January 16, 2021

America’s Alternate Universes

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

That’s where we all live now, in one alternate universe or the other. It’s not a new phenomenon. Mankind has lived in alternate universes many times, perhaps always, throughout history.

So, in the current political alternate universes in which we find ourselves, America is fractured along two fault lines. According to those in one universe, (represented among some of the commenters to these essays), the insurrection (or maybe not) that took place on January 6th was “…a false- flag event to make Trump and his followers look bad.”  That’s a direct quote.

In that universe, those mobs that stormed the Capitol, causing six deaths, extensive property damage, scores of injuries to Capitol police and staff, some waving Trump flags, and Confederate flags and, in at least one case caught on television, wearing a Camp Auschwitz jersey, were really left-wing, anti-Trump hordes who were engaging in the greatest hoax in the history of hoaxes—even greater than the apparent, incredible and colossal hoax of the recent presidential election perpetrated, according to those in that universe, by the Democrats. This is the universe in which President Trump gave (according to President Trump, himself) a “perfectly appropriate speech” at a rally just prior to the supposed false-flag attack on the Capitol.

In the alternate universe, Joe Biden became President of the United States of America in a fair and free election. His party took control of the United States Senate, and voters in Georgia sent a Black pastor and young Jewish candidate to Washington, and Georgia flipped blue for the first time in decades. President Trump cannot accept these realities. Indeed, emotionally, he can’t stand these realities, nor can millions of his followers.

In one universe, Antifa staged the assault on the Capitol, or at least was liberally represented among the protestors and certainly the ones causing most of the trouble. In the other universe, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy stood before the House of Representatives, and said, “…some say the riots were caused by Antifa. There is absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say so.”

The following Monday, McCarthy still in one universe told President Trump, in an angry telephone call that…“the mob consisted not of Antifa, but of “MAGA supporters”. “I know,” he said. “I was there.” From the other universe, Rudy Giuliani retorted, “He (McCarthy) doesn’t know what he is talking about. He’s part of the swamp …”

And speaking of Giuliani, he, in his universe, insists that his reference to trial by combat in his inflammatory remarks at the Trump rally, was not intended to encourage disorder, let alone combat. He was, he says, simply referring to the use of the phrase from the book and tv series, “Game of Thrones.” Ironically, if not comically, the expression in “Game of Thrones” is used precisely to demand bloody combat to resolve disputes.

And, no, tensions between alternate universes in the course of human events are not new. Centuries of religious wars have been fought with leaders and followers from alternate universes massacring one another with complete abandon. That was common in Europe for centuries until 1648 and the treaty of Westphalia, after which the primacy of nation-states was recognized. Thereafter, nations began massacring one another with complete abandon.

Throughout so much painful history, those embracing one religion’s teachings would find no redeeming value in the reasoning, teaching, or existence of those from an alternate religious universe. The one thread that courses through the centuries of conflict between universes is that it is just about impossible for people from one universe to reason with those from the other universe. 

I have often found it impossible to convince people in the universe where I exist that Trump has pursued some worthwhile policies. Yes, I have made those arguments, and I have, on various occasions, made such a case in these columns. Many who find Trump reprehensible will resist acknowledging that anything Trump did, has done, or ever advocated could have any redeeming value. Our alternate universes are locked in political combat in which each opposing universe is energized by its own politically crafted memes.

In one long-eclipsed universe Abraham Lincoln spoke of binding the nation’s wounds. Today, opposing politicians prefer to pick at rather than bind the lesions that torment us.

But here’s the thing. The founding of America was, in fact, the creation of an incredible alternate universe; a universe the world had not previously known; a universe with no precedent; a universe in which people would actually choose their own leaders; a universe in which everyone was free to say or write whatever they chose as long as they took responsibility and were accountable for what they said or wrote; a universe in which anyone could aspire to leadership—anyone! It was a universe in which the simple freedom to choose produced, from nothing, a mighty world power within a century. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, it was like nothing he had ever seen before.

Jaques, in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” teaches us, All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. And so, The President Biden Show, with new players, begins in four days.

The President Trump Show is, essentially, over. It is time for the cast to exit the stage, say goodbye to the crew, and turn out the lights as they leave.

