by Roxanne Tellier
It is believed that the first president to use the term “my fellow Americans” was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his Inaugural Address of 1933.
That was noteworthy, because, prior to that address, the more common way to refer to the people on Inauguration Day was as ‘my countrymen,’ or ‘my fellow citizens.’ This was the first time a president had opted to include not just all of those present, but to recognize that all gathered there, or around their radios, were one people, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Every president since has managed to work the phrase into their speeches. It’s catchy, clickbait, if you will, guaranteed to confer the mantle of respectability to their words, even if their words were suspect or manipulative, as has often been the case.
Most of trump’s speeches, the official, archival version at least, began with the phrase. But, as a rule, those first three words put the lie to everything that came after, because if there was one thing trump specialized in, it was in dividing Americans. By the time he actually left the White House, he’d divided it so completely that there were only a handful of elected Republicans whom he considered the ‘real thing.’ The rest, those who disagreed with him, he dismissed as RINOs. (Republican in Name Only)
This Saturday, the Democrats were able to pass a $1.9 trillion, comprehensive American Rescue Plan, that will hopefully begin to dig the nation out from under a disastrous year of disease and economic mayhem. The passing was never going to be a ‘done deal’ under any circumstances, but considering that every Democrat had voted to pass a much lighter version of the plan the year before, under Republican leadership, it was hoped that Republicans could show a similar decency in the recognition of the nation’s need, and work to get the funds out to those who needed it, in a timely fashion.
After all, this week marked a full year since most of North America began to shut down, and soon succumbed to the ravages of both a pandemic and an economic downturn.
Do you remember what it was like, in those first few months, when everyone was scared of catching this invisible new virus, and actually considered those working on the ‘front lines’ to be heroes?
Remember how people would come out of their enforced solitude to their porches and balconies around 7 or 7:30 pm every night, and start banging pots and pans to show their appreciation for the hundreds of frontline workers fighting the COVID-19 crisis?
Remember when some companies instituted ‘hazard pay’ for those ‘essential workers’ who had to be at the stores considered essential to our daily lives, masked and gloved, so as to protect themselves and others?
Do you remember when the Canadian government instituted the CERB supplement so that workers who could not work due to COVID had money to pay for food, rent and other essentials?
Remember when people started working from home, and Ontario Hydro actually reduced and capped their rates to give us a break from high costs?
Well, none of that is happening now, either here in Canada or down south in America. We’ve actually had it far better than the US, where more than half a million people have died, and more than 10 million are permanently out of work. In December 2020, 83 million plus Americans were struggling to pay bills or buy food, almost 40 million were facing eviction from their homes, and line ups at food banks around the country stretched for miles.
The American Rescue Plan should bring fresh hope to those suffering the effects of this crisis.
For people who make less than $75K a year, there will be one- time checks of $1400, as well as a supplement of $300 a week to federal unemployment benefits until September 2021.
State, local and tribal governments will share in $350 billion dollars, which means that essential services and workers, like police and firefighters, will be able to avoid job cuts. Schools will receive $130 billion, to allow safe re-entry for students, and to provide help with payments for food and rent for these institutions.
And most importantly for the future of the nation, the Plan could cut child poverty in half by the end of this year with its expansion of child tax credits, childcare subsidies and an expansion of food assistance.
Imagine that! Imagine that a nation’s children could be given a hand up and out of poverty, a true step to making a nation great in the right way – by allowing the next generation to grow up healthy and strong!
And imagine how empty and ugly a soul you’d have to have to decide that you couldn’t vote for that to happen, because it might make the new guy look better than your old guy.
My friend Lauren B. Davis recently put up an excerpt from a new book she’s written that is coming out in the fall, from Dundurn Press, titled Even So. That snippet contained a paragraph that struck me as a perfect allegory for the inexplicable fury that so many trump followers are displaying in reaction to the help that President Biden is trying to give their ‘fellow Americans’ in his Plan.
