I try not to say “I told you so,” but in the light of recent events, I’ll indulge myself.
When Donald J. Trump was three weeks away from winning the 2016 election, something most people I knew believed to be impossible, I knew he was going to win. I’m no political guru, but I learned over the course of my career in psychiatry how to read between the lines and see past the obvious to what lay beneath the surface of things. The fact was that the very fact that Trump was the nominee was merely a symptom of the tragedy that had been unfolding in America for decades and, despite the confirmation of Biden yesterday, continues to go on. George Orwell really has the bragging rights to having told us so, but what follows is an article I published in the Albany Times Union on Oct. 17, 2016. The newspaper saw fit to change the title to “Liberty on the precipice,” but I had originally titled it “The Death of Lady Liberty.” You may have read this before. Read it again and you may see it in a new light.
It is too horrific a sight, yet I cannot wrest my eyes from the spectacle. As though through the fog of an opium dream, I watch as Lady Liberty drops her torch into the roiling Hudson, rolls up her sleeve and applies a tourniquet above the elbow. She is about to pick up a syringe, the contents of which I cannot discern. The expression on her gaunt features is a odd mix of confusion, hopelessness and grief-tinged rage. Yet I perceive as well the ghostly presence of a self-satisfied smirk. As though she yearns for the damage she is about to inflict on herself.
For over a half century she has been manipulated by electronic media. It has led her to become a gullible consumer. Hypnotized, sedated, she is conditioned to and inured to sensationalism, sleight of hand, misdirection, half truths and outright lies. She feeds on unsubstantiated claims, empty promises, obscenity, violence, jingoistic patriotism, and glorification of the superficial. Her nose has been pushed in a glorified world of privilege the more fortunate have created for themselves at her expense, one that she is told she deserves but despairs of possessing. At this she seethes with rage, lashing out at scapegoats. Immersed in this parallel universe of the present, she cannot recall the past. Indeed, she has never studied it. She has lost the ability to think critically, her deductive reasoning power obliterated by an unreality that has become her new reality. Lusting after the shiny trinkets that are dangled before her, she is unaware that what she truly longs for is a life filled with meaning. No matter. She has never been able to define what such a life might entail.
And now, upon her screens struts a figure, a creation of and a master of the media. A sound-bite embodied. An infomercial incarnate. A purveyor of all that is crass., outrageous, ignorant, narcissistic, hypocritical, ruthless. Like a character in a sit-com he heaps insults upon his rivals, Like a villain in a drama he plots, schemes, double-crosses, double speaks, and deceives. He adopts any disguise that will get him into any place where he may steal anything he desires. Wraith-like, he is ungraspable, untouchable. He is a shape shifter, a charlatan, a manipulator, a flimflam artist par excellence. But the Lady lets all of this pass by. She is in his thrall. So tormented is she by her undefined need. So desperately does she long for the relief her promises.
I watch, helpless as she touches the needle ot her skin. She has but to plunge it into her vein and mainstream a vile potion into her body. God save me! Now I perceive the syringe’s contents. It is the essence of all hatred, envy, greed, prejudice, sanctimonious self-righteousness and intolerance distilled from the darkest recesses of our society and refined in the godless soul of this huckster of hucksters. In horror, I run toward her, but my legs refuse to move. I cry out to her, but no sound emerges from my lips. Oh that I might awaken from this nightmare!
But I am awake and the real nightmare is about to unfold.