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12 responses to “America’s Alternate Universes”

  1. Marc says:

    Hal, I agree with your assessment. But, the new regime needs to let the old exit and not keeping beating it to death. Trump is down and beaten, so let him go to the next stage of his life like you state. Why waste energy on impeachment proceedings? What is the end game? We have far more pressing issues that the congress must confront. Corona virus vaccine roll out is a disaster. Biden should stop the negative rhetoric about his predecessor and tell Pelosi to stop her constant juvenile tirade of Trump. He needs to remind her that it is over and move on with more important issues.

  2. Lynda Deuble says:

    Marc,
    Why impeach? You honestly don’t know? You must be the only one in America who does not.

  3. Steve Prover says:

    Another wonderfully balanced and scholarly essay…. I now look forward to contributions from the denizens of the unique universes that contribute readers to this column…

  4. Stuart Goldfine says:

    How is another impeachment trail going to bring this country together again? There is work to be done in Washington to end the pandemic and get people back to work again.

  5. Ray Galante says:

    Trump should never be allowed to run for public office. He is an unbelievably huge embarrassment of our democracy. Never again should this clown be allowed to squander Republican multimillion dollars for his rerun. Now more dangerous with his fanatical followers. The Republican Senators should “gut up” and refuse to cower to him. A horrible Presidential disaster.

  6. sdjg says:

    Hal, to say that there are alternate realities is to legitimize them – the fact is that there are no alternate realities – there is only truth. Alternate realities lie in the minds of deluded individuals – and in the minds of Trump believers.

    Marc, the reason Trump must be convicted and imprisoned is that he is dangerous – the most dangerous president our country has seen – at least in my lifetime. Truth is poison to Trump, it is his kryptonite.

    Trump has attempted to undermine our democracy every day of his Administration by spreading conspiracy theories and lies which all his followers believe, by extorting elected officials and by denigrating and firing everyone who attempted to tell the truth.

    But the BIG LIE – the lie that this election was stolen from him –and all the events that followed — that was the last straw. We know the election was legitimate for all the reasons Hal mentioned — there have been numerous recounts, and every court has thrown out his case for lack of evidence. So his last resort was to incite violence. Mind you — he has been inciting violence at every rally he’s held — but this one –if you listen to his words, the context is clear. On the very day the election was to be certified by Congress, he whipped up his crowd and urged them to go to the capitol and fight, to take back what had been stolen from them. And dutiful cult followers that they are — they attempted to follow orders — with the intent to stop the ballot counting, to hang Mike Pence and to kill Nancy Pelosi.

    Yale professor and Holocaust scholar, Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, calls Trump the “post-truth” President. Post-truth, says Snyder, is pre-fascist. This is not hard to see in retrospect.

    Trump has unleashed hell on our country. This is present, and likely future tense. There must be consequences for his actions, for his attempted destruction of truth and morality, for his attempted destruction of our government with his lies, with his alternative reality. Trump must be convicted and imprisoned. If there are no consequences, it will happen again.

  7. Ross says:

    Hal, one of your finest articles. How many times does a lie have to be repeated before it becomes a truth in a weak, and sometimes normally sharp mind such as Mike Pompeo or Mike Flynn. The groundwork of the lies perpetuated by Trump has caused a cancer in this society that needs to dealt with and not as they like to say in Washington, “kicked down the road”. A clear message has to be sent that this egregious behavior will be dealt with harshly and immediately. This must be seen as an imperative. The proven enablers in the house which I suspect will be followed by the Senate show a lack of respect for the law as well as this country. And, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan,” I did not leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me”. Until the party reinvents itself, good riddance!

  8. Marilyn says:

    We all want the madness to stop, but as long as Trump has an audience, he will prevail. Never in my lifetime, would I have ever thought our nations Capitol would be under military guard to ensure the safety of a presidential inauguration. Trump has managed to escape any consequence or responsibility of his actions, his entire life. No doubt enabling him, to exactly where we are today. It’s time for Trumps actions of high crimes and misdemeanor, and violating the 14th amendment, to be held accountable.

  9. Irwin yablans says:

    Turn out the lights and leave? Who are you talking about Hal? trump and his criminal family? The proud boys? Qanon?
    Rudy Gulianli or Steve Bannon? Maybe Roger Stone or General Flynn. They won’t be switching off.
    The millions of trump worshippers ,will continue to support this depraved tool of the desperate far right. Fox News will create a new call to arms
    That will echo the lost cause of the defeat of the confederacy.
    With all due respect to William Shakespeare, the danger is great and the massive crimes committed by the outgoing administration against this Republic must be prosecuted.
    As far as recognizing any policies or good work done by Trump and co. They pale when measured against the enormous harm perpetrated on the citizens of this once great nation. To suggest even the hint of equivalency is wrong.
    The whole truth of the Trump disaster needs to be exposed if we are ever to rid this country of the tumor of fanatical extremism that is still infecting it.

