On a day when billions of people around the world pinched themselves, took a deep breath- and possibly a shot of vodka- and came to terms with the realisation that Donald Trump now has the nuclear codes, any slight comic relief we could find was embraced like a new born baby- just not one at Trump rally obviously. The memes of Michelle Obama’s reaction once the newly sworn in President gave a speech that flitted between jingoistic, abrasive, threatening, insulting and idiotic, have already gone viral on social media. The now former First Lady struggling to hide her contempt for a man she labelled “disgraceful” only months ago, was one of the funnier moments in a day of despair for many of us.
If we had any misconceptions that Trump would suddenly amaze us all by reaching out to those who didn’t vote for him – the majority of Americans- or those who he’d been accused of neglecting- anyone not white and middle class- it didn’t take long for him to dispel such idiotic notions. The newly sworn in President reminded the world and the watching Obamas that America was broken and needed rebuilding, that jobs had gone, factories had closed and it was all down to the political establishment who cared only about themselves.
Watching a billionaire, who admitted to not paying taxes, who claimed his dad “only” gave him a million dollars to start up his business, a man who’d been declared bankrupt six times, declaring he was going to take the country ‘back’ from the elite, as the former President – a man more or less raised by a single parent, a man who’d struggled against the odds to rise to the highest office – looked on, would have been comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Obama could only stand and watch as Trump painted a picture of America that had been neglected by its leaders, whose citizens were either jobless, impoverished or both, whose students were deprived of knowledge and whose middle classes had seen the wealth ripped from them.
Obama who had inherited a country in the midst of financial disaster and brought it back to prosperity, who had given millions of Americans health care, who’d overseen the capture of Osama Bin Laden, the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, had to listen as Ttump claimed that politicians whose victories hadn’t been for the nation but for themselves, who were all talk and no action, were to become a thing of the past.
As is so often the case when it comes to Trump’s rhetoric, the worst was yet to come as the new President’s dire assessment of America’s current standing was nowhere near as troubling as his plans to improve it. In a speech that would have been at home at a Nuremberg rally, Trump declared his intention to put America First, presumably at the expense of any or all other nations, it didn’t matter the message was clear “America F*ck Yeah!” Everyone else -“F*ck You!”
Trump mentioned other nations, he mentioned ‘brown’ people, he spoke of there being ‘no room for prejudice’ but he may as well not have bothered as it was all barely lip service, a small three second pit stop on the journey of right-wing populism Trump was travelling along.
By the end of his twenty minute diatribe the message was clear- politicians had let the country down, they’d let the nation descend into chaos and deprivation, and Trump was here to rescue it, even going as far as to promise to eradicate Islamic terrorism along the way.
Obama could only look on at such drivel, but as we’ve come to see time and again from a man who embodies much of what is remarkable and decent in all of us, the 44th president acted with a dignity and warmth that is completely alien to the 45th, as is so often the case with Obama, the best was yet to come.
As Trump finished one of the most hateful, divisive and ludicrous speeches of any inauguration and shook hands with the departing president, Obama, for all to see, said “good job” surely an assessment of the delivery rather than the content. As Paul Ryan smiled smugly- a joke in itself, given he’s part of the establishment Trump was criticising and had been forced to go grovelling back to the new president after publicly chastising him only to suffer a severe backlash from Republicans, as Mike Pence feigned tears and Michelle Obama did her best not to roll her eyes, Obama gave his successor a compliment, before setting off into the sunset.
With him went the hopes and dreams of not just millions of Americans but anyone who believed Trump has any interest in building bridges not walls, the era of respect and decency is over, the era of intolerance has begun.