With the solemnity that characterizes him, the president announced that if he did not win Tuesday’s elections, it would be the death of the American Constitution, that is, the death of the dream of his illustrious ancestor.
Here at Gettysburg, site of the most definitive and bloodiest battle of America’s Civil War, here at Gettysburg Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous speechHere in this historic land one is inclined to contemplate, reflect, compare.
If Lincoln’s Union Army had not defeated the rebellious Confederates, Washington might have fallen, slavery might have lasted many more years in Mississippi, Alabama, and the other southern states. But the forces of Lincoln won and before the graves of the dead the winner came up with words that echo through the ages.
“Let us firmly resolve here that these dead will not have given their lives in vain. May this nation, God willing, will have a new birth of freedom. And that the government of the people, by the people and for the people will not disappear from the Earth ”. I see these words on a monument surrounded by small white stones, memories each of them of the thousands of unknown soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg. I look at the stones, I read the words and I am moved, until a more recent memory invades me.
24 hours ago I was in the neighboring city of Lancaster listening to a speech by Donald Trump, current Lincoln heir as president of the United States and leader of the Republican party. He did not forget his illustrious ancestor.
Trump declared, apparently seriously, that he would be the greatest president in the history of the United States had it not been for that tall hat that Lincoln always wore. With the solemnity that characterizes him, Trump announced that if he did not win the elections next Tuesday, if the “liar”, “corrupt” Joseph Biden won them, it would be the death of the American Constitution, ie the death of Lincoln’s dream.
At Gettysburg in November 1863 Lincoln spoke for two minutes; in Lancaster Trump spoke for 85 minutes yesterday. Lincoln tried to build bridges, he appealed to the best feelings of the people, to what in another speech he would call “the best angels of our nature; Trump dug trenches, denigrated Biden and other political rivals and appealed to the lower instincts of his public. Lincoln defended the dignity of all equally, regardless of race; Trump mentioned in his speech Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, with disdain and in order to provoke disdain. It worked. There was no more deafening boo among the 15,000 worshipers present than when they heard the names of Harris and Obama, both black.
“Lock them up! Lock them up! ” “Lock them up, lock them up!” they yelled. “Yeah that, criminals,” Trump agreed. “I am the only thing that separates you from chaos.”
After 85 minutes of verbal diarrhea, I spoke with some specimens of homo trumpens. One, a big man, wore a T-shirt that read, “Proud to be deplorable” —an allusion to what Hillary Clinton said four years ago about Trump voters. Another, a skinny young man, wore one that read, “Trump because… fuck feelings.” Trump because … fuck the feelings. An older woman, more discreet herself, had a cap with the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
What united them? They idolized Trump. Why? Because he embodied like nobody else, they explained to me, the war against the “liberals”, those in the Hispanic world we call “the progressives”, those who posture with “feelings”, those who despise them, the deplorable, they reject timeless American values, those of fifty years ago, when women stayed home and gays were fucking fags.
It was summed up by a columnist I read this week. “People will vote for Trump not because he offers them a better life but because it gives them a gigantic opportunity to say ‘fuck it’ to the media, to academics, to Hollywood, to the whole of the well-thinking world ”.
My thesis was reconfirmed by another person I spoke to after Trump’s speech, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, a bitter guy who looked at me suspiciously, perhaps smelling that I with my effeminate British diction could well be a liberal enemy. “I’ll be with Trump to the death,” he growled at me. Why? “Because he hates political correctness as much as I do, or more.”
My travel companion Lenny, not so progressive but fiercely anti-Trump, overheard my conversations with the faithful but kept quiet. Then he told me, “How sad these people make me! How they are fooled by a guy who has no feelings for them! ” Maybe because they are not my compatriots, they left me frozen. I think rather of the magnificently caustic journalist of the last century, HL Mencken, whip of democracy. In one of his essays he speaks of the “deceptions” that arise from “the frenzied emotion”, from the “potpourri of prejudices known, in democracy, as public opinion”.
I see this country, America, founded on the noble ideals of Lincoln, I see what it has become 150 years later, and I have to make an effort to resist heretical, Menckenian thoughts. Trump wins next week and I don’t know if I’ll be the only one to start wondering if this “Government of the people by the people” It turned out to be as brilliant an idea as so many of us had thought.
Here in Gettysburg I spoke today with a 76-year-old lady in charge of a small military museum. Very sweet she, she confessed to me that she was also going to vote for Trump. But I was terrified. He feared that if Trump won there would be a civil war. Others fear there will be if Trump loses. According to a poll this week, 61 percent of the US population shares the fear of the lady. According to the New York Times records are being broken for the purchase of weapons. I dont know. I have a hard time believing it. But in the crazy Trump era, nothing can be ruled out. Violence, riots: who knows? Let’s see if we will end up seeing his crazy speeches as announced funeral prayers.