Opinion

Donald Trump’s America

I don’t want to live in Donald Trump’s America. It’s been less than 200 days into his presidency and I’m starting to hate what this country is becoming. It isn’t an America or a United States I grew up believing in. 

My great-great-grandfather came to this country from Ireland, married an Ohio girl who gave him a daughter — my great-grandmother — before joining the Union Army to kill the sort of peckerwoods that are in power in the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. He happened to be at one of the greater moments in American history; a little engagement in Chattanooga, Tenn., called Missionary Ridge. In it, the Union Army charged uphill without orders and swept the peckerwoods off the ridge. He didn’t reach the top himself, getting wounded in the assault.

Still, it’s the idea that appeals to me. A Confederate bullet in the ankle and a shortened life of hobbling about on one good leg was the price he paid for what he believed in. His people were Abolitionists; their cause was certainly worth the price of admission.

My great-grandfather was a Progressive in the Vermont Legislature. Progressives fought for decent wages, decent working hours, fair food prices for farmers and consumers; things that really made America great.

I remember seeing images of people here in the Valley with framed pictures on the walls of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR gave us the New Deal, the CCC, the WPA and a host of other programs. Donald Trump gives nothing and promises little more than empty hot air.

I’m starting to despise Trump’s vision of Great America. It’s a huckster’s shill, the carnival barker’s call to a raree-show that’s always a crashing disappointment. With a cabinet full of billionaire speculators and their lapdogs, they’ll make themselves and their counterparts rich beyond the dreams of Croesus. These people take, not give.

The image I had of this country was one where we helped each other succeed. Getting by was just as important as getting ahead, maybe more important. I think I did my part. I wrote millions of dollars into existence as a grant writer, and most of it went into fixing houses, giving low-income residents clean drinking water and safe plumbing systems. Some of it went into water and sewer pipes for municipalities; all of it here in Aroostook County. I barely made enough to make ends meet, but it was worth it. Of the hundreds of homes affected by the projects I helped develop, two people thanked me. For that I’m grateful.

What happened to this country? I thought the idea of it was to help each other, to make something of it together. Was I so wrong?

I imagine we are in an alternate Civil War with Donald Trump leading the charge for the peckerwoods. We’re living in a New Confederacy and they’re winning, just like the old Confederates did in the beginning.  And for every fight they win, we’re poorer for it. Jared Kushner is making money shaking down tenants in his low-income apartments while his wife Ivanka hawks Chinese-made schmatta and the Goldman Sachs gazillionaires rake it in with tax breaks and influence peddling. And we, the American middle and working class, are sold a bill of shoddy goods and down the river all at once.

I did my bit, but I don’t like what’s coming next; more of the same or pitchforks and torches. Either way, it’s liable to be pretty gruesome.

Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.

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