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Ironically, "Make America Great Again" will mark the end of American Exceptionalism. 


President Obama gave a press conference at the White House on Monday, November 14, before leaving for a series of state visits overseas. His intelligence and grasp of the minute details of governance only highlighted the fact that Donald Trump is going to look like a complete buffoon at his first news conference. Maybe he'll get impeached for mental incompetence. 

Growing up in the years following World War II, one of the persistent questions that was always just below the surface was, "How could good people allow the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust to happen?" Well, now we know. There's not a lot you can do to stop it. Not everyone is enlightened, and sometimes the mob underbelly wins. I hate to sound defeatist, but all I can come up with is that Germany survived it. It took a generation or two, but Germany's still here, and better than ever. Better than us, in terms of education at least. It's gonna suck. People are going to die. People have already died. From the Emanuel 9 to the 49 at the Pulse nightclub, and all the black men killed by the police in between. Hopefully it won't be six million, but make no mistake, this is exactly how it happened before. Hitler was popularly elected. It is only a matter of time before a picture leaks of a Confederate battle flag being displayed at the White House. Steve Bannon may not survive the scrutiny, but there are going to be plenty of people who would like to mark their territory. 

I can't even. With a Republican president and the Republicans in control of both the Senate and House, they are going to have a free-for-all and enact all the batshit extremist policies they have been wanting to enact for decades. Already Trump has appointed a climate-change denier as head of the EPA. It's just going to be a mess. The only hope is that even Republicans will see how crazy it is and we'll elect a Democrat in 2020. I don't even want to talk about who right now. That's what got us in trouble this time, having a presumptive nominee for eight years. Let's see who does the best job in congress pushing back against the madness, and nominate her. 

Ironically, "Make America Great Again" will mark the end of American Exceptionalism. We will cease to be the leader of the world. Our universities will probably begin to suffer as the best students from around the world (who, admit it, are the best students at our research universities) will be afraid to come here. Our leadership vacuum will lead to political instability around the world to the extent that some other nation is going to have to step in and be the voice of reason. The scary thing is, policy and administration discord aside, our military is still wrapped around the globe like no other country's. What do we do with that? 

I woke up again this morning just about ready to smile because I'm awesome and I live in an awesome town and have an awesome job and have awesome friends like you, but that all lasted for about 15 nanoseconds before I reminded myself that I now live under a fascist regime that isn't going anywhere for at least four years. Now I know how intellectuals in Nazi Germany felt. Resigned and grateful that they were not Jewish (those who were not Jewish). I'm a white male. I'll be fine. And Jews will probably be fine this time around as well. But Muslims and blacks are rightfully scared for their lives. There is going to be a new, American Kristallnacht in our future. And it will go down in history. And America will not be the same. America is already not the same. Rachel Maddow said it best on the night of the election: "If you're a Muslim-American right now, I think that tonight has to feel not just like a seismic political event but like a seismic event about what America means."  

JFK famously said, "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war." That is the United States that I grew up in. I took it for granted that we were the good in the world. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney negated that. The other thing you could always say about the United States--what Rachel is talking about when she refers to "what America means"--is that we were open to immigrants. America wasn't so much a place as an idea: the idea of freedom. We no longer represent that idea. We're just a bunch of pigs, and now we have a pig for our president. 

I'm just going to try to continue to be nice to the people I interact with daily. Beyond that, I don't think there's a whole lot I can do. The forces of history are too strong. 

Ned Hartley

Ned Hartley is an independent scholar, writer and musician living in Staunton, Virginia. He was educated at the University of Virginia.
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