I’ve been reading “Our Towns” by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows, a tonic of a book about the can-do America unready to succumb to rot. In the many towns the couple visits, immigrants are working hard, enriching the social fabric, and creating wealth.
In a big slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls, S.D, new immigrants from Somalia, Sudan, Nepal and elsewhere “put the pigs to death and convert them into meat,” and then a Chinese company “ships much of the meat to customers who are rapidly moving up the protein chain in China.” This is the reality of an interconnected world that makes nonsense of Trump’s tinny obsession with “sovereignty.”
In Burlington, Vt., Hai Blu, from Burma, and his wife, True Tender, whom he met in a Thai refugee camp — surely the best-named couple in America — are making it. She’s training to be a nurse. He’s working at the Skinny Pancake. As the book illustrates, “Employers quickly come to appreciate the reliability, determination and work ethic of refugees.”
I’d suggest Trump read the book, but he doesn’t read. He traffics in slurs and untruths. The deepest form of rot is the erosion of the distinction between truth and falsehood. Totalitarianism was one big lie perpetrated on human beings reduced to the often hopeless quest for survival in a fog.
A universe where morality ceases is the one Trump is most comfortable in. “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” Trump’s answer, on April 5: “No, no.” Except, as the president clarified in a recent financial disclosure, he did know.
This is Trump’s Ministry of Truth, the new American normal. It’s impossible to overstate the enormity of it. That’s why the Alliance is collapsing and Germany finds no basis for cooperation: Trump’s America stands for nothing. As Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, told recent graduates in a speech, going wobbly on the truth means “we go wobbly on America.”
There is only one core task before everyone in Trump’s America: Keeping the Republic, despite him.