I’d chalked up two of them in the past four years, to balance the two engraved in my brain for many years: November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and September 11, 2001, or Nine-Eleven.
My most recent Where were you…? moments happened late on the night of November 3, 2016, when it was clear that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States; and on June 1 last year when police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from Mr. Trump’s path so he could pose in front of a Washington church, holding a Bible, upside-down.
They were my Strikes One and Two with Mr. Trump. On both occasions, I didn’t feel sick, like many millions of others did. I did feel a gnawing in my stomach, a sense of being untethered, a rising sense of…….well, it wasn’t doom, because I couldn’t imagine just how dreadful Trump would be as the US President. None of us could. If we were deeply partisan, we could rev up our worst nightmares and imagine how bad things would get. But those were, by definition, fantasies.
Not even the pandemic had that same quickly sickening effect. In fact, on Friday, March 13th last year when my wife Jean and I fled up north to our cottage, we were listening to the news in the car. Trump, criticized for his late and feeble response to this mysterious disease, announced that testing centers would open in Walmart and Target parking lots all over America.
I remember thinking: “Wow, he can really pull it out of the hat, can’t he?”
How pathetically naïve I was. Clearly, I still believed some things Trump said could actually be true.
By yesterday, 361,000 Americans had died of COVID, 21.4 million were infected with it, and ambulances in Los Angeles may no longer be taking stroke and heart attack patients to the hospital because their ERs are overflowing with COVID patients.
Then Wednesday happened. That was Strike 3 for millions more around the world.
Two of our American friends living in Toronto said they’d spent the afternoon crying in front of their TVs. It took until late afternoon for America’s President to tell the protesters: “You have to go home now….So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
By yesterday morning, there were rumblings of resignations from staffers in The White House and elsewhere in the Trump administration. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Canadian-owned Shopify blocked the President from using their sites.
By mid-day came the many calls for the President’s impeachment.
By last night, Trump admitted for the first time that he had lost, though, of course, not in so many words. What he said was: “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
It seems that this time, he’s finally crossed the line, he knows it and he knows when to shut up and lie low, which he’ll do until January 20th when Joe Biden is inaugurated. One credible report has Trump flying to Scotland that day to visit his golf course. This prompted Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, to proclaim: “We are not allowing people to come into Scotland … and coming in to play golf is not what I would consider an essential purpose.”
In those two weeks between now and the 20th, at least democracy and America can lick their wounds, clean up their vandalized landmarks, and think about a brighter saner future under their new President.
Wait a second.
What did I just say?
Am I delusional?
How could I forget the first rule of dealing with Donald Trump? Don’t believe a word he says. Ever.
If he says he will work for a smooth, orderly and seamless transition, why have I not learned that the next days will be rough, disorderly and deeply harmful to America? Donald Trump isn’t going to slink away. He never has, and why start now when his notoriety has never been higher?
Every insurer, every money lender and psychiatrist will tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
So get ready for more “Where were you?” days, more “I’ll remember that till theday I die” days — in the next 12 days.
I also think that smaller groups of domestic terrorists, having breached the US Congress, will try to do the same in State Houses across the land. Having committed the bigger act, it feels not only safe, but right to commit the smaller one.
Because, as Voltaire wrote in 1765: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”