Maybe “surviving” is too strong a word. More like “enduring,” or “persisting” or just plain “having patience.”
Back on May 24, 2020, when the New York Times devoted its entire front page and three inside pages to the names of the 100,000 Americans who had died from Covid-19, it seemed like a shock to be shown the extent of the national tragedy. Now, eight months later, the death toll has reached 400,000, which by my reckoning exceeds the number of our dead from World War One, World War two, the Korean War and the Vietnam Wars combined. It makes for an incredibly depressing exercise and a reminder of the slow-motion nightmare we have been through.
Four years ago, when he became president, I warned my friends and colleagues about what we were in for. Some thought I was exaggerating and that our political institutions would provide the necessary guardrails. Others agreed he was unusual to an extreme but figured the adults in the room would contain him. For many liberal observers, it was all just part of a normal political cycle, the ebbs and flows, highs and low, which we had been through before and would go through again.
I knew Trump personally from my days as a golf writer. Between 2008 and 2013 or so, I had many encounters with him in my capacity as architecture editor of a national publication and as critic whose regular columns and “ratings lists” that I compiled by committee vote were watched closely in the industry. A lot of course owners vied for recognition, but nobody competed, cajoled, lobbied, threatened and blustered his way like Trump. And I was certainly not the only golf journalist subject to his flattery and threats. He’d call the house and yell at me or boast about some great new project he was doing. I sat in his office half a dozen times, traveled in his jet plane to projects, visited his golf course project in Scotland several times to get an early look and tell him what I thought – though he never listened.
When it came time for the opening of the course in Aberdeen I flew over with him and the family, stayed with them for the ceremonies and golf, and flew back exhausted, depressed and more than a little unsettled about the way he was doing business.
It was just golf stuff back then that I saw, but it was ugly. He surrounded himself with grifters and cheap, lowlife business men and women who flattered him and who in turn, he buddied up with, though never on terms that seemed personal or mutually engaged. He had nothing but contempt for the Scottish people. Everything was phony, down to the paid-for media scrum he arranged as he alighted from his 757.
All he wanted from me were good ratings, and he openly said he’d do anything to get them. “I’ll take out ads in the magazine, if that will help,” he told me once on the phone. “Mr. Trump,” I said, “I can’t have this conversation. You’re fired.”
I wish that had been the end of it. But it wasn’t. And when he was elected in 2016 following a disgusting campaign that consisted of little more than racist lies and misogynistic attacks on women and relentless assaults on the press, the physically challenged, poor people and minorities, I knew we were in for trouble. I just didn’t know how much.
The way he treats the public and his own “base” resembles the way an abusive man treats women. People who have been in violent domestic relationship might recognize the pattern. You know the type – if not personally then from noir movies and books. He’s the kind of guy who will dress his girlfriend up in pretty clothes and jewelry, flatter her, screw her, then throw her down the stairs, kick her in the face, pick her up and flatter her again and put her in another pretty dress so he can repeat the cycle of abuse, expecting her to be grateful for the attention she gets and blaming her for his outbursts.
Now take that behavior and translate it to a larger, public stage. That’s what we have witnessed and put up with for the last four years. It’s been exhausting and demeaning. Let’s also hope it’s been a lesson learned.
We are now over the worst of it. He is gone from the center of power, shunted off to the periphery. As a country we have a lot of healing to do. There’s no reason to think that the violence and hatred he’s unleashed will go away soon. But at least the most immediate threat has subsided.
We’ve awakened from the nightmare. Unlike the 400,000 fatalities – many of which were needless deaths due to his negligent handling of the pandemic – we can say we have survived. Or endured.