At the beginning of 2017, we were in purgatory. Remember the interregnum, after we elected Trump but before he took office? We knew it would be bad, but we also had no idea how bad or what to expect. Then Trump took office. Hundreds of people were arrested on Inauguration Day. Tens of thousands came out for the Women’s March. People spontaneously stormed airports when Trump’s first travel ban went into effect.
By the end of the year, the Republicans passed a hit-job of a tax plan, a new travel ban went into effect and the Inauguration Day protesters were on trial. And no one came out. The streets were empty. We were weary. Worn down.
This is how normalization really works. And so now we think we know what will happen. We think—because news outlets keep reminding us—that it’s not so bad. The Nazis are OK. They eat cereal.
But all the bad shit is just about to start.
If there is one thing humans are terrible at, it is predicting the future. So I am not saying any of this will happen this year, but any of them are possible.
We’ve seen it before, in various ways, numerous times. Trickle-down economics causes crisis and collapse. And despite the recession and a million other economic woes, we’ve paid remarkably few consequences for our monetary malfeasance in real terms. There has been very little inflation. There is not famine and mass starvation.
But some places, like parts of Baltimore and St. Louis, have 25 percent unemployment or more. Imagine if the whole country was facing those kind of numbers. That’s what causes crime.
Despite the fact that they call themselves conservatives, the current Republicans are radicals. The reason people, going back to Edmund Burke, have traditionally been conservative is because drastic changes, like those to our tax plan, can end up with disastrous unintended consequences. The rich want to steal our money, but they may end up making theirs meaningless in the process.
The future I think about the most is the end of the Grapes of Wrath, where hope, humanity, is represented by a young woman who lost her baby to malnutrition letting a starving old man breast-feed so he doesn’t die. It wasn’t all that long ago that we had a collapse of our ecological as well as our economic system. A dustbowl type of event could turn the Trumpian sentiment against refugees local as people flee from failing ecosystems. An even worse possibility: the planned famines of Russia. Rising sea levels. Wildfires. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Drought. Crop failure. I don’t know what combination of these factors will hit us but it is not going to be pretty.
It’s astounding that Trump has made it longer than George W. Bush without a massive terrorist attack. I mean, the Bush team was unprepared, belligerent and eager for an excuse for war—and the Trump regime is worse in every regard. That we’ve made it this long is astounding. We’ve had white nationalist terrorists and other small homegrown attacks, but the question is when and not if something really bad happens. And it’s not inconceivable that if one does not come, there could be a more intentional “Reichstag fire” type of event.
It’s also not unreasonable to think that the Nazis may strike again in a more spectacular fashion, as they did in Oklahoma City in the ‘90s. And we still won’t call them terrorists.
If there were a big attack, and even there is not, there’s a good chance that we could go to war this year. Trump has surrounded himself with Iran hawks who seem to be pushing for an invasion there. Trump himself seems to want to fight North Korea. Oh, and in case you forgot, we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan and various other places around the world. Our empire is unsustainable—war is inevitable.
After Charlottesville, I have come to think of the country as one in which there is an under-the-surface civil conflict that is pervading everything. It’s not hard to see the antifa and alt-right fringes continuing to battle through the coming year until something far worse than the alt-right auto attack sets off a full-scale conflict. I’m not talking of the 1861 variety, but more like cities wrecked for weeks in the course of roaming battles.
On the other hand, it could look more like a revolt—an uprising like we saw in Ferguson or Baltimore in 2015, the people against the police forces.
There are any number of paths to lead us to a Constitutional crisis. The far right has been talking about a law enforcement “coup” ever since Flynn was fired—they are itching to ditch our system.
If Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller, which the leftish #Resistance seems to think is imminent, we could see something fairly fast and dramatic. I actually don’t think that will happen. But who knows?
And eventually a judge will determine that one of his actions is illegal, and he will turn to the only former president he seems to admire, Andrew Jackson, who apocryphally said of the then-chief justice, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”
But one way or another, the limits of our system are likely to be tested this year.
Curtailment of civil rights
The Trump era began with the arrest of over 200 people protesting his inauguration. The first six of those have been found not guilty, but Trump’s Department of Justice is determined to continue prosecuting the rest. Numerous states have also passed laws attempting to criminalize protest. There’s no reason to think this won’t continue. Trump’s obsession with “fake news” and his attempts, almost daily, to discredit the press, give us good reason to think he will attempt to curtail press freedom even more.
You know, in 1918 they had a deadly flu. Awful diseases are part of life. We’ve helped create superbugs. Bird flu and swine flu and all that have developed. Cutting back on research will not help. We might all die shitting ourselves.
You know, they did this whole moving of the capital of Israel to Jerusalem in part to please the evangelicals who think it will hasten the rapture. Wouldn’t that be amazing, if Jesus really did come and take away the evangelicals? More likely, they’ll feel left behind and try to kickstart Armageddon some more.
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