100 days of Trump, and he's not the only one who has learned a lot

Hadley Freeman
Donald Trump has learned all sorts of things since becoming president. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Happy landmark day to President Trump, who in the 100 days since he took office has set the political bar so low it is considered a triumph that he hasn’t started a nuclear war, yet. Your first reaction to that sentence was probably: “Bloody hell – has it only been 100 days?” Your second was even more probably: “Huh, I thought he started nuclear war with North Korea on Twitter two weeks ago.”

The point is, it’s highly unlikely that you started counting off his achievements, as is traditional at this point in a new presidency. Not so surprising, given that his most striking accomplishment so far is becoming the first US president to entertain Sarah Palin, Kid Rock and Ted Nugent in the Oval Office at once, thus unifying the four horsemen of the apocalypse in one Instagrammable selfie.

Trump has learned all sorts of things since becoming president – that healthcare is “complicated”, that the relationship of China and North Korea is “not so easy”, and that perhaps Nato isn’t “obsolete” after all. And it’s safe to say 2017 has been a learning experience for the rest of us, too. For me, it’s been one long (so very, very long) self-revelation. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. I had too much faith in Donald Trump

When I was growing up in New York in the 80s, Trump was as much a figure of revulsion and fun in the press as, say, Jeremy Clarkson or Philip Green are today. Prime minister Clarkson – that’s how weird it is that Trump’s now president (I might have once used Boris Johnson as my analogy here, but that scenario now lacks the requisite improbability factor).

But despite this, I still overestimated him, and continue to do so. I feared his presidency, but I never thought he’d be this bad. Which is weird, because I remember the time he took out an advert in the tabloids to say five black and Hispanic teenagers should be given the death sentence after they were accused of raping a woman in Central Park, and I also remember, when the boys were later fully exonerated, that he still insisted he was right. And yet, every day I read the news and my head bangs down on the desk and I think, “I can’t believe this…” Who’d have thought I was such an optimist?

2. I can’t stop reading about Jared Kushner

As a kid, I met a lot of overly privileged bullies at my summer camp, and vowed I would never end up with one of them in my life. Now there’s such a man running the show for his father-in-law in the White House and I spend too much of my adult years obsessively reading about him in the news. This, I believe, is what is called “irony”.

3. The media are still stumped by Trump

I love journalism. Hell, I’ve been a so-called journalist for 17 years. But it has undoubtedly been straining at its own seams during this presidency. The problem is, there’s no impartial way to say that a rambling, incoherent, ignorant liar who only ran because he was all “boo hoo wah wah” after Obama and the other cool kids made fun of him at the White House Correspondents’ dinner in 2011 is now president of the United States.

Some news organisations still struggle to understand that words that sound judgmental can also be the objective truth. So we get phrases like “President Trump entertained dignitaries at Mar-a-Lago” instead of “President Trump forced some high-ranking politicians to come to his shoddy golf club and rambled at them incoherently”, or “President Trump made a strong and surprising announcement yesterday”, for which read, “President Trump tweeted something so deranged yesterday even your racist uncle thought he might have gone a bit far.”

4. I am fiercely patriotic

“The problem with the left is it sneers at those who take pride in their country! It doesn’t celebrate patriotism!” This has been the cry of the American right for the past few years (when what they really mean is it doesn’t celebrate nativism). Well, allow me to direct all of our collective gaze to the liberal protests this year defending modern American values and rallying (implicitly or overtly) against Trump, including last weekend’s March for Science. Hearteningly, this resistance movement, instead of fading from exhaustion, seems to be only stronger now the shock of the election has passed. Thus another cliche is disproved, that our attention spans have been corroded by Snapchat.

I felt the patriotic surge to a degree that surprised even me. It was only when Trump was elected that I got my act together and sorted out my sons’ citizenship applications. True, the last thing America might need right now is more white men, but I will not give up the field. I will not leave the country to become some desolate wasteland, every tax dollar bilked away into the Trump and Kushner bank accounts. To the barricades, boys!

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