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Common Dreams - April 20, 2020

Why are Americans so obedient, so servile? That isn’t the image they hope to show the world but there they are, a herd of sheep in Trump’s presence, baaa-ing approvingly.

“Everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Americans in 1830. Again, why?

Donald Trump stumps up to the podium every day and makes a fool of himself. He spouts nonsense for hours thus replicating his now-dead campaign rallies, lying, talking nonsense, insulting women, shouting at men, threatening to fire government staff for disagreeing with him, planning vengeance on Democratic governors, pronouncing words wrong and adding numbers incorrectly, sending crude racist remarks over to China, and making his terror and neediness plain.

“Look at me,” he says, the way toddlers do when they step over the kitten rather than squashing it, “I did it!”

Shakespeare knew his Trumps, devising insults that would be wildly suitable 440 years later. “He’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker.” “Thou cream-faced loon! Where got’st thou that goose look?” “Nut-hook, nut-hook, you lie.” “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon”

“That trunk of humors, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend Vice, that grey Iniquity, that father Ruffian, that Vanity in years?”

I think of these things as I leave the house for a 10-minute walk to escape Trump. On return, I stand outside my front window and photograph Trump on a TV screen inside, spraying venom and stupidity. It reinforces the strangeness of life right now.

Why do Americans, alleged rugged individualists, upholders of liberty, haters of king and government, put up with this grotesque man? They’re in the habit of doing so, some American observers have said. Most presidents — thought not Nixon or Dubya — generally talked sense before and Americans grew used to listening.

But it’s more than habit. Americans bow down to authority just as Britons do to monarchs and aristocrats; they doff their cap. They actually play a silly song, “Hail to the Chief,” when a president enters a room and have done so since 1829.

Americans worship titles. We refer to former prime ministers, but a president is called President for the rest of his life. On political talking heads shows, a long-retired diplomat is always called “Ambassador.” Generals remain generals even after retirement, which seems hopelessly pompous. Same with PhDs calling themselves doctors, especially now when medical doctors are needed but doctors of philosophy less so.

Titles are very important to Americans. So is paperwork. Americans are meticulous about identity, paperwork proving identity, green cards, and citizenship status, always demanding endless perfect forms, especially from anyone hoping to enter their country.

Many Americans, especially in the Midwest, are of German descent and share the German love of meticulous paperwork. Germans in Germany, however, are coping with coronavirus very well, thanks to close tracking, tracing and testing. This habit offered them no honor in the Nazi era but I can see its usefulness now.

But obedient paper-loving Americans are paying with their lives because they are obediently following a Trump, not an Angela Merkel. Can’t they spot the difference?

In Canada, we don’t even want a low-key prime ministerial residence at Harrington Lake repaired, even though its foundation is sinking and the floors are getting bendy. We take our desire for equality to extremes.

Americans worship the almighty dollar and rate themselves according to their accumulation of same. They cherish inequality because they’re told everyone has an equal chance to put their head down and work on getting rich. This old myth will not die. Trump is keeping the rich seat warm. Why complain?

I wish one of the extremely rich, white men physically close to Trump at his daily pep rally would turn to him on camera and say “No. You’re a president, not a king, you’re a crook and a phony and a moron, too mean and stupid to be allowed to destroy the nation we love.”

It’s not much but it would be a start.