Letter From Vermont
WHAT COULD BE WORSE THAN DONALD TRUMP?
A NATION ACTING LIKE DONALD TRUMP
I HOPE YOU ARE DOING well, but not too well, since during The Terrible Times of Trump. no right (or left) thinking cat or other living creature should forget that: a) today things are worse than they were yesterday; b) tomorrow things will be worse; and c) dread, not hope, seems to be controlling our future.
It feels like something terrible is lurking over us; that we are about to be swallowed up by something big and bad.
We (The Nice One, the Grouchy One and me) are in Vermont, and we’ll be coming home before you know it. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you having to rattle around in an empty house with nobody to talk to, such as me, the planet’s sweetest dog; and that there’s no one to turn on NPR, drowning everyone in news all day, all night.
I’ll fill you in about what’s been happening, and we can discuss it when I get back.
But first, I should tell you a little about Vermont, where we’re visiting, because it’s a good contrast between the America that we want to live in, the America that Donald J. Trump is transforming with astonishing speed into a cistern of hatred, bigotry and savagery.
Vermont is easy to make jokes about, as place that’s if not too liberal, too nice. A couple of weeks ago Saturday Night Live did a send up on Vermont’s holier-than-thou image, noting that it’s place where the tree leaves famously change color once a year, but the color of the residents remains the same.
(To get the joke, Cat, you have to know that Vermont’s leaves spectacularly change from green to brilliant reds, yellows and oranges before they drop dead in advance of the state’s unbearably long and miserable winters; and that Vermonters are 94.5 percent white, making it one of country’s whitest states).
For example, I was taking a walk the other day with the Grouchy One, and a public mini-bus stopped next to us. The driver opened the doors, not to let passengers off or on, but because he wanted to give me a treat. Since it was Vermont, he asked the Grouchy One if that would be okay, and Grouchy actually smiled. So, the driver gave me a treat. And guess what, he gave me a SECOND treat.
Vermont is where people often say “hello” to strangers (admittedly, it helps if, like me, you’re a sweet dog with adorable eyelashes); where motorists stop a half mile away from you on the off chance you’re about to cross street; where laws are in place to control development and preserve open space, respecting the fact that their home base is gorgeous, with gently rolling mountains, vast forests and quiet meadows, plus an endless supply of cute-as-can-be villages, where church spires pierce the skies above town greens. It’s a place where a major liquid export is maple syrup; and where, after a scare that someone was about to shoot up a school, the legislature passed anti-mass-killing-gun bills and the REPUBLICAN governor signed them into law; and where more recently, Democrats nominated a transgender woman to run against the governor.
The latest news that you may not have heard about is that Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn in as the newest justice of the United States Supreme Court, meaning that the Court now has a five-conservative and four-liberal split, which is problematic for many reasons, the important ones being:
Number One, lots of progressive policies are going to be reversed by a Court that favors the rich over the poor, and the powerful over the underdog (an especially chilling prospect from my point of view);
And, Number Two, it’s a Court that is likely to find ways to keep Trump in office even if he is found to have committed treason or other crimes by helping Russia interfere in the 2016 election and then trying to cover it up. A Court that will adopte a new doctrine that says ‘Yes, yes, yes, there’s at least one person in America who’s above the law.’
Which, Cat, is not the worst part.
At first, there was a lot of sympathy for Christine Blasey Ford – even among Republicans.
But that changed, and fast, when it looked like Kavanaugh might not make it to the Court. Kavanaugh himself began the counterattack, saying that he was actually the chief victim, because a left-wing smear campaign by Democrats had unjustly attacked his reputation and his family’s well-being. Kavanaugh got all shouty and loud about how “what goes around, comes around,” planting the idea that he’d get even, should he manage to get onto the Court.
Kavanaugh’s tantrum empowered fellow Republicans to get all shouty and loud, too, saying that Ford didn’t prove her case, and that while they believed that “something” had happened to her, Ford got it wrong in thinking that her would-be rapist was Kavanaugh, and that God Save Trump and his nominee, Democrats were scum. and all persons born with penises were in mortal danger of being wrongly accused of misusing them.
Leading the pack (sorry about all the dog references, Cat), was Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, who once seemed like an eloquent Trump critic, but who now was 1,001 percent for him and just couldn’t say enough bad things about the left-wing conspiracy out to destroy the reputation of such a good man. “This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy!” Graham raged at the Democrats.
Then Trump, at a rally in Mississippi, mocked Ford’s testimony, in which she had said she could remember some details of the long-ago attack but not others, which is what happens when something traumatic happens to anyone.
"How did you get home? I don't remember. How'd you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago was it? I don't know," the President of the United States said, pretending to summarize her testimony.
"I don't know. I don't know," Trump said. "What neighborhood was it in? I don't know. Where's the house? I don't know. Upstairs, downstairs -- where was it? I don't know -- but I had one beer. That's the only thing I remember."
As you might suspect, Cat, Trump lied about some parts of her testimony, which she had given in a quavering voice that reflected the damage the incident had done to her life, and the new trauma she was experiencing in having to tell about it in public.
Ford did know where the incident had happened: in an upstairs bedroom of a house where she attended a party; that someone pushed her into the bedroom; that a drunken Kavanaugh got on top of her; that he tried to pull her clothes off; and that when she tried to scream, he covered her mouth with his hand so she had a hard time breathing and feared she might die. She remembered that she escaped when Kavanaugh’s equally drunken friend fell on top of them, sending them tumbling, and she fled to a nearby bathroom.
What else? She remembered that the boys laughed while all of this was going on. And that she was one-hundred-percent sure that her would-be rapist was Brett Kavanaugh.
As Trump conducted his warped version of her testimony, his crowd cheered and jeered and whooped it up.
So, here we have the world’s most powerful person: with exclusive, unchecked power to unleash nuclear bombs whenever and whenever he feels like it; who has control of a huge government bureaucracy; who has the power to pardon criminals; who can send aid (or not) to places ravaged by hurricanes and floods; whose every word uttered in public is faithfully written down. recorded and transmitted around the world.
That's the news you may have missed Cat. while we were gone and the radio was silent.
Not just that the Supreme Court is changing, left to right. Not that Trump got his way. Not that the Republicans won. Not that the Trump “Base” has been newly energized by all of the shouting, just when the mid-term elections are only weeks away, determining whether Congress will stay the way it is or change.
The really frightening news is that much of the country is no longer just putting up with Donald J. Trump, tolerating his antics in hopes of getting a tax cut, putting a conservative on the Supreme Court or saving a few bucks by re-poisoning the air and the water.
The big news is that much of the country is actually becoming Donald J. Trump.
So many people, so many leaders of the country are acting like Donald J. Trump, bullying like Donald J. Trump, lying like Donald J. Trump, cheering and shouting and hollering just like Donald J. Trump.
So, Cat, we’ll be coming home soon from a place where the bus drivers stop to give treats to sweet dogs and strangers are welcomed like friends, where the environment is revered and where decency and kindness are part of everyday life.
But Cat, what kind of country are we becoming? What kind of a home we coming back to?
Your Sweet Pal,