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Jerome Christenson: Mr. Grob and the yabuts

Jerome Christenson: Mr. Grob and the yabuts

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Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

It didn’t take long for the yabuts to show up.

The yahoos were scarcely shooed out of the Capitol hallways when the excuse-makers started chiming in: “Yah, but what about the riots this summer?” as if the Dollar General on the corner was the equivalent of the Capitol Rotunda; as if a street corner agitator was equal to the president of the United States; as if blocking a highway was no less than halting the constitutionally mandated proceedings of the Congress of the United States.

The whole thing takes me right back to my grade school principal’s office, “I don’t care what the other kids did, it’s what you did we’re dealing with…”

Spare us the false equivalencies. There are none. Spare us talk of a mythically omnipotent, omnipresent antifa, source of evil and disruption everywhere, all the time. The Trumpist allegiance of the paint-faced shaman in the Grand Pooh-Bah headdress and his confederates is beyond question and the complicity of the mob that backed them equally damning.

If after a playground scuffle “I was just standin’ there. I didn’t do nothin’,” didn’t cut it in Mr. Grob’s office, how much less weight does it carry for the folks who watched a cop beaten to death with a fire extinguisher; who stood by while they set up a gallows on the Capitol steps, then rampaged through the hallways shouting, “Hang Michael Pence!”

And what to say of the man who put them all up to this?

I really, truly wish I didn’t feel the need to write another word about Donald Trump. I am so unbelievably tired of him. Tired of his crass shallowness, his rude lack of manners. Tired of his braying boasts. Tired of his incurious disregard for facts and accurate information. Tired, oh so tired, of his self-centered casual cruelty, so long on public display.

But then, what did we really expect. Trump’s life was an open book – ghost-written, of course — but right there to be seen. His name went on everything he touched, in bold capital letters, and stayed there until his casino, his airline, his university, pretty much his everything was bankrupt as his soul.

How could so many of us be so attracted to an individual who made “You’re fired…” his trademark phrase – words that when we hear them in real life, our lives, turn that day into a disaster that may linger forever.

I suppose for some he reflected the darkness in their own souls. He affirmed their worst fears; pointed to the dark skinned, accent speaking workers killing hogs for poverty wages and blamed them for the loss of jobs that once comfortably supported white families in company towns, with never a question of why “Made in China” is stamped on the goods carrying American corporations’ brands and how it got there.

Others may have imagined him a “useful idiot.” A means to cut their taxes, deregulate their businesses, appoint judges they believed would rule in their favor. Flatter him here, ignore him there – so long as we get ours, who cares?

And then there were the spineless … the kids who stood behind the schoolyard bully, afraid to offend him; afraid if they did, they’d be next. At least until a bigger bully came along and knocked him on his butt, whereupon they promptly saw the light, changed their tune and fell into a new line. At least for a little while.

So where does that leave us? Sixty years ago I sat in Mrs. Rolfing’s basement with the rest of my third grade class to watch Jack Kennedy sworn in on her family room TV. At the time I doubt if I really understood much of what was going on on that flickering black and white screen, but it was clearly important enough for us to leave school and walk 10 blocks on a cold January morning.

As we repeat that ceremony this week, we might remember JFK’s opening words all those years ago: “We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end as well as a beginning—signifying renewal as well as change.”

Let us hope it is so.


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