Responsibility after Trump

Responsibility after Trump

11/14/20, Meadowbrook, Brighton, NY [Photo: David Kramer]

by George Cassidy Payne

I was texting with my sister the other day, and President Trump was set to make a public announcement for the first time since he lost the election. It was the longest stretch of silence in his entire presidency, and we were both anxious for word from the leader of the free world who ordinarily can’t shut up. Would he finally concede, she asked?

I didn’t need to turn on the television or open up CNN on my phone to know that he wouldn’t. I wrote back: it may not be physically possible for him to concede. I can’t think of a single occasion when he said that he was sorry. Nor can I think of a single instance when he acknowledged failure. It could be a symptom of his malignant narcissism or a total commitment to the philosophy of positive thinking. If you never admit defeat, you cannot lose. Either way, he is a man who has abandoned self-doubt as a virtue and sees no utility whatsoever in embracing loss. Agree with it or not, it’s his playbook and he isn’t about to throw it in the fire now.

11/14/20, Meadowbrook, Brighton, NY [Photo: David Kramer] The Biden household next to the Trump household.

Psychology aside, if we are being honest with ourselves, the work for all of us has really just begun. For half the country, Trump was the great leader who would take it all on. To the other half, he represented a scapegoat for every problem in America. Both of these positions are irrational. Trump has never been the source of America’s problems. Nor has he ever been capable of being an answer to them. He is a man. Not a superhero and not a demon. A mere man who, in a short while, will go back to being just another citizen like you and me.

I can go further and say that every challenge that has existed in America preceded Donald Trump’s presidency: Human rights. Racial justice. Health care inequities. Police-community relations. Religious liberty. Global warming. Rabid partisanship. Foreign and domestic extremism. Crumbling infrastructure. Runaway student loan debt. Crippling rural poverty. Drug addiction. Misogyny. You name it. Under President Obama, more people were deported from the United States than under Trump. Ferguson happened under Obama’s watch. The economy imploded under Bush in 2008, and our civil rights were shredded in the Patriot Act. NAFTA was pushed through by Clinton, not Trump. And after he leaves office in January 2021, these problems and their legacies will remain. Even COVID, which struck while Trump was at the helm, would not have been so devastating if there was not such staunch anti-intellectualism and mistrust of science embedded in the American mind. These are forces that have existed in this country for a long time. Trump merely saw his opportunity and capitalized on them.

11/14/20, Meadowbrook, Brighton, NY [Photo: David Kramer]

As I see it, it’s just us from here on. You and me, my fellow American. We are in this together, whether we like it or not. There is no superman to rest our hopes in or to take away the problems with a barrage of false promises and tweets. But that means there is no more scapegoat to pin our troubles on either. For those who have suffered from Trump Derangement Syndrome, his sudden demise will come as a rude awakening. For nothing has stopped people on both the left and right from getting things done more than using Trump as an excuse to do nothing but complain.

11/14/20, Meadowbrook, Brighton, NY [Photo: David Kramer]

As I stated, the problems have always been the same. But now we have to accept total responsibility for them: the climate, race relations, national security, social cohesion, and this pandemic. Now it is time to get down to the basics of solving our own problems. No more escape from freedom. No more leaving it up to the snake. No more blaming it on Trump or looking for Trump to place the blame on others. We are all blameworthy now. The upside is that we are also in a position to be praiseworthy. But only if we are ready to assume the challenge of total responsibility — for our own lives and for the future of our nation.


UPDATE: A shortened version of the essay appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, SPEAKING OUT section, Sunday, 11/22/20.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, SPEAKING OUT, Sunday, 11/22/20. 

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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