Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
A Photo as Microcosm of a Weird, Dying Presidency
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
– Revelation 21:8
The lasting image of the Donald J. Trump presidency in its final throes is worthy of a Pulitzer and should one day hang in a museum next to other great post-modern American art, or at least shoved into the back of a macabre Hall of Curiosities.

An elderly man with a burnt-orange countenance, permanent scowl, queerly coiffed and colored hair, his suit draped in a simian frump upon his obese frame, stands disturbingly statuesque holding a Bible as a silent weapon. Behind him is a boarded-up church. Flanking him, out of this seminal shot, is a line of older white men and one woman; one of the men, also bizarrely fat for someone dressed in army fatigues, casts a pose of menace. Just out of their frame are hundreds of armed police – secret police, national guard and unknown forces deployed by the Department of Justice – many of whom have just gassed and shoved and beaten peaceful protesters aside to make room for this most starkly honest portrayal of the American performance. Beyond them is a country damaged by a pandemic, burning from anger and fear, millions out of work. Still, there he stands. Saying nothing. Posing for the photo that defines a presidency.

“Is that your Bible?” someone asks.

“It is a Bible,” he says.

Odd. Staged. Cryptic. Grotesque. Defiant. Stoic. Vacant. The image is all of these and so much more. Mostly, it is a symbol of the dying conceit of America – rich, privileged, illiterate, myopic, macho, nostalgically tone-deaf and rapidly irrelevant. The world spins, evolves, progresses, as the figure, lost in his own bubble, remains immovable, turgidly crippled by illusion. Hatred sustains him.

This has been some three-plus years, huh? I promised at the onset of what I rightly predicted as the coming abortion of a presidency that I would not comment on how strange things would get compared to prior “normal” presidencies, because I knew coming in that Donald Trump was not going to be a normal president, or really any kind of president. Even up until that fateful first presidential debate when there was a scintilla of a chance I may have been wrong about Trump, that he was some kind of genius savant that despite being a deplorable human may end up surprising us all. Five minutes in, the joke was over, and recorded it so in this space. Trump proved himself that evening to be a bumbling fool, a mere puppet of the radical right sent as an avatar for long-debunked theories about white supremacy and the power of familial wealth over democracy.

And it turns out those seventy-seven thousand people who made him president against the wishes of the majority, by nearly three-million votes, wanted this type of president. Someone who shook things up, even destroyed the status quo. And if that was the yardstick, then Trump is the most successful of American presidents. As an actual chief executive and commander-in-chief, he has authored the worst first term in modern or maybe all of American history. He has pissed on the constitution, flouted the rule of law, caused divisions in gender, race, politics, generation, and more. For those seventy-seven thousand, mission accomplished.  For the rest of us, he has been an abject failure living in his own cocoon of lies and deceit, believing he is indestructible and his greatness unquestioned. The photo shows us all of this.

The photo is also significant in painting this dim moment of a fading presidency. Trump is virtually alone now, with only the most radical religious fanatics, wannabe fascists, Neo-Nazis and the KKK left to defend him. Maybe some people who want more conservative judges and who hate the media and smarmy social-progressive assholes like me who view them as sub-mental, anti-American goons, might still root him on, but their time too is up. No one functioning remains in the White House beyond anti-immigration and evangelical zealots. Television personalities, wives of confused right-wing intellectuals and people currently fucking Trump’s daughter are left to run the scraps of this mess. The president is alone, clinging to any prop that might remind him that once he pulled an inside electoral-college straight against the worst political opponent in history. Without Hillary Clinton and those poor suckers who thought they might “shake things up’ but were left with disease, unemployment and now streets filled with people who have had enough of police-state racism and old-world dog-whistle politics, the man in the photo is history’s shit-stain.

Do not underestimate the power of the photo. It is there to remind us of our ugliness, pettiness, our scramble to hoist blame on everyone and everything, instead of looking in the mirror. It is a warning that this happened, is happening, and can happen again. In five months, we can change this, and the photo will be a sad reminder that when we scapegoat, look for messianic figures wrapped in a TV-show grift, buy on the cheap, choose the inflicting of pain on enemies rather than leadership or governance, we are left as we are now: in flames, sick and broke.

And so, it has come to pass; our lasting photo of the Trump presidency, which I have named “Psychopath with a Bible”. It’s a powerful, atavistic image of the old, white, rich racist – a dying breed, infested, weak, grasping on some fantasy of the past – that puts a bow on this presidency.

Frame it. Stare at it. Come November, remember it. End it.

Leave a Reply