“Eileen did not tell Caroline about the time she was twelve, babysitting her little two-year-old cousin, and when the child would not stop crying Eileen had slapped him, hard, across the mouth. Oh, that terrible moment when, in shock, he’d stopped crying, his mouth and eyes wide and wild, and then, a wrenching moment later, the screaming had begun. Crying of an entirely different order, a wordless protest to the world’s cruelty and injustice and horror, having been betrayed by love for the first time. She’d done that, destroyed a child’s innocence, just like that, as her own had been destroyed by her mother with a similar slap. “(laurenbdavis.com/books/even-so/)
“a wordless protest to the world’s cruelty and injustice and horror, having been betrayed by love for the first time.”
The vehemence and rage exhibited by the trumpCult, every day since the loss of the November election, right up to the violent ransacking of the Capitol on January 6th, fairly reeks of this sort of juvenile trauma. Having pinned every bit of themselves to the Golden Heifer, some cannot and will not accept trump’s loss of the presidency. The loss feels cruel and inhumane, and can only be countered by a furious lashing out at those denying them what they crave, reminiscent of the other-directed violence of the child soldiers of third world dictatorships.
For many, their 2016 vote for trump was a vote for a new America, one where every one could become rich beyond their wildest dreams, just by getting rid of those pesky minorities and laws that limited the wet dreams of venture capitalists and billionaires. The Trumpian future had no limits, no brakes, no guardrails. Everyone gets a pussy to grab, they rejoiced!
Even as those that pinned their hopes to this glittering star began to notice the glitter falling from the gilt, they kept their spirits buoyed by parroting the slick excuses, lies, and alternate realities that the equally tanned and gilded talking heads of his administration and of FOX News ranted into their ears.
While it might have gotten just a little harder to believe in that red hat, as the years went by, and the country devolved into angry factions, the faithful really hadn’t anywhere else to go, emotionally. They’d pinned it all to a pipe dream, rubbed on the snake oil, drank the metaphorical Kool-Aid. There was nowhere to go but ….
… to the Capitol, on January 6th. Spurred on by the acolytes of the Mango Mussolini and his spawn, egged into violence by Giuliani and the My Pillow Guy, fist pumped into a belief in their own righteousness, certain only that their Lord and Savior had invited them into the hallowed halls, and that little things like laws, security guards, doors, or windows weren’t gonna keep them from following his injunctions to ‘stop the steal!’ and to heed his admonishments of Pence’s lack of courage in failing to overturn the election by building a gallows on which they could hang the traitor to the cause.
Dozens of those who heeded trump’s clarion call to sedition are now behind bars. They’re facing stiff penalties, but for many, even worse is the sad truth, that trump didn’t save them from the repercussions of their acts, and doesn’t seem to care that they gladly followed him, right off the cliff, just as he’d hoped they would. They still believe that they are the ‘true patriots,’ since they contend that trump actually won the election, thus making Biden an illegitimate president, to whom they owe no loyalty.
The beliefs of a deluded few would be easy to disregard, were it not for the awful truth; 74 million Americans voted for trump in November 2020. That’s 10 million more votes than he’d received in 2016, an extraordinary jump in just four years, and unprecedented, in a country that doesn’t regard voting as much of a sacred duty at all.
While many of those voters were frightened enough by the events of January 6th to finally become disenchanted and disillusioned by trump’s thirst for power at any price, he’s still a strong force in the Republican party, and shows no sign of going away quietly.
Which leads to the biggest problem facing America today.
The Democrats can create and implement plans and actions to heal the country through vaccines and financial supplements, but there’s no antidote for the horrendous rift created by trump and his cronies, who successfully carved up the country into hostile factions, and continue to sow seeds of outrage and anger against the duly elected government.
There’ll be no real civil relief until trump and his Republican allies renounce and rebuke the Big Lie, that the election was stolen from him, through fraudulent voting and accounting, and that he, not Joe Biden, is the legitimate president.
The country will remain split in half as long as the trump faction continue to insist on their ‘alternative truth.’ Trump’s anti-democratic actions, will inevitably double down on an anti-democratic agenda that can only and inevitably end in a civil war…
… and the possibility of no future president being able to truthfully address the American people as his ‘fellow Americans.’