Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
“I really have to say that Donald Trump has done something that’s been very good for me.”
I stare at her, unable to eke out a sound. Ellen and I have always been simpatico in our political beliefs. If anything, we push each other further to the left. What the hell is she saying?
She doesn’t get to the point right away.
“My eyesight has been severely compromised since my retina detached a few years ago. I didn’t know that was going to happen – that my ability to clearly see green tree tops against a deep blue sky would be gone forever. So I didn’t appreciate how beautiful everything is. I wish I’d known the day before that I was going to lose my vision in that eye. I’d have savored every image that last day.”
I continue to wonder how that S.O.B. Trump could possibly have benefited her. Had he proposed a health care plan for improved vision? If so, it would be his first articulated plan for anything.
I scowl, trying to comprehend. Ellen continues. “I read an article by Andrew Sullivan. He claims that the election of Donald Trump could be an extinction-level event for our democracy. We could lose liberties if he’s elected. So I’m no longer taking them for granted. I’m living each day as if my freedom could be taken from me. But I’m no longer afraid. Instead, this lurking danger is keeping me in the present moment. I’m appreciating what we have in this country, flawed as it is, and I’m determined to not let it slip away. Because it could pretty easily.”
I’ve never heard of Andrew Sullivan or the term “extinction-level event” so after she leaves, I research them both. Mr. Sullivan is a conservative political commentator, a former editor of The New Republic, and the author/editor of six books. His conservative credentials are well vetted, but he recently defected to write a long piece for New York magazine entitled, Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic (May 1, 2016), which closes with this strong denouncement:
…Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.
Sullivan was swiftly taken to task by Salon, a progressive site for American politics and current affairs, for placing blame on “too much democracy” rather than on too much money in politics. An important distinction but, nonetheless, Sullivan applied that term to the potential election of a United States presidential candidate: Trump is an extinction-level event. An ELE, as it’s known by those in-the-know, is generally defined as an occurrence that causes a widespread decrease of life on earth. While those who preach Armageddon have their own version of cause and effect, scientists count asteroids, nuclear war, and climate change as precipitating events.
And now a conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan, has identified Donald Trump as an ELE! And not just for dramatic effect – he elaborates on why and how.
Trump’s gift to Ellen has been to increase her appreciation for what we have in this country. To give thanks for our liberties because we could lose them through growing fear-based intolerance. If the specter of Donald Trump as POTUS can remind us that the dinosaurs – and German Jews – didn’t see extinction in their futures, he will have done some good. Because we can see Trump coming a mile away and work hard to derail him. There’s no time to lose.
Patricia A. Nugent is the author of They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, a collection of vignettes about adult parental loss. Her play, The Stone that Started the Ripple, has been performed numerous times to sell-out crowds. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.