “I told you not to trust him! How could you sign off on that?”
And one day, our close family friends suddenly vanished. They were gone in the suburban dead of night. I took survey alone: Clothes haphazardly strewn on their beds. Dishes still left in the sink. A lipsticked cigarette butt in the ashtray. The closet doors remained closed. Their house was empty and silent, as if it wanted to tell me all its stories, but wasn’t ready to. No good-byes.
The fall-out was brutal. He was a bona fide con man, a sexual abuser, women and children alike. He had persuaded four men, including my father, to co-sign a loan worth over a quarter of a million dollars, which he defaulted on. Today that would be roughly equivalent to about a million and a half.
We were comfortable, but not rich. One of the men committed suicide. Another had a heart attack and died. The third divorced. My dad was stressed all the time and my parents fought, but stayed together. My dad nearly went under financially, but somehow held on.
We didn’t talk about them at the dinner table anymore. We barely talked at all at the dinner table anymore. My parents worriedly discussed business. I retreated more into my books. I had a college level reading score in elementary school.
I needed Watergate to turn out right. I needed to know I lived in a place, in a country governed by justice and truth. I realize now what a privilege that is.
The Washington Post team were my heroes. Katherine Graham was brilliant and stunning, Ben Bradlee seemingly as powerful as the President and all of Congress. Bob and Carl were courageous and driven. I could not miss a day, a moment.
The pinnacle, the epitome of freedom and democracy is a free press. When Hitler rose to power, he immediately set about shutting down and taking over the publishing houses of the free media, in the name of Aryanization. All dictators practice such pursuits.
Sheriff Arpaio ran his Arizona fiefdom in such a manner. He tortured prisoners and bragged that his jail was a “Concentration Camp.” Arpaio systematically refused to investigate hundreds of rape and sex abuse cases, including child sex abuse cases. His persecution of Latinos was nothing new – merely strengthened by Trump’s ascent to power. When the Phoenix New Times reporters covered these stories, including Arpaio’s questionable finances, Sheriff Arpaio had them arrested in the middle of the night and imprisoned.
President Nixon viewed the press as his enemy. He lied, they uncovered his lies. Trump is more dangerous. He continually stokes hatred toward journalists. His base reviles what they refer to as the mainstream media. Instead, they idolize repugnant, ignorant, insane propaganda.
President Trump promotes and elevates anti-Semites, racists and Neo-Nazis. In their belief system and willing participation in spreading modern day blood libels against Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, the LGBTQ, immigrants, and others, his base have become eerily like Nazis. And he is their very sick, powerful, woefully insecure, gleefully ferocious and deadly leader.
President Trump tried to slip this abusive pardon under cover of an American natural disaster. But while the storm approached the shores of Texas, the clanging noise of Trump’s destruction of America sounded even louder.
If you do not yet hear the hoof beats of a twenty-first century Nazism approaching, you are not listening. President Trump has declared war on the fourth estate and the rule of law. Those who remain by his side seeking to mitigate or moderate, are only providing cover. History will prove them villains, no matter their motives or intentions.
The media must stop playing by the rules of peacetime. It needs to be as expert as any governmental or military agency in employing Strategic Intelligence. This Presidency and his base must be treated as a prosecutor approaches hostile witnesses. As challenging as it is, the media cannot bow to its aggressor.
The fourth estate remain our modern day heroes and heroines – the list is thankfully long. The Washington Post, The New York Times, Rachel Maddow, the Morning Joe crew, Politico…I could easily keep going. Intrepid reporting, journalistic integrity, carry on. We are relying on you to be fierce. You are the defenders of our nation.
But understand, this President is using classic abuse tactics. First, he separated the people that follow him from everyone else – noone, especially the media, is to be trusted. Then, he used his power to terrorize, as with his policies, and this pardon.
He has swindled and stolen his entire life, and left everyone else, particularly those who made the mistake of trusting him, victimized. When that ran its course, he made a deal with America’s enemy. As has been oft said, his only loyalty is to himself. That quality births traitors.
We are living in a broken, defiled home. He and his base are holding our country hostage. The closet doors have blown wide open and the abuse is before us, for the world to see. We are watching this unfold, minute by minute, in real time. I cannot look away, excruciating as it is.
Will Congress act, and rescue America? Will they refuse to negotiate with terrorists? Or, will it be up to us, the writers, the artists, the scientists, the resistors and the media, to set us free? Will Mueller do what we need him to do?
Will our country ever rid ourselves of the legacy and tyranny of racism and hatred? Will we provide a safe future for our children? I still have so many questions. Will God continue to bless America?
In the days to come we will know the damage done by this catastrophic hurricane. For now, here we are. Some forty-five years later, we’re stuck quite painfully, for the long moment, with this forty-fifth President.