No Animals Were Harmed in the Creation of this Clumsy Metaphor

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Capitol Insurrection , Courtesy Suhani Saigal

Over the past four years, watching the Donald Trump presidency has felt, in many ways, like watching an unsteady camel struggling  to hold the weight of a massive bale of straw, waiting for it’s back to break – waiting for something, even something terrible, to end the long, slow torment of this wretched creature. 

If you have ever encountered the phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ you might be tempted to use it to describe the after effects of the attempted coup that took place at the United States Capitol building on Jan. 6. While the insurrection occurred a few weeks and an inauguration ago (a millennium in political time), the repercussions are still rippling through the country – some of the insurgents have been arrested, Donald Trump has been   impeached for the second time, and Twitter finally decided to suspend Trump’s account. 

It is extremely tempting to describe the coup as the straw that broke the camel’s back for Twitter, for cabinet members such as Betsy DeVos who resigned Jan. 8, and for the 10Republican House Representatives who voted for impeachment. And in many ways, it was. 

And yet, for me at least, none are absolved.  

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’  essentially describes a small action or event that prompts a more extreme reaction than seems warranted. What the idiom does not spell out, however, is the amount of straw that must already be piled onto the camel’s back before that singular piece can cause the poor animal’s back to break. 

In the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, there have been straws piling up on the camel’s back every day – from the infamous Access Hollywood tape before he was even elected to his suggestion that drinking disinfectant would kill the COVID-19 virus (to be fair, it would kill COVID– but it would also kill you), Donald Trump’s actions have been consistently and dangerously reckless. Sometimes, the straw was an impeachable offence that was less of a straw and more like an entire bale that made the camel’s knees buckle. Yet somehow, for many, that camel remained staunchly upright, back unbroken. 

It is understandable, then, why across the internet on Jan. 8 and 9, you would find a huge number of people celebrating the deactivation of Trump’s Twitter account – an actual consequence for his actions. 

You would also find that many of those happy people wished it had happened sooner. 

My take here is not particularly earth-shattering, because I agree. I’m glad it happened, but Twitter – or any corporation, cabinet secretary (looking at you Betsy), GOP member, or Trump supporter – does not get any brownie points from me for just now disavowing Donald Trump. Their actions are not bravery, but pure common-sense scrambling for self-preservation, because, ultimately, it was not a straw that finally broke the  camel’s back. Oh, no. After all this time, and all that weight on the camel, Donald Trump finally said screw it, pulled out a gun, and shot the damn camel in the head. 

 I understand why Betsy DeVos resigned. I understand why Twitter suspended Donald Trump’s account. I do. I get it. It makes perfect sense. This is not a big reaction to a small incident, nor is it a big reaction to an equally big incident. This is a rational, if not small, reaction to a sitting President inciting an attempted coup on his own government. Of course, the camel’s back is broken – the camel is dead. Republican lawmakers may not have shot it themselves, but they were the keepers of this camel who did nothing to relieve it of the straw on its back. They just kept it there, under the weight, until Trump put the miserable thing down.  

 I will give them marginal credit for being mildly rational after four years of wild irrationality. Good job. You figured out that supporting a man who would rather commit treason than lose power is not a smart idea, you genius you. But finally denouncing Trump now is not heroic and it is not ‘taking a stand’. 

I am not saying anything new. There are people, particularly BIPOC, making commentary right now who are smarter than I am and who have more nuanced takes based on experiences and perspectives that I do not have. All I can say is that I, too, am glad that I (hopefully) never have to read another Donald Trump tweet in my life. But true dissidents, true heroes, do not dismiss the small straws. They do not see the camel struggling to hold the weight of so much straw and prop it up with excuses until finally the person they have supported, directly or indirectly, murders the camel.

A Postscript to be judged by the readers- Washington Post’s FRIDAY headline:

“Open hostility broke out among Republicans and Democrats in Congress amid growing fears of physical violence and looming domestic terrorism threats from supporters of Donald Trump, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leveling an allegation that dangers lurk among the membership itself”.

And if that is not enough,here is an excerpt from NYT’s  Thursday morning briefing, which puts to sleep any euphoria:

“Trump trial: Senate Republicans rallied on Tuesday against trying former President Donald Trump, with only five members of his party joining Democrats in a vote to go forward with his impeachment trial. The vote suggests Mr. Trump is likely to be acquitted.”

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