The most important lesson I learned about Democracy in the 7th grade was about Donald Trump.
I woke up this morning, opened the curtains and peered out at what promises to be a beautiful, warm, sunny London day. Cup of tea in hand, I settled down to the day’s work. For a moment, I forgot Donald Trump was President back home.
Then I logged on and read the news. The first headline to greet my eyes came courtesy of NBC and read, “Trump suggests ‘injection’ of disinfectant to beat Coronavirus and ‘clean’ the lungs.
Before I clicked the link, I analysed my expectations for perspective. If this had been 2017, I would have hesitated whether he was indeed that dull. In 2020, there is no longer any uncertainty. The anticipation I felt waiting for a video to load in 2017 has since transformed into a perpetual state of frustration and disappointment that this imbecile is President of my homeland.
A long time ago in a small town in upstate New York, I sat in a non-descript 7th grade Social Studies class with 15 other kids. Mrs. Scott taught us one of the great things about America is that anyone, no matter their background, can become President. Initially, I received this news as a positive. I looked around at my classmates, many of whom -to my 12-year-old mind — seemed to be up to the task.
I scanned the room, eyeing up each one. Jill made 100 on the test about Abraham Lincoln so she’d make an excellent candidate. Shawn was superb at math and science and personable enough to be student council president. Check. Overall, it was a solid class of potential candidates. Except for one.
Sam sat in the back corner of the classroom by the window and spent most of his time playing with his pencil. His shoelaces dragged behind him when he walked. At 12, he still hadn’t learned to tie them. He had perpetually mussed hair and his eyebrows were missing from an incident earlier that winter where blew them off trying to light a fire by thrusting a full bottle of kerosene into his family’s fireplace.
“My Dad was super pissed off.” He announced to a room full of laughter. No one in our town had a lot of money, let alone enough to re-build a whole house and insurance doesn’t cover “my kid did it on purpose.”
Fortunately, Sam’s Dad kept a fire extinguisher handy and their house didn’t burn down. Would Sam make a good President? Surely not! I raised my hand and challenged Mrs. Scott’s assertion.
“Anyone?” I asked.
“Yes.” She said. “Anyone.”
She paused for a long time before she continued, looked around the room and raised her finger dramatically. “But that doesn’t mean they’ll be any good at it.”
She was an outstanding educator. A native American with a proud cultural history she shared with us regularly.
I grew up, turned 18 and have voted in every election since then. We’ve had good Presidents, bad Presidents and mediocre Presidents. It wasn’t until now the full burden of Mrs. Scott’s words became clear. Just because anyone can be President doesn’t mean they should be President.
I looked up Sam on social media. The first picture that popped up showed him dry-humping a guy in a MAGA hat. The only thing separating Donald Trump from a kid like Sam was the luck of being born wealthy. Trump is Sam with money. That’s why his followers love him. They’re just like him. Except Trump was a stupid kid enabled by those around him to fail upwards all the way to the top job in the nation. I mean, let’s be honest here. If it weren’t for the Doctor who helped Trump dodge the draft, this guy wouldn’t have made it past basic training. Lacing up your own boots is hard.
Like Sam, Trump is woefully unsuited for the role. We, as a nation, have just over six more months to decide our future. Do we hand this man a bottle of kerosene, and a box of matches or grab the fire extinguisher? Either way, none of us are getting out of this with our eyebrows intact. The scars will remain for years.