Farewell to a Monster

As I sit down to write this final column of the Trump presidency, it strikes me how exhausted and emotional those years have left me.

In the more than five years since I first turned to then-candidate Trump, I have reported a moral and political catastrophe of almost unimaginable proportions that, as we saw on January 6, the U.S. executive branch -Government has been captured by gangsters and wannabe fascists. We have seen the advancement of mob politics and the promotion of deadly conspiracy theories. We have seen shameless, unforgivable demagogy and sycophancy. And we saw the perfection of a Big Lie policy that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels would have understood all too well.

During the 2016 primaries and rallies, I interviewed Trump supporters who advocated the execution of Muslim Americans. A few years later, it was revealed that Trump wanted to shoot migrants in the legs as they tried to enter the United States and wanted alligator-filled moats on the southern border. How can I explain these “ideas” from the early half of the century to these grandchildren or great-grandchildren in my old age? How do I declare a president who calls a deadly white supremacist mob adorned with a series of Confederate, neo-Nazi and contemporary fascist flags and insignia against Congress? How do I declare a president who whipped up armed vigilantes to confront state governments trying to take public health measures to contain the deadliest pandemic in more than a century? How am I going to explain a president who wanted to condemn the military against racial justice protesters and who glorified the police shooting of journalists covering these protests? How am I going to explain a president who tweeted about nuclear threats in regimes he considered his enemies, who mocked democratically elected leaders around the world, and went out of their way to face some of the most notorious autocrats in the world?

I hope my soul will at some point recover from this agonizing, humiliated political moment – but it will be a long road to recovery. In all honesty, what has developed in America since 2016 has deeply drawn me and in a way that I have not yet fully articulated myself, it has shaken my faith in humanity to the core to generally do the right thing.

I say this to not get the focus on myself and not to imply that my experiences in the Trump era are extraordinary. On the contrary, I suspect tens of millions of Americans – and countless others around the world – feel the same way. We can all breathe out now, after holding our breath for four long years. But we already know that the damage will be great.

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