Colbert, Trump, and the Roots of Liberal/Progressive Rage
I have never seen America so angry -- and I've been around for a while.
I remember well 1968 when the Chicago Seven (I knew several of them) led the protests at the Chicago convention. The whole world was watching. And the following year came the Days of Rage in the same city, when dozens of people were injured and 280 members of the Weather Underground were arrested. The year after that (1970) some of those same Weather people accidentally detonated a bomb in a Greenwich Village townhouse, resulting in the deaths of two of the bomb makers and causing disruption in the life of Dustin Hoffman and his wife who happened to live next door.
Violent times indeed. Of course something was going on that stimulated those events -- the Vietnam War, for which roughly 650,000 young Americans were drafted of whom nearly 18,000 died. Adding in the volunteers, the number of our fatalities rose to 58,220.
I opposed the war then. I'm not so sure now, looking at how things have evolved, including in Korea. Call me ambivalent.
Nevertheless, these days no one's being drafted. The number of American servicemen deaths, regrettable as they always are, has been reduced to a relative handful. Nothing even remotely similar is happening...
Oh, yes, Donald Trump got elected -- seemingly a calamity equal to, if not greater than, the Vietnam War.
Since his inauguration, and to a great extent before, the whole country has gone more or less berserk. Just the other night, comedian Stephen Colbert, in what I presume we were supposed to take as an edgy witticism, accused our president of fellating Russia's Vladimir Putin. Although I recall many bad things being said about LBJ back in the day (Barbara Garson wrote a play comparing him to Macbeth, and who can forget "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"), nothing approached Colbert's angry joke in terms of pure unmitigated hostile vulgarity, not on late-night TV anyway.
But his was just the culmination (for now) of a modern Days of Rage which has metastasized into Months of Rage with no end in sight.
We all know the endless litany of events, from pussy hat parades to smashed windows and fires at our most famous public university to people marching through the streets of Philadelphia calling for the death of the president and his vice president, so I'm not going to bore you with them all. I am only going to ask the simple question: Why Trump?
If you were a visitor from a distant solar system come to our nation or even a time traveler from our own nineteenth century, I submit you would be perplexed. This Trump person (being?) doesn't seem to be all that different from many leaders who have come before him. I mean, what has he done exactly? Enforced some immigration laws that were enacted by the Congress over several administrations? Tried to fix a mediocre healthcare plan with another plan that may or may not be as mediocre? Called for a tax reduction similar to those enacted by previous Republican and Democratic administrations? Cut back on some regulations that became overly burdensome? Called for a temporary halt to immigration from a half-dozen countries his predecessor had already cited as dangerous hotbeds of terrorism? Shot off a few dozen cruise missiles at the airfield of a dictator who was gassing his own people, but didn't harm a single person in the process?