  10. Thomasin Savaiano says:

    As we have seen in all videos and first-hand account reporting the last several days – there is an alternate universe out there, for sure. And it has been indeed encouraged and cultivated over the last 4 years, building up to Jan. 6th. It is undeniable at this point – and daunting as far as how to fix it.

    As to letting the old regime go and stopping negative rhetoric: For two months that has been the exact goal. And unity and healing have been spoken of over and over by the President Elect. He has been there the whole time with just that very message.

    But for those 2 months, the current President refused to do what every other before him has done for the good of the Country – participate in the peaceful transfer of power.
    Had he not continued the lies and court cases and tweeting and rallies and pressure phone calls – that would have been possible.

    It is the behavior of the man himself, over the last two months, that caused him to be subject to continued beating.
    Had he not constantly put himself front and center with wilder and wilder falsehoods, demanding attention…there would be nothing to beat.
    But he could not do that.
    It’s not, nor never has been, something he is capable of.

    The beating is of his own making – born of his own behavior.

    The incoming administration faces a mountain of pressing things and cleanup- many due to the fact they have not been attended to by the outgoing administration – especially in the last 2 months, when the President (who still is holding the job) has spent no time working on them, but only on trying to find any means possible to not have to leave the job.

    The President Elect has kept working – despite the several weeks of waiting to release traditional funds – and will be prepared with cogent plans in spite of that.
    And the last thing the he wants is to have to deal with the situation that occurred Jan. 6th.

    However, to allow an insurrection of the magnitude we’ve all been seeing unfold go unchecked in the case of both the outgoing President and the Lawmakers who provided support – is no longer an option.
    Because then, the pattern of making the unacceptable “OK” that has reigned the last 4 years, will continue – no consequences, and the message is that behavior is fine, it will never go unchecked.

    What is a shame:
    It took a violent, hateful insurrection, destroying sacred strongholds of American Government for people to now suddenly say it’s time to just let the President go on his way, he’s done.
    They should have been telling him to do that the last 2 months – perhaps we would not have had a January 6th.

  11. Thomasin Savaiano says:

    I accidentally did not paste the end to my comment I now see:

    All this is the just most obvious evidence that Hal, sadly, you are once again astutely right in the money.
    I feel for those left with the task of trying to deal with somehow rectifying the situation you describe.
    You will know I have a great appreciation for you excellent use of the Theatrical metaphor – I wish it were that easy – the cast and audience first have to realize the show has closed.

  12. mike says:

    To those of you who have voiced your disdain and hatred for the President, my only regret is that you’ll never willingly For those who have responded with your vitriolic hatred for this President, you may want to look at the facts and consider why 75 Million voted for a man who in your own words is vile and detestable.

    Does Trump have his faults as an individual? Absolutely? But have his policies and actions as President helped America. In my opinion and millions of others, absolutely!

    Three Supreme Court justices, over 300 hundred Judges appointed to the Federal Judiciary, the rollback of onerous governmental regulations, and for those Jewish members of the audience, more progress on peace deals in the Middle East than any other President, are just the beginning of his list of accomplishments. Exposing America’s dangerous reliance on China for appx 90% of our pharmaceutical supply chain, the rare earth minerals issue, the USCMA agreement, the Tax Act which helped repatriated appx 2 Trillion in earnings that was parked in other countries and the move to assert control over our borders are some other notable accomplishments.

    And now we get to witness the Democrats unleashed and the surrender of freedoms that few in the audience have addressed. And you want unity?

    Hal, honestly, not that it would make a difference, but I’d welcome the opportutity to have a debate with you or any of your other Trump haters about the impact of his Presidency. As I reminded my Obama hating friends in 2017, Obama was a consequential President. And like him or hate him, Trump has been consequential.

    Impeaching a President who has already left office is a fools errand. You might want to spend your energy and political capital on things that help build America. But building a better America is an antithetical concept for the Democratic leadership.

    And I will save this note so that

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