December 9, 2017

Apocalypse When?


The Rider on White Horse (miniature only); the opening of the First Seal. St. John, and the Rider on the White Horse represented as Christ with a sword and his followers. Revelation 6:1-2. Image taken from Apocalypse. Originally published/produced in England, early 14th century, held and digitized by the British Library.  / Wikimedia Commons


Seriously, in the months to come, all bets are off.


By Todd Gitlin / 12.08.2017


When humor goes apocalyptic, how serious is the situation? Grave. This, for example, from The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz: “Broad Majority of Americans Support Moving Trump to Jerusalem.”

But seriously, who does not quaver a bit as, day by day, hour by hour, a partly updated Book of Revelation is tweeted out from the inner sanctum of viciousness into a thunderstruck world chapter by chapter, verse by verse? As fires rage through Bel-Air, as great eruptions roar in Bali, as gold is melted down into Bitcoin, as dreams expire and Palestinians riot, as the Trump of Trumps curses the FBI and embraces the serial pedophile poised to place his stamp on Alabama, do you not hear the rumble of thunder as the throne of God is shoved into place in Mar-A-Lago?

As battalions of angels bear sickles and plagues, as trumpets herald “fire and fury” over a no-longer-pacific sea of glass; as the #MeToos of Babylon rise up against the pussy-grabber-in-chief and legions of other implacable all-hands bosses; as whole nations slurp up the wine of wrath and the blood of saints and prophets and vomit forth the news of the end of time — do we not hear the galloping hoofbeats of the great white horse bearing the Word of God, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, on his way to bring forth a new heaven and a new earth, and the end of all time and the end of all night?

“I am your voice! I alone can fix it!”

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Dec. 6, 2017. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

When, to quote the Book of John (Cleese), the “profanity” of Sean Hannity, “oozing with vanity,” steps forward to declare that Robert Mueller is “a disgrace to the American justice system” and that his team is “corrupt, abusively biased and political” — stay with that “corrupt” for a moment — while, over on the so-called moderate side of the Republican Party, Sen. Charles Grassley calls Mueller an “honorable person” whose investigation should be allowed to “play out” — is it not time to think about how to shore up the collective nerve to address scenarios never contemplated by St. John of Patmos?

Consider, for example, that 28 state legislatures have now endorsed the call for a Constitutional Convention which, under Article V of the 1787 version falls six states short — that’s six — of the two-thirds which were empowered by the original edition to ask Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments. The manner by which delegates to said convention would be chosen is unspecified. The range of subjects on which the convention may opine is unspecified. In 1787 it must have seemed a long shot that anyone would bother trying to overhaul the entire Constitution for what another 18th-century document called “light and transient causes.”

True, even if six more states jump aboard, the stagecoach of apocalypse would still come up short a couple of horsemen, since even if a convention decides to propose a balanced budget amendment (allowing for exceptions when Congress deems it essential to secure offshore tax havens for job creators), or, say, enshrining the Ten Commandments as an amendment, or appointing an inquisitor for life or declaring the Trump International Hotel in Washington to be a national park, such proposals only become amendments “when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.” So for some years to come, 13 states might find it within their power to win the hearts of originalists and keep the 1787 Constitution more or less intact.

But enough of such fancies. Here’s a more plausible scenario for apocalypse: Suppose that Robert Mueller charges members of the royal family, up to or including the conspirator-in-chief, with financial crimes (owing to their decades-long use of ill-gotten gains to bail out their bankrupt businesses courtesy of the Russian kleptocracy) and any number of instances of obstruction of justice? Suppose that, in one year, when Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives, they charge the conspirator-in-chief with high crimes and misdemeanors? Suppose that even the Senate goes Democratic?

Suppose that the marshals show up at the White House, Mar-A-Lago and Trump Tower to deliver their subpoenas. Suppose that Trump summons the Secret Service to form a protective phalanx. Suppose that militias armed with automatic rifles show up to help.

Suppose that Trump fires Mueller, whereupon New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman proceeds to take up the chunk of the Trump family charges that pertain to crimes alleged to have been committed in the Empire State. Does the Secret Service surround him in this case?

Will the New York unit of the National Guard show up, proclaiming (accurately) that the president is not their commander in chief?

Does Trump order Gen. Mattis to call up the 82nd Airborne Division to protect him? Does chief of staff John Kelly countermand the order? And then what?

How shall we address the real world when it mocks what we quaintly used to call normality? First, by recognizing that all bets are off. Some residues of democracy still stand against plutocracy, white supremacy and toxic male power and the institutions of law have, to date, withstood some of the White House depredations, but many are the tests to which they have not yet been subjected as the mad autocrat-in-chief digs deeper into his bunker.

Lords of misrule are in the saddle. Pundits, look to your wild side. The Jefferson Airplane were right in 1967, but it took 50 years to plumb the full depth of their wisdom: “Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.” It was two years later that the attorney general of the United States, John Mitchell, declared upon taking over the Justice Department that he was “first and foremost a law-enforcement officer,” later adding: “This country is going so far to the right you won’t recognize it.”

But for an honest security guard, an honest judge and Richard Nixon’s White House taping system, Mitchell would have been proved right decades ago. Now here we are in Donald Trump’s America, labyrinth after labyrinth.

Citizens, expect the unexpected. Fasten your seatbelts. Take action.


Originally published by BillMoyers.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

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