Follow @MarkBrownCSTI’m sitting here re-reading the text of Donald Trump’s inaugural speech, trying to figure out why it struck me as so alarming when he gave it.
It was the scariest speech I’ve ever heard delivered by any president of the United States.
Yet I can’t pinpoint any one sentence that rekindled that sense of dread that first seized me on Election Night when Trump’s victory became evident.
It wasn’t just his bleak vision of “American carnage,” which recalled his ominous Republican convention acceptance speech.
Follow @MarkBrownCSTThere’s carnage enough in this city to know better than to dismiss that outlook out of hand, although let’s correct one statement: the American education system is NOT “flush with cash.”
I can’t even say it was his “America First” talk, which resurrected for others the jingoistic, anti-Semitic isolationism that preceded America’s entry into World War II.
That certainly contributed to the muscles tensing in my chest. But a part of me has been thinking for a while that we could solve a lot of economic problems in this country with a true “Buy American” mindset, which requires a measure of self-sacrifice. That’s a whole other animal than the anti-immigrant subtext of his other proposed rule to “Hire American.”
What I think worried me most is the sense that Donald Trump is starting to believe his own B.S.
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Just as he forewarned at the GOP convention, he believes he alone can fix our country.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” decreed Trump, who has yet to reveal when exactly he came by this new vision, seeing as how he never abided the whole America First thing in his own business career.
Most worrisome of all, Trump’s speech offered insights into how he and his team may think they’ve figured out a way to enforce their political agenda — bullying or bypassing the institutions meant to hold any president in check — by using his notion of “patriotism” to mobilize the minority of Americans who truly support his policies.
That’s a scary prospect for those who have a whole other understanding of what it means to be patriotic than the flag-waving, nationalistic version favored by Trump’s core supporters.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” Trump told the nation. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
I think the bedrock of our politics is our right to speak out and oppose the government when we believe it is necessary. Trump is going to make it necessary.
I have only attended one inauguration, that of President George W. Bush in 2001.
What struck me most that day was the physical change that came over Bush at the moment of his swearing-in, when the awesome responsibility and burden of leadership was transferred to his shoulders.
It was a physical, palpable thing. Several people with whom I spoke afterward that day mentioned it.
As strange as it might seem, that moment of becoming president of the United States, of becoming “the leader of the free world,” is meant to be a humbling experience.
And afterward, as Bush spoke, and even though my political views then weren’t much different than they are now, I couldn’t help but hope that Bush could become the president he wanted to be.
As Trump gave his grandiose speech, I did not hear the humility of a man who appreciates the gravity of his new position.
I heard someone who thinks the American people have empowered him to do as he wishes, in their name.
He will need to be set straight.