It’s early 2018 and Donald Trump’s approval ratings are circling the drain. After backtracking on almost all of his campaign promises and devastating the middle and working classes in record time, people are angrier than ever. The press, smelling blood in the water, has started to dig up dozens of new scandals and there’s talk of impeachment as Republicans distance themselves from the laughably incompetent and corrupt president.
But then, one Saturday morning, gunfire erupts in a crowded mall in New York as two men with assault rifles open fire indiscriminately. Then more gunfire in another mall in California. And another in Texas. And another and another and another. By the end of the day, over 500 people have been killed and over one thousand injured in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.
The Trump administration immediately declares a state of emergency. In the following days and weeks, America, scared out of its collective mind, gratefully surrenders the last of its civil rights to Trump. Habeas Corpus is suspended indefinitely. The press is given instructions that stories attacking Trump will result in prosecution under the updated and reinstated Alien and Sedition Acts. Muslims are rounded up into internment camps to “protect the public in these uncertain times”. The police begin openly working with pro-Trump militias to identify “troublemakers” that publicly protest what is happening and intimidate them into silence with threats of arrest and violence.
If this sounds like pure fantasy, you’ve apparently forgotten what happened in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001. The pile of rubble that was once the World Trade Center was still burning when Congress overwhelmingly passed the USA PATRIOT Act; a move that ranks near the top of the list of “Most Corrosive Assaults on Civil Liberties In American History“.
By the time the rubble had been cleared several months later, the United States was already torturing suspects, creating legal fictions to bypass the Geneva Conventions against war crimes and preparing to bomb Iraq as as a prelude to an invasion based on 100% fabricated evidence. The “liberal” press had been cowed into submission by accusations of being “unpatriotic” and “terrorist sympathizers.” Fox News had become the most powerful cable news network by banging the war drums in a 24/7 display of jingoism that would have made Joseph Goebbels slit his own throat in professional jealously.
Dissent was all but criminalized within two years as Phil Donahue was fired from “liberal” MSNBC for refusing to cheer the war in Iraq. The Dixie Chicks were yanked off the air, with non-compliant DJs losing their jobs for daring to play their music. Their cds were destroyed in great public spectacles reminiscent of book burnings that are so popular in totalitarian socialites. Not supporting the president “in a time of war”, itself, became an act worthy of public condemnation (at least until the president was a black man).
Over the next several years, the newly formed Department of Homeland Security spent over $34 Billion to equip police departments all over the country with the latest weapons of war. This militarization has been going on for some time but 9/11 kicked into high gear. It also intensified the “Us vs Them” siege mentality that leads the police to think nothing of deploying combat tactics and tanks on American streets against unarmed civilians.
The point of terrorism is to change how a people live, and by that definition Bin Laden absolutely won. 2016 America would be a horrifying police state to 1996 America. It would be completely unrecognizable to 1976 America. George Orwell, on the other hand, would recognize it immediately.
All of this change occurred under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who, for all their faults, are not autocratic dictators. This begs the question: What would Trump do with the kind of power a major terrorist attack would give him? Would he act calmly and rationally? Would he seek to ease the fears of the nation? Would he resist the urge to abuse the opportunity dropped in his lap?
Of course not. Trump would be furiously masturbating with the American flag at the chance to solidify his power and eliminate any obstacle to his rule. He’s been openly admiring autocratic dictators for well over a year now because they’re autocratic dictators. Trump would take the Republican 9/11 playbook and put it into overdrive. Republicans, assuming they would reap the benefits of his tyranny, would back his every play until it was too late to stop him.
We’ve seen this movie before. After the Reichstag Fire, Hitler seized control of Germany and never let it go. The people loved him for it because it made them feel safe. They gave up all of their freedom just to hide from the fear.
You know who else has seen this movie? Islamic terrorists. They know, just as surely as we do, that if they can hit America hard enough with a president like Trump, all of their dreams will come true. The United States will finally declare a “holy war” against Islam and tear itself apart. The Great Satan will commit suicide and drag the entire world into oblivion. Mission accomplished, indeed.
Under Obama, this just wasn’t going to happen. He refused to rise to the bait and send the country into a panic. But Trump? Trump thrives on chaos and fear and anger. He won’t hesitate to encourage blind terror and harness it to crush his opposition. The best counter to this would normally be the media but they’re just as addicted to chaos and fear and anger because it generates ratings.
Under Donald Trump, America is one Reichstag Fire away from destruction and the terrorists know it. There’s going to be an uptick in attacks on American soil and we have to be prepared to push back as loudly as we can against the fear and hate Trump will try to engender. The right loves to bellow “Never forget 9/11!” The left needs to remember what came after. If we can’t, then it’s over and say hello to the 4th Reich but this time with nuclear weapons and the most powerful military in the world.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.