Growing up, I had replicas of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights tacked to my bedroom wall. Other kids had Pearl Jam posters; I had Washington and Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, and the American flag.
I got them during my family’s first visit to Washington, D.C., a trip that meant the world to me. I could’ve sat in the Senate and House galleries all day if the rest of my family weren’t bored to tears. We saw just about every monument. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was probably only seven or eight years old then, and I was sobered by how high and how long the black granite stretched, so many names of so many gone. There were the Washington and Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.
The tiny bookstore to the right after you climb the steps and enter the Lincoln Memorial was my version of paradise in a time before a few clicks gave us all the books we ever wanted. We visited the Capitol, the White House and the museums lining the National Mall, bathed in grand neoclassical architecture. I could’ve stayed forever.
So, despite everything that’s happened in the past four years, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over watching Donald Trump stand on the White House lawn last week as he flouted our ethics laws.
It wasn’t the lying, though there was so much of that I lost track. It wasn’t the lack of masks and social distancing in a pandemic that the president has bungled so badly it’s killed 180,000 (so far) of our fellow Americans. It was the appropriation.
That is our house. Those are our monuments. It’s our National Park Service that he commandeered to set off fireworks. They launched them on our National Mall so a broken man could wrap his fractured ego in duct tape with his usual subtlety of a screaming toddler.
We didn’t build these things over the past 200 years to be plundered by a cult leader whose rabid followers revel in the illegality of it because they care more about owning libs than they do this country. Like all lesser men who cozy up to the smarter and the stronger and the more talented, Trump tried to scrape the patina off better people to make himself look like them.
Last week the Republican Party turned our national capital into a joke. We’re the United States of America and they made us look like a fourth-rate, third-world dictatorship as a weak man tried to act strong. If you think all of that is swell, at least have the integrity to admit that you would’ve lost your mind if Barack Obama had done the same thing. Your brain would’ve exploded when the Fox News “reporter” explained to you that it was illegal. So spare us any talk of law and order or what Joe Biden’s America will look like.
We’re in Donald Trump’s America and it’s a gaudy facade hiding a decaying country. No matter how many flags, no matter how many fireworks, no matter how much white supremacy you slather on our nation, the foundation is crumbling, termites are gnawing at the frame, mold is wending through the walls, pipes are splitting and the roof is bowing.
You could help us save it, but instead you stuck Old Glory in the window and an inflatable 10-foot Uncle Sam on the grass, said something racist about protesters and called yourself a patriot. I hope the few moments of superiority and security you felt last week make it all worth it.
John Hatch is an editor with Signature Books in Salt Lake City.