That Trump is evil is a foregone conclusion. It is hard to argue otherwise. He has lied, cheated and violated his way through life and the American system, often bragging of exploitations against women, taxes, climate and more. One Navy SEAL referred to him as “freaking evil” when he learned of his hosting, at his residence in Florida, a fellow SEAL who had been “convicted of posing for photos with the corpse of a teenage boy who’d been killed in his custody.”
More than one man has gone to prison for him, others have died. Those are deeply troubling facts. But even more so is the fact millions voted for him. How could that be? The issue is not that so many voted Republican but that so many voted Trump. Parties win and parties lose and we are all better for the trade, gaining socially and economically over time. But voting for a criminal is a different issue altogether. Again, how?
One gay military man offered this answer: that even as Trump may be “disgusting,” his “actions as a president are net positive.” Prior to the pandemic, he says, “the economy was doing great.” Also, “the right to self-defense (has remained) intact, the middle class has gotten stronger, progress on immigration, and that the ‘boogeyman’ hasn’t nullified my same-sex marriage.”
Right or wrong, let’s give him all that. But let’s also be fair and say presidents from both sides of the aisle in the past have been able to achieve those ends without also having to revert to breaking the law and engaging in abject acts of indecency. We don’t need a Trump to sustain a strong economy or make progress on immigration. A John Kasich, a Ted Cruz and countless others could have done just as well. Again, why?
Might there be something else going on? Might we only be seeing the visible side of an architecture whose reality, indeed its strength, lies underground, in a foundation so deeply buried in the soil it is indistinguishable from it?
Here is a theory. America is premised on being the land of milk and honey, promised to those who could obey God and keep their nose to the grind. Do otherwise and they would suffer the consequences. Who could forget John Winthrop’s words to his flock atop the Arbella, one of the first ships slated to sail to the new world: “if wee shall deale falsely with our god in his worke,” well then, “wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god … .”
That would be bad news for all, including the planet, potentially suffering devastating storms and fires.
In a perfect world, work and respect for God would remain hand in hand. But bring wealth, competition and technology into the picture and the American project begins to wane. God loses out, leaving hell to run roughshod over earth. Under this scenario, every day is a struggle, with boss, committee and neighbor. Nothing is equal and despite our best efforts, matters remain divided between haves and have nots, strong and weak and so on.
Better to end this misery, hastening the end of times and the return of better ones. And what better place on which to do that than America, chosen for its Eden-like blank slate and opportunity.
“Images of American choseness,” says Andrew Murphy in his Prodigal Nation, “were reinforced by a widespread interest in millennialism, the notion that Christ will return for a thousand-year reign on earth and that America had a special role to play in God’s plans for the end of times.”
From the beginning, America was seen as a pretext for the destruction of life so that a better one could emerge. The plan of course was far from easy and required a special set of circumstances, including a person peculiarly capable of bringing the whole house down without a hint of remorse. Someone without conscientiousness or for that matter consciousness. In short, a Trump.
It is not that Trump and Trump supporters do not understand the dire impact of COVID-19, climate change and a health care system beset by inequities. On the contrary, they know it all too well and want more of it. Life is just too joyless, a daily reminder of the assault one has to endure, on mind and body, just to survive.
This need not translate into an actual attack on life, but more a general tendency that life is better lived elsewhere. Not in beautiful buildings, handsome streets and elegant plazas, fomenting and affirming life’s great joys, but somewhere else, wherever that may be.
Consider our own dear and brilliant Scotty Anderson, a Daily News columnist and a self-professed and proud supporter of Trump. In his vision for a new downtown, he could not see much value in what is there. There is just too much history, memory, identity standing in the way — all that stuff that makes life meaningful and worth celebrating. Better to take it out and start all over, resurrect it, as it were. “If I had my way,” he writes, “I would raze nearly the whole downtown.”
Indeed, if he had his way he would play God and “redesign the traffic flow of the downtown area (and) allow property owners to build for the future.”
What more could be said.
Ayad Rahmani has been with Washington State Universitysince 1997 and is an associate associate professor in the School of Design and Construction.