It has become increasingly difficult to say anything new or illuminating about the predicament that the United States — and the entire world — has gotten itself into with the election of Donald Trump. With each new calamity, it seems the worst of Trump’s incompetent administration might pass. Surely, after a high-ranking official resigns amidst controversy around communication with Russia, for example, the people in charge would take a second to level set. No. Instead they double down on a disastrous and ultimately racist immigration order that no one needed. They re-instate the use of private prisons, wholly ignoring the well-documented issues with the practice. They undo protections for transgender children, again, for no other reason than a show of force.
Lately, I’ve been reading about the lead up to the Civil War. The question of whether or not states should secede lingered in the public consciousness for years before any blood was shed. I often fear we’ve entered a similar moment in American life. This country has certainly seen absurd, racist, and ridiculous presidents in the past, but none of this magnitude, and none at such a perilous moment. As technological advances push Trump’s base of white working-class people further into the realm of obsolescence, and as Trump continues to manipulate and distort the very nature of reality, it is difficult to imagine a scenario for this country in the next decade that doesn’t result in violence. Already, in Kansas, a Trump supporter shot and killed an Indian-American in a bar while yelling “get out of my country.”
The divisions that Trump relies on — racial, ideological, political — serve only to bolster the man himself. Trump does not care about the fears of people in Middle America. He only cares about how he can harness them to his advantage. It’s why he offers so few specifics in his public comments. When he told supporters at a rally this week that Sweden “took in large numbers,” they knew he was talking about refugees. When he told the boldfaced lie that Sweden was “having problems like they never thought possible,” he knew that his base would fill in the blanks, true or not. For a population of people growing unsettled by the demographic changes happening in the country, it’s exactly what they want to hear.
This week, Trump’s team promised to provide “evidence” that the seven nations listed in his controversial travel ban are indeed supplying terrorists. This, despite the growing health crisis among refugees. There have also been reports of escalated ICE raids in communities around the country. Passengers leaving a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York were asked to “show their papers” as they exited the plane. Now more than any moment in recent history, it seems, cultural divisions are a defining element of our politics.
The optimist in me hopes that there is something out there to bring people together. I also like to think that food is universal. This week, try making this baklava recipe from The New York Times from one of the countries Trump would like us to believe is full of homicidal maniacs with no semblance of humanity. When you’re done, maybe help them out, too.