Alden Graves | Graves Registry: Person, woman, man, camera, TV, nuclear codes, scary

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"Where were we when our neighbors were being dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau? Where were we when every village in Germany had a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried out to their extermination! Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Deaf, dumb, blind!" — Abby Mann, "Judgment at Nuremberg"

What happened in Germany in the 1930s didn't happen overnight. Tyranny prevails in a civilized society in much the same way that ocean waves beating relentlessly on a rocky promontory eventually cause the rocks to crumble and fall into the sea.

But barriers can be put into place along the endangered shoreline. The trick is being aware of the threat before it is too late.

If the comparison of Germany in the 1930s to America in 2020 seems overwrought, I sincerely hope that it is. The sight of federal agents jumping out of unmarked vehicles and whisking away protesters in Portland, Ore. is scarily reminiscent of a particularly terrible time in history. And the president's threat to use similar thug tactics in other predominantly Democratic cities suggests that, while it might seem overwrought, it isn't too far-fetched.

We are nearing the end of Donald Trump's first — and if there is a God in Heaven last — administration. The country is experiencing one of the most deadly pandemics in its history, one that has been exacerbated by the appallingly negligent initial response to the danger the virus posed. Over 150,000 Americans have died while Mr. Trump and his minions have persisted in a sustained effort to ignore the advice of medical science and sneer at even the most basic steps to protect the public from contracting COVID-19. Wearing masks became a them versus us issue.

One hundred and fifty thousand deaths later, he begrudgingly conceded that maybe wearing a mask isn't such a bad idea.

We have endured scandals involving the Trump University scam, multiple sexual assault charges, race baiting, charges of tax fraud, instances of blatant personal enrichment, a porn star, a steady stream of associates being ushered to jail or shown the back door, foul-mouthed tirades and juvenile name-calling, an economy in tatters, 20,000 verifiable lies, and a daughter whose only attribute seems to be that she can hold up a can of beans and smile.

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Did I forget to mention an impeachment?

These are the attributes of a man who has the gall to ask for a second term. This is the man one of the two major political parties in the United States, to their everlasting shame, wants to inflict upon this nation for another four years.

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One of the more interesting things Mr. Trump had to say in his now infamous interview with Chris Wallace, who is his least enthusiastic supporter on the Fox network, was that sooner or later he was going to be "proven right" about the coronavirus. I know that attempting to follow Mr. Trump's train of thought is like keeping an eye on a single bee in a massive hive, but I assumed he was talking about his baseless reassurances to the public that everything will be just fine really soon. It's an old Trump refrain.

The part of the bizarre statement, conveniently omitted by Trump, is exactly when everything will be alright. Is he really saying that when an effective vaccine is developed, whether it is months or years or even decades in the future, it will prove his bromides of "everything will be fine" to have been right all along? Is he really saying that?

Mr. Trump seems to be very anxious lately about peoples' perception of his mental acuity. At the very least, it speaks to a rudimentary understanding of genuine public concern on his part. The word "cognitive" has popped up almost as often than coronavirus. He seems particularly proud of having recited the words "person, woman, man, camera, TV" in the correct order. Honest.

The president, in typically disjointed Trump-speak, told a Fox News interviewer, "And that's not an easy question." (It really isn't a question at all, but I'm nitpicking.) "In other words, they ask you to — they give you five names, and you have to repeat them. And that's OK. If you repeat them out of order, it's OK, but you know, it's not as good. I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I'm cognitively there."

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Cognitively where? He still can't string five words together to make a coherent sentence.

A final thought: As much as I love the movies, I tend not to invest much interest in the lives of famous actors. Generally, they are not terrific role models. The life of Marilyn Monroe has inspired endless debates and countless books, most of them focused upon the personal demons that plagued the troubled actress until her "probable suicide" in 1962 at the age of 36. Writers from Norman Mailer to Monroe herself have offered thousands of pages of expository information in futile attempts to unlock the mysteries that both drove and ultimately destroyed her.

I think that director George Cukor, who worked with the actress on two films, sadly had the best explanation and it only amounts to one short sentence: "There's been a lot written about Marilyn Monroe, and there may be an exact psychiatric term for what was wrong with her, I don't know — but truth to tell, I think she was quite mad."

I wonder in the years and decades to come when writers expend reams and reams of paper trying to make sense of the anomaly that was Donald Trump, if the most perceptive observation will be the same one that Cukor concluded about Marilyn.

I know it has crossed my mind a number of times.

Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Banner.


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