Election Day: Save the planet and shut up those bleating Trump supporters

Even 5,000 miles away, I couldn’t take four more years of this. USA Today photo

During this pandemic, every little tweak in my health makes me wonder. Is this morning fatigue the first sign of Covid-19? No. People with Covid can barely walk to the bathroom and need a three-hour nap to recover. Is that lightheadedness a Covid fever? Nope. My temperature at the gym never went over 36.6 (97.9). 

But then last Tuesday I worried. Three straight days of headaches led me to my pharmacy and a check of my blood pressure. I popped a 143/100. That’s odd. I’m retired in Rome and my only stress is getting enough foam in my cappuccino every morning. I’m normally at the tranquillo rate of around 110/70. Tuesday, however, I seriously wondered if Covid’s long tentacles had grabbed me. The pharmacist asked me what could’ve caused it. No, I hadn’t been in a big crowd. I hadn’t gone without a mask. No death in the family. However, I know what I did do that day.

I wrote about Donald Trump.

The Trump effect

I’m getting dangerously worked up over an election in a country where I haven’t lived in nearly seven years and ever want to again. This is the effect of a president so corrupt, so evil, so repulsive — and the cult that follows him — that even 5,000 miles away my blood burns like the forest fires he blames on mismanagement.

Stressing from another country is not easy. As I wrote last Tuesday, we American expats are lucky these days. We are above the fray. We don’t live in the most Covid-ravaged country in the world. We don’t meet brain-dead Trumpeteers more interested in image than substance, not to mention equal rights and democracy. 

We have wonderful lives over here. Saturday I got away from it all with a lovely five-mile walk along Appia Antica, the original road the Ancient Roman armies used to take them to the Adriatic Sea. It was 70 degrees. The sun shined. It wasn’t crowded and those who did walk and cycle along the 2,300-year-old stone road lined with Mediterranean pine trees all wore masks. My girlfriend and I had luscious cannelloni and a half bottle of red wine at an outdoor cafe on the road, one of the prettiest in Europe.

Sunday, with Italy’s restaurants all closing at 6 p.m. every day, Marina and I had lunch outside at Raf, a modern, hip restaurant near the Vatican. My tagliatelle and smoked salmon in sesame seeds made me swoon like Meg Ryan in “Harry Met Sally.” 

Cautiously confident

But Election Day in the U.S. is today and stress is building again. Marina has soldered closed the doors leading to my fifth-floor balcony in case Trump wins. I remain cautiously confident. I think Joe Biden will beat Trump into orange Tang but my worries go beyond that. What loopholes will Trump and his evangelical-leaning Supreme Court find to overturn the results? Will we win enough state senatorial races to flip the Senate?

And how many innocent people will get shot today as their Dear Leader’s loss becomes more inevitable and his call to “Stand back and stand by” is amplified? 

I have a Democrat friend in Colorado who says she’s locking her doors and not coming out all day. She, like 95 million other Americans, voted early. Trump needs to win it in today’s turnout from people who think God exists but a virus that has killed 237,000 Americans does not. Walmart has changed its mind and returned guns to its shelves for sale. The United States today could very well emulate the “shit countries” Trump so gleefully humiliated.

Only the future of the planet is at stake today. Texas Tribune photo

Here is why I want Biden to win in a route that will look like Liverpool versus Southend United: It’s not just saving democracy, stopping Covid’s ravaging path and ending the most racist period of my lifetime.

I want to shut up the Trump supporter.

I’ve been told by people I greatly admire, particularly my hero, Bill Maher, “Hate Trump. Don’t hate the Trump supporter.”

Screw that. Screw the Trump supporter.

No hands across aisle

It says something about a person’s character when they support a man whose list of sleaze, corruption and lies is too long for cyberspace, let alone this blog. I don’t think every Trump supporter is a racist, but racism isn’t a deal breaker for these people and that’s almost as bad. I’m not going to break bread with them. I’m not going to exchange ideas with people who attacked Pres. Obama’s heritage for eight years. Sitting around signing “Kumbaya” with rednecks who think Black Lives Matters is a terrorist organization will not bring the country closer.

