The opinion piece is so beautifully written, and so incredibly wrenchingly accurate and heartbreaking that I am going to simply quote as much as I can without crossing fair use, without much commentary as O’Toole’s prose is (like much Irish writing) poetry. It’s a long editorial and worth reading every line: I’ll quote the lines that resonated the strongest with me.
Fintan O’Toole: Donald Trump has destroyed the country he promised to make great again
O’Toole notes that the United States has often been the object of love and hate, envy and contempt, but for the first time it is now the object of pity, and may never recover its greatness or its leadership in the world. Bold portions in quoted material are my emphasis.
[Americans] are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode?
* * *
As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
O’Toole states its one thing to watch a nation powerless in the face of a natural disaster , but what the world is seeing in America now is
vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively.
to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, . . .provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.
Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.
This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. . . . fueled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
O’Toole correctly notes that Trump embodies this mindset but did not invent it. The US response to the crisis has been
paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.
The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.
O’Toole correctly notes that Trump is the symptom, not the disease,, and that the current crisis :
has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.
There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.
That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.
And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element. . . .
If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.
Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again
I have nothing to add. O’Toole’s writing is compelling. The Irish have such a gift for poetry and language. They also know what tyranny looks like, and the price of freedom from tyranny. Trump has done to America what he has done to every business he has ever run. He’s bankrupted it, politically, morally, and now economically as well.