I just finished watching Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. And to quote former President George W. Bush, “That was some weird shit.” Seriously, that was the absolute worst, most disturbing speech I have ever heard by a major American politician, and I’ve seen Sarah Palin speak live ... twice.
I was expecting the white nationalist rhetoric; I was expecting the cynical use of minorities for a racist agenda; I was expecting the lies and the dystopian views of the world. No, this was the worst State of the Union address ever because—and I’m almost ashamed to admit this—the speech actually got to me.
I was touched. I was moved in a way that no other political speech has moved me in my life. I was moved to unmitigated, unfiltered volcanic rage. Never has a politician made me feel that way before, and I’ll never look at Trump or America the same way again.
The State of the Union speech itself is nothing remarkable. It’s like the speech given by your graduation speaker, unless it’s somebody who’s a really big deal (shoutout to Howard Class of ’14): You probably won’t remember anything that was said, because all you care about is getting to Red Lobster with your family after the ceremony is over. Trump’s speech was written by Stephen Miller, one of those racist young white men who have read a few books and are suddenly dubbed supersmart or genius by elements of the press, regardless of whether their ideas are sound or achievable, let alone moral.
Every immigrant in Trump’s America is a violent gang member prowling around to take your job or harm children. Trump continued to speak of the MS-13 gang like they’re Hydra, except more Hispanic and without the costumes. He continued to speak about the need for Congress to give him a “beautiful wall,” all but dropping the fact that for years he said that Mexico would pay for it.
You could just imagine Miller furiously rubbing his commemorative Pat Buchanan bobblehead to full ecstasy when he watched Trump say, “Americans are dreamers. too,” which I guess was supposed to be some type of witty, racist rhetorical crane kick that would knock Democrats and Dreamers into a state of panic. “Americans are dreamers, too” is the “All Lives Matter” of the immigration debate, with all the intended white nationalist flavoring, as evidenced by King Klan himself in a typically illuminating tweet:
However, this part of Trump’s speech didn’t bring me to volcanic rage. I expected everything that he said about immigrants. My personal rage meter was still somewhere between long line at the DMV and white salesperson asking “Can I help you?” for the fifth time at the mall. Nothing out of the ordinary.
When “Corey from Ohio” sat there sheepishly allowing his grinning bosses to use him as a low-budget Axe body spray to cover the stench of Trump’s white nationalist rhetoric, that didn’t get me, either. When the families of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas allowed their daughters’ deaths to be used as props for Trump’s violent, nativist agenda, I didn’t blink. Anybody willing to let their child’s death be used to promote a white nationalist agenda is letting their child die all over again. Yes, I said it. If those kids had died at the hands of white nationalist terrorists or cops, Trump and the current Republican Party wouldn’t have been able to care less.
In fact, I wasn’t even moved to rage by the Democratic response, in or outside Congress. As a professional aside, I don’t think anyone should skip out on the State of the Union speech, no matter how much you dislike the president. Attending the State of the Union address is like going to a staff meeting or staying till the end of a kid’s piano recital or listening to your mom sing along to “Bodak Yellow” on the way to church. It’s annoying and you don’t want to be there, but it’s part of the job and it won’t take that long.
I would have preferred if Democrats attending the State of the Union address had really brought the ruckus, collectively stood in formation and walked out when Trump mentioned immigration, or if they’d shouted the names of Heather Heyer, Ricky John Best or Richard Collins III, victims of white nationalist violence, every time Trump said “MS-13.” Hell, they could have just screamed, “You lie!” at every other sentence.
But I knew better ... Democrats aren’t about that life. Even their official response with Rep. Joe Kennedy III was weak. Failing to have the proper clapback to a rhetorical dunce like Trump is like being stumped when a 5-year-old says, “I know you are, but what am I?” Can I really believe in a party that puts a man on the national stage who looks like he just ate a glazed doughnut? Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters—they’re part of The Glow Up Stay Ready All-Stars; there’s no way they would go in front of a national audience like that. Kennedy’s lips weren’t popping; they were pulsating.
My rage, like a delayed reaction to stubbing your toe that you don’t feel until you try to put on some socks, came later. I watch politics for a living. I’m usually not particularly affected one way or another by a speech, but as I sat there, listening to Trump sniff his way through the speech like he’d just done a bumper with Kellyanne Conway before hitting the stage, it dawned on me.
I’m stuck with this.
I, along with millions of other Americans—the majority, in fact, who didn’t want this man in office—am stuck with him. He’s not going anywhere, and there’s nothing we can do about it for three more years. I am so disgusted and furious with this country and our leadership in a way I have never been before. Our feckless leaders, our occasionally fawning press, the sheer racist fools who voted for him, all of that stupidity and laziness and entitlement that I have always disliked about America, finally manifested itself in a superbug of a president who is making us all sick every time he opens his mouth.
There was nothing to gain from the State of the Union speech, nothing to fear and nothing to analyze in depth. However, this is something to rage about. This country is going straight to Trumpian hell, and nobody—not the Democrats, not the Republicans and not the 38 percent of Americans who still believe in this man—will take responsibility when we hit rock bottom.
That is something worth being angry about.