Some are saying Trump will be remembered for the deaths that result from his bumbling on coronavirus, that this is finally him crossing a line he can’t come back from. How many are still remembering him, how many can still find that line for the kids in cages, the escalation in hate crimes, the erosion of rights that protect women from violence, the other things he’s caused that kill, the other abominations we insisted he’d be remembered by, that he’d be collapsed by, the travesties we set aside to remember the next one, like Matryoshka dolls of memories each hidden inside one more hideous than the last.
I can’t help but think of Ronald Reagan, of the hundreds of thousands who died because he ignored the 1980s AIDS crisis and vilified its victims. He’s largely remembered as an icon, an emblem of the country, a hero.
I remember even the wildly progressive telling me to wait and respect John McCain passing away, that it was inappropriate to talk about Navajo and Hopi water rights, his support for SB 1070 and profiling of Hispanics, that his passing away should earn him days of forgetting so many of the rights and lives he had a hand in ending.
Witness how many now normalize George W. Bush, and his endless wars, the erosion of FEMA and disaster response capabilities, the militarization of the police, militarization of Border Patrol, the erosion of Constitutional protections that created the foundation for so much of what Trump now takes advantage of. Because George W. Bush paints and likes candy and gets along with Michelle Obama. That’s it. That’s all it takes.
We are a country of forgetting. It is a national addiction. To remember anything with accuracy, that has to be changed first. People will remember if we do, and if we give them no other choice, if it becomes utterly unacceptable to treat this differently in this moment. The universe won’t magically remember Trump for any of these things for us. We need to do the work to define it as wrong now, to oppose it now, and to mitigate the damage now.
No one will do it for us. The worse this gets, the more it serves a man who revels and exploits chaos and shock. Memory won’t make up for it, won’t create some balance in the end. Memory fades and twists, and it is not a trade for lives that can be saved. Actions survive and give rise to more actions.
Figure out what you are going to do, who among your elected officials you’ll call, and what exact expectations you will communicate to them. Don’t count on someone else’s memories of how this moment took place when you are in this moment and can make it take place the way you want it to.
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