There’s the old story of the scorpion and the frog, in which the only way to cross a river for the scorpion is to hop the frog’s back and traverse its way across treacherous waters. The frog agrees, reluctant, because of the scorpions nature, but does so anyway. When Donald Trump boarded America on its back, we anticipated with dread with what would happen, and so began the journey.
When Trump was elected in 2016, I remember the mood of my entire building, I was at work, they announced he had won. It was devastating. Nobody said anything. The toxic, dark feeling one gets in their heart when something violating has happened – permeated the space. It wasn’t just that an opposing side had won. We could tell, we could see and hear with our eyes and ears, that this Presidency was already rotten from the core – inside and out.
People left the building, hands in their pockets, backpacks slung over shoulders in a way that felt like they were carrying a multitude of bricks. It didn’t take long to see the toxicity multiply and creep into every bit of daily life. It multiplied, and multiplied, and multiplied. Multitudes of shitty oozed into every nook and cranny until no place was safe. Why not throw in a pandemic on top of it, it’s not like anyone was going to do anything about it.
I won’t begin to list the tapestry of shitty things this Trump administration has done, because it is vast, and I don’t have the energy after 4 long years. But McSweeny’s has documented it to hell and back, should you so desire. It has snaked in and taken root to every fabric of our democracy, our lives, and now our breath.
One of the most vile people to ever touch the halls of the White House, noted hell demon extraordinaire, noted fascist, and spectacularly shitty writer (I could write an entire article about this) who thinks he’s hot shit, Stephen Miller: wrote a speech four years ago when Trump took atop the Capitol to give his inaugural speech. It was a notable speech, more or less from the game show host, turned first time statesman. It was stark in tone, dire, given as if MS-13 had stormed the capitol and executed every Senator and Congressmen. Two words stuck out to me though: “American Carnage“.
“This American Carnage, stops right here and stops right now” he expounded, grossly conflating immigrants, radical terrorism, and anyone who essentially wasn’t white. Besides the fact that that sentence on a moral level already makes me twitch, it’s an incredibly shitty sentence. I watches speechwriters everywhere lament. ‘American Carnage’ though, is the perfect epitaph of the Trump Presidency.
Years from now, when we look back at all that remains of the legacy of one of the worst Presidents of the United States, those two words will stand like an old fast food sign, beaming bright, tall, and tattered. The hate, division, and insecure macho-man dictator qualities will parade around it, still clinging to their pride as people gawk and point as they drive by, looking for better options. The insides of the establishment will remain abandoned, say for it one or two lonely visitors who will feel comfort in the darkness, hoping for warmth, and dreading their demise when it never comes.
‘American Carnage’ will forever bounce around in my brain. It will be heard in Stephen Miller’s monotone voice, his poisonous connotation. It was the dagger which waited yielding, waiting for it to be deposited on the unsuspecting victims of its homeland. Its turn of phrase was a vessel, and its consequences were reaching and vast.
Trump was the scorpion. ‘American Carnage’ was the loaded poison in the stinger. Trump supporters, America, its transportation. When the scorpion stung the frog halfway through on their journey, the frog knew they were both doomed. “Why?” the frog asked. “I couldn’t help myself, it’s in my nature” answered the scorpion. The signs were there. We knew what it was. And yet we took the journey anyway.
As the Trump admin’s bloated carcass floats off down the river, and its architects submerge into the water, many will wonder why they were left to drown. Surely, their great leader, wouldn’t leave them like this. They wouldn’t be left to their own devices, to swim and paddle against the current, and eventually succumb to entropy and vile poison, would they?
It’s not like Trump had a history of not paying people, abandoning them when they needed him most, or distanced himself, pretending he never knew people. But he did. The stinger rose with each phrase, each riff, each hateful word priming itself into position.
Then it struck, again and again, the frog crying out in pain as the scorpion couldn’t help itself, the stinger’s gravity becoming more and more severe with each passing blow. They will feel betrayed. They will eat each other. Trump’s most ardent supporters will feel adrift, knowing they can’t reach the other side. The dread, the rage, the riding fast & furious and without care will come crashing down on top of themselves like a meteor from upon high.
I’ll end with this. When the Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, taking with them a seditionist mindset like it was a television on sale during Black Friday, the water hit their ankles. The armed insurrection was the frog’s limbs going numb, and the current taking it.
As the people smiled, posed for photos, and used themselves as a literal battering ram, nearly crushing an officer to death, and actually killing one officer with a fire extinguisher, they decided to push the stinger to and fro a few more times, just for good measure. Because as they steal the Speaker’s lectern, as they threw chairs at officers and made staffers fear for their lives, they couldn’t help themselves.
There will be a lot to examine. A lot to reflect upon, when this is over. There will be pushing and shoving and blaming and defensiveness. There will be overhauling of policies and shifts to repair the human catastrophe. Pieces will be picked up, and we will move on, limping for now. The toll of all this will be seen for years to come. It will not disappear overnight. The loved ones of the scorpion and the frog are still waiting on the other side of the river.
Maybe when this tale is told again a few decades from now, the phrasing will change, as stories tend to do. “Why?” the frog asked, looking up at the scorpion. And someone will think they’re clever will change the answer because they are a shitty writer who fancies themselves something more, something game changing. And they will offer it up as if it somehow made sense, that it wasn’t doomed from the beginning. Because they are a venomous mind. They will offer it up as prophetic, only to watch their phrasing turn on itself and excoriate both the writer and the reader, and they too will float off down the current.