For four years I have trimmed my life of the pond scum who cheer for Trump like a herd of seals at feeding time. Because of social media, living 5,000 miles away does not insulate me from the mindless drivel these people spew. On Facebook, email and Twitter the list of people I have blocked or ignored include my best friend of 35 years, two ex-girlfriends, a former high school baseball teammate, a former basketball teammate, a couple classmates, an ex-sportswriting colleague, my former real estate agent and countless drones laughing that I wear a mask every day.

Many have the same reaction when I bring up the biggest effect Trump’s presidency has on my life overseas. I tell them that the U.S. has gone from the most powerful, most respected country in the world to one that people pity. Buddhist monks laugh when I ask them about Trump. Italians say he makes Silvio Berlusconi look like Winston Churchill. An expat I interviewed last week compared the United States’ struggling democracy to that of her adopted country.

The Republic of Georgia.

They don’t care

To all this I read the same response on social media: “I don’t give a shit what some other country thinks of us!” (I edited the various misspelled words.)

That attitude is part of the problem. That jingoism, that bigotry, is what got Trump elected. Four years later, the U.S. has dropped economically, politically and intellectually all over the world. The world’s watchdog has become the world’s rabid mutt.

As The New York Times’ Roger Cohen wrote Thursday, “The presidency and dishonesty have become synonymous. Alliances are founded on trust. When that goes, they begin to dissolve. Hence the talk in European capitals of the need to ‘contain’ the United States, a verb once reserved for the Soviet Union. America, under Trump, has lost the credibility and legitimacy that were cornerstones of its influence.”

I’ve felt that here. I’ve never had anyone overseas hold my government against me personally but the level of respect I once received is nowhere to be found. No longer do people tell me they dream of living in America. Italians no longer ask in wonderment, “Why the hell did you leave the U.S. for this place?” 

It’s indefensible

In this U.S. government, I can defend nothing. In every presidency of my lifetime I found positives. Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam but signed the Civil Rights Act. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace but formed ties with Red China. Ronald Reagan ignored the AIDS epidemic but built a strong economy. Bill Clinton was a lousy husband but sent the unemployment rate to a 30-year low. George W. Bush invaded Iraq but did the most to fight AIDS. 

I’d list Trump’s biggest accomplishment but I’m not one of the 1 percent who got a massive tax break.

The worst day of my nearly seven years in Rome is the night Trump won four years ago. That day I belatedly declined an invite to Democrats Abroad’s watch party/victory party at a nearby restaurant. I decided to celebrate at home alone while watching CNN. Early in the coverage I received a text from Adrian Dater, my old Denver Post colleague and adept political observer. 

He quoted a learned pollster who had just announced that Trump is going to win.

He was right

As Hillary Clinton’s chances slowly slipped away, I went to bed dreading the worst, as if knowing an asteroid was headed to earth and I might not wake up. But I did wake up — to a TV screen filled with fat, boring-looking white people celebrating wildly in a ballroom.

The next four years were worse than my biggest nightmares of a Trump  presidency. The most blatant racism since the early 1960s. Rollbacks of environmental controls. Rigging elections with foreign governments. Daily lies. Now a pandemic that has rolled through the U.S. like Trump in a buffet line and no plan to fight it.

Caligula ruled the Roman Empire from 37-41 AD.
Caligula ruled the Roman Empire from 37-41 AD. The Telegraph photo

All that’s on the line tonight is tens of thousands of lives, the American economy and our standing in the world. That’s all. 

Living here in Rome, I have recently thought about Caligula, considered by many as the worst emperor of the Roman Empire. His similarities to Trump are scarily similar. Caligula also led for four years, from 37-41 A.D. He financed his life through legalized looting and stopped anyone who stood in his way (by murder, not firings). He called himself a god and his palace was known as a brothel to feed his locomotive libido. After Caligula presided over an extended period of famine and then bankruptcy, he was murdered.

Today is Donald Trump’s judgment day. Let the American people judge Trump as the Ancient Romans judged Caligula. May Trump go down as the worst human being ever to serve as president, as a man who put his onion-skinned ego ahead of human lives. 

It is time for the planet’s blood pressure to return to normal.