Whether or not the 2020 election is actually done and over—and with the specter that Trump will throw a few more major retributive tantrums—we should try to view the debacle of the past four years as a learning experience. If we can't grow from the chaos, indecision and outright nastiness, we, ourselves, are the failures. Here are a few of those lessons:
1. In America, there are far more voters than brains. Why should this be a surprise? When key information is in the hands of a forked-tongue serial liar and his favored media outlets, it's extremely easy for the intellectually lazy to abdicate all responsibility for truth. The fact is, Donald has done the uneducated and ill-informed the greatest service, dramatically reducing the knowledge-seeking workload for the masses. He's acted as his own Rush Limbaugh in designating himself as the only necessary source of information. This problem isn't just about laziness; it takes substantial effort and time to ferret out the facts.
2. If citizens believe a candidate can help them personally, they will vote for a slime-in-a-skin. All autocrats do it—play on society's fears and make promises of redemption and salvation to a frightened populace looking for a hero perched on a snow-white stallion. (These people don't live in the U.S.; they live in La-La-Land.)
The tyrant offers the same hope: The world is out to get you, and I am the one who can save your vulnerable little ass. Except for our truly unlucky quarter-million compatriots who have died of COVID, the majority of Americans thankfully still have their asses.
3. Any conspiracy theory finds believers willing to re-tweet, ad infinitum, baseless, debunked allegations. A good number of Americans should be indexed in the Audubon bird book. After all, what other creatures in our fascinating world rely on something as mindless as twittering among the internet trees? Somewhere along the way, evolution failed us; the amazing gift of complex language doesn't seem to have distracted Americans from responding to chirps and wordless songs—ones with pleasing sounds but no intelligible message.
4. When they pull out a Bible, take cover. Few can unsee the image of President Trump holding up a stolen Motel 6 Bible in front of a DC church after clearing peaceful demonstrators using rubber bullets and tear gas shot at point-blank range. The wise saying about how we recognize the goodness of a man by his works flew out the window because Donald has a "Jesus Loves Me" tattoo on his right buttock.
Whether we follow the tenants of the Bible, Koran, Talmud, Sutras or Vedas, religious texts only remind us of what we should be—not who we are. Holding up a Bible at a protest doesn't make Trump a Christian scholar. It doesn't make him a Christian at all. Trump's charade might even be punishable as a crime; the Federal Trade Commission could have prosecuted it as a matter of "false and misleading labeling."
5. Mail-in ballots give a failing candidate a reason to raise funds for "legal defense." If you look into the advent and progression of the mail-in ballot, you find that, voila, it isn't some sinister ploy the Democrats came up with. Additionally, the president has shown his support of this convenience before, and this is not the first time he has exercised his voting rights by mail. Mail-in, it seems, is only a sin if you're not voting for the half-ton weasel with the questionable Coppertone tan.
6. Lying breaks one of the Ten Commandments, but if the lies are really entertaining, liars think they get a pass. Really, folks; that might seem like sacrilege, but even God enjoys a laugh, now and then—and, occasionally, the purging effect of a really good cry. Something tells me that a good human drama beats even the best sitcoms, and there have been few days in the past four years when nothing shocking happened.
7. Ignorance may be bliss, but purposely ignoring dozens of eyewitness reports takes dedication. We all live in our own information bubbles—largely cultivated by the algorithmic science that rules the advertising and social media. But discerning the truth is an elusive goal. However, it's not impossible. Every American—and, for that matter, every citizen of our world—needs to put more effort into discriminating between fact and fiction.
Well, there it is in a nutshell—the human errors that have led to four years of chaos and division. The process of learning can help us all avoid more threats to America and its democracy. It is our job to learn from our mistakes.
The author is a novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.