What a tawdry coup attempt. What a fitting end to a presidency.
This was not shocking in the same way as attempted and successful coups elsewhere—Egypt in 2013, Thailand in 2014, Turkey in 2016—which were serious, planned, meticulous. This, it seemed from afar at least, was an orgy of anger whipped up by a deluded and bitter man. It was closer to one of those videos you sometimes get sent of a fight breaking out in the chamber of some obscure parliament, the subplot always being: Look at this crazy place.
We in the rest of the world are used to watching blockbuster films and box sets depicting the awesome power of the American empire, its leaders and agents wrestling with their consciences but never forgetting that they had them. We gorge on seasons of 24, or go to the cinema to watch Independence Day or Zero Dark Thirty. This is the United States supreme and righteous—sometimes a knight in shining armor, at other times a dark one, forced to be the baddie, because the rest of us will not: “The hero Gotham deserves … a silent guardian, a watchful protector.” That kind of thing.
This America, for all its flaws, is usually somehow inherently good—and always powerful.
It is harder to believe that now. Donald Trump has spent four years as the most powerful man on Earth and has no achievements to show for it. He couldn’t pull out of NATO, let alone see three moves ahead of his rivals. There was nothing good or conflicted or complicated or clever about his mob or its hissy fit. What beamed out to the world was a bunch of angry people in costume, as if a Village People convention had turned ugly. Somehow they managed to push their way past the police, egged on by a rabble-rouser in chief—less a puppet master, more a resentful old man raging at the dying of the light.