When I first moved from the US to Korea, some friends and family asked me if it was “safe there.” I assured them that it was, and despite a few flare-ups between the North and South, this peninsula has proved to be one of the most danger-free places I could have possibly ended up in. This is especially true these days when I cast my eyes homeward.
As a long-term expat it’s easy to be smug. It’s a piece of rice cake to sit on this side of the Pacific, smirk, and congratulate myself on getting out of when I did. I can watch the social and political meltdown of the USA from a very safe distance, patting myself on the back while offering snipes on social media, and then just go about my business.
After all, I left a very long time ago. Why should I even care that the country I once called home exists in a perpetual state of idiotic crisis?
But I do care, much to the detriment of my sleep, peace of mind, and healthy drinking habits. As I sit here, in South Korea, pondering the willful ignorance, incompetence, criminal bungling, prevarication, and mass hallucination currently raging back in the States, I have to concentrate all of my energy to shore up the structural integrity of my head and heart, lest they both implode.
After all, I am an American, and despite the fact that I jumped on a plane 16 years ago to come work and live in East Asia, I love the USA. Home is home, and when it’s on fire it’s hard just to sit back and shrug.
The election of Joe Biden a month ago managed to breathe a bit of wind into the sails of faith in my country, but what has transpired since has caused much of that cloth to slacken.
Sure, Uncle Joe won a decisive Electoral College victory and is currently leading by more than 7 million votes, but that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump, along with a cowardly and complicit Republican Party, from not only refusing to accept this result, but using every weapon in their arsenal to subvert and nakedly reverse the will of the people.
We all knew that Trump wouldn’t initially accept an electoral defeat. He has been telegraphing this since he squeaked into the Oval Office in 2016. And it’s not just that such an admission of loss wouldn’t serve him politically; he’s psychologically incapable of such a gesture.
What was once an election routine has now mutated into an unachievable feat of decency. One only needs to look back to the dignity, grace, and utter class of John McCain’s concession speech in 2008 to realize just how far we’ve plunged. Twelve years suddenly feels like a hundred and twenty.
If it was just Trump we could just roll our eyes and move on. After all, anyone with a lick of sense knows that he’s a broken machine. The problem is that, despite these manifest defects, this machine conjures a kind of black magic that has mesmerized vast swaths of Americans.
Trump has taken some of the most powerful talismans of the American ideal and wedded them to his own fevered ego. To reject Trump means to reject the whole idea of the nation, at least to his cult.
Donald Trump launched a tsunami of lawsuits to challenge the integrity of this election, and not a single charge has stuck. In fact, every suit has been laughed out of the courtroom, or dismissed, on more than one occasion, “with prejudice,” a relatively rare middle finger in the world of jurisprudence.
Still, this hasn’t stopped his surrogates from agitating on his behalf, from openly clamoring for a reversal of an election that has been said to be “the most open and transparent in American history.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has relished the role of lying robot, complete with blank sheaves of paper waved about for effect. Senators Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz have both spent face time on Fox News and other outlets casting doubt on the veracity of Joe Biden’s clear win, and Trump’s unhinged legal team has never met a camera or fake panel it doesn’t like.
Rudy Giuliani has led this windmill tilt, at one point sweating so hard in a news conference that his lies took on liquid form and dribbled down the side of his face. But that didn’t stop “America’s mayor” from pressing forth with the falsehood that this election was somehow stolen, and the base has eaten it up.
Despite rejection after rejection in the courts, despite not an iota of real proof that this thing has been somehow rigged, Rudy and his cadre keep gathering Republican lawmakers in the lobbies of hotels in a silly facsimile of actual hearings, dragging up opportunists, ideologues, and other grifters in their pursuit of something that never was.
The sad thing is that it’s sticking among the base. Every poll out there tells us that well over half of Republicans believe that this election was “rigged.” This notion is being repeated at the highest level of their toxic ecosystem, with Fox News stalwarts such as Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs giving oxygen to this nonsense. And their viewers gobble it up.
It has gone beyond gaslighting. They’ve filled the house with the flammable vapors and lit the match.
What were originally eye-roll-inducing claims about election integrity have now metastasized into shouts of sedition and psychosis. This week convicted felon Michael Flynn called for Trump to suspend the constitution and declare martial law. And Roger Stone, another one of Donald’s criminal cronies, actually accused North Korea of sending boats to “deliver ballots through a harbor in Maine.”
A Hollywood writer would be fired on the spot for such lunacy, but these babbling clowns are given platforms and microphones. We have officially entered the bath salts smoking phase.
Taking in this madness from afar makes me want to slam my head through the wall; I can’t imagine having to live in the midst of it, with neighbors and co-workers who not only buy into but actively cheerlead this flaming garbage.
And here is where the peril lurks: Joe Biden may represent a return to sanity, but only for those willing to go along. When almost half the country decides completely to check out of reality, how can America proceed?
Which makes me ask my American friends and family: Is it safe there?