America is broken.
I’m not sure that’s up for debate at this point.
But let’s be clear about something: Donald Trump didn’t break it.
He didn’t create anything.
Not the unmasked racism so proudly parading itself down crowded main streets, in school board meetings, and on neighborhood message boards;
not the antagonistic, gun-loving bravado still opposing sensible safeguards designed to protect our most vulnerable;
not the white-washed nationalistic fervor screaming its start-spangled supremacy into the ether;
not the strident, anti-Science, conspiratorial arrogance refusing to take any measures to preserve life from an insidious virus,
not the homophobic, misogynist religion being weaponized against women and the LGBTQ in church pulpits and supreme court rulings.
He is not the genesis of these things, or of hate crimes, book bannings, mass shootings, vaccine opposition, or violent insurrections.
Donald Trump did not invent any of these present national cancers.
What he did, was normalize them.
He removed the social stigma of bigotry by wielding it openly and with a kind of perverse joy.
He continually appealed to the lowest and the worst of humanity until it all became commonplace.
He railed against the educated and the qualified until ignorance became a badge of honor.
He gave people license to celebrate the profound ugliness they’d once concealed for the sake of decorum.
He showed gracious hospitality to the darkness residing in the recesses of human hearts.
Then, he simply let people reveal themselves—and they have.
Since the initial days of his 2016 presidential campaign, this solitary, morally-bankrupt serial grifter has become a kind of moral x-ray machine for hundreds of millions of us: exposing a deeply-embedded cruelty in our families, church members, friends, and neighbors that we never imagined existed.
As those we live alongside and loved have embraced this monstrous man and his predatory movement, we have been forced to reckon with it all:
how close and prevalent the hatred around us is,
how little progress we’ve actually made as a nation,
how little we really knew people we’ve shared staff meetings, church pews, and Thanksgiving tables with,
how many of our relationships were simply misinformed mythologies or marriages of convenience.
And since so many placed their very identity with him from the beginning, for years now they have applauded every bit of moral filth he’s generated, defended each reckless and dangerous act, doubled-down on every abuse of office and every betrayal of country, ratified high crimes against the very nation they claim to want to save.
They have chosen him over former political heroes, historically-revered journalists, once-beloved members of his own party, over any dissenting voice of reason or goodness—and in doing so, they have exposed their own hearts.
I suppose we should be grateful.
Had Donald Trump never been allowed to ascend to the highest levels of the political system and not been so transparent in his contempt for decency, we might never have found ourselves here at this pivot point in our history: not merely a nation politically but a people fractured relationally.
And that’s really the story here: not only a Republican Party and Evangelical Church that have fallen prostrate before this barren, empty husk of a man, disgracing both their oath and calling—but the mothers, uncles, sons, and best friends who have revealed something that we simply could not fathom being true before he appeared.
And no matter what transpires in coming elections or how the courts rule or what legal ramifications come or what legislative alterations take place, we are going to be left with this mess:
the social media separations,
the wordless disconnections,
the silent ghostings,
the expletive-laden terminations.
Even after he is gone, we who remain are going to exist in an America that is grievously broken, perhaps permanently so.
And as terrible as that reality is to contend with, it is still better than living in the numbed sedation of ignorance and denial that came before him; a veneer of politeness belying a terrible truth.
That truth is out now. We know who we are. We have no illusions. We have all declared our allegiances and chosen our hills.
Every facade has been torn down, every phony trapping of religiosity or patriotism stripped away. Now, there is only the sickening, unvarnished truth of who we are as a nation, and staring at it in the raking daylight is the only chance we have to confront and repair it.
In his craven lust for power, his absence of morality or character, his complete disregard for human life, his stratospheric narcissism, his full rejection of the law—Donald Trump has not broken America but revealed our brokenness.
He doesn’t deserve our thanks, but we are indebted to him just the same.
Now, we have to decide how we mend ourselves.
Previously Published on johnpavlovitz.com and is republished on Medium.
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