On November 4th, 1979, a group of Iranian Islamic extremists stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They quickly took control of the facility and held the 52 American citizens inside hostage for 444 days.
Four days later, on November 8th, ABC News began airing a nightly 20-minute update on the hostage situation. The program, entitled "The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage: Day X," with X being the number of days that had elapsed since the takeover, was broadcast every night at 11:30 pm, following the local news.*
I've been struggling to encapsulate my feelings regarding the Trump presidency. This morning, for some unknown reason, the Iran hostage crisis was on my mind, and I remembered watching that nightly ABC News update in my college dorm room. In my mind's eye, I saw Ted Koppel, with the over-the-shoulder graphic. There it was. My missing conceit. I can distill my feelings into this:
America. Held hostage.
The America I've loved my entire life is still here. But it's in captivity.
I could try to describe Donald Trump, but I would fall far short of Nate White. Read his entire essay here, but this quote nails it:
If Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.
This truly deplorable individual, with the help of a bunch of sycophants, a party of cowards, a small group of racists and bigots, and a large group of people who despise him yet feel he benefits their self-interest, has effectively subsumed the America I love, and enclosed it in toxic material. The true America is surrounded on all sides by a mean, greedy kakistocracy.
The true America helplessly witnesses the same daily parade of horrors from its prison that the entire world sees from the outside. Racism: empowered. Violence: condoned. The free press: under attack. Bigotry: all but endorsed. The Constitution: deemed irrelevant. It sees cronyism. Corruption. Children put in cages. A leader who, instead of leading, throws tantrums like a five-year-old and constantly spews out venom and disinformation, often simultaneously. It sees national leadership acting solely out of self-interest, even in the face of a global pandemic.
It sees a nation, once universally looked to as a shining example, deteriorating into a global pariah.
But this is not who we are. This is what imprisoned us on January 20th, 2017.
The true America is beleaguered and frustrated. But also alive and well, and eager to reemerge.
America held hostage: Day 1,226.
*That program outlived the crisis, was rechristened "Nightline," and continues to this day.