Email #96, Subject: drunk driver?

Following the Vinton town hall meeting that you did not attend, a resident came up and thanked me for participating. I had driven down from Lexington after organizers invited me to moderate. She said she was a Republican and had voted for you for years but couldn’t any longer. That surprised me, so I asked what had changed her mind. She said it was like being trapped in the backseat of a car driven by a drunk. As much as the driver is at fault, her real anger was at the sober guy sitting in the front seat beside him and turning around and telling everyone in back, “Everything is okay!”

In case the analogy isn’t 100% obvious, President Trump is the drunk. You’re the sober guy pretending everything is okay.

I recently taught my sixteen-year-old son how to drive and watched our insurance spike as soon as he earned his license. He did earn it though. He listened carefully to all of my instructions, he put in the hours behind the wheel, he took an additional class, he cared deeply about becoming a safe driver—and when he was finally allowed by the state of Virginia to drive by himself, he was appropriately nervous about the responsibility.

I don’t see Donald Trump taking on his responsibilities with the same care. He openly receives his information from Fox News, and he appointed Steve Bannon to his National Security Council. If Barack Obama had received his information from MSNBC, I would have been shocked. If he had appointed Michael Moore to the NSC, I would have been outraged. Steve Bannon and Michael Moore are at best editorialists. Neither belongs in any White House administration.

Bannon and Fox News are the alcohol President Trump has been drinking. His judgement is warped. Since he accepts their information as accurate, then of course the highly reputable and long-standing news sources of ABC, CBS, and NBC look like “fake news.” Like any drunk driver, once you have consumed too much, there’s little you can do yourself. It’s up to those around you to prevent a catastrophe.

That’s you. You’ve been in Congress for a quarter century. You’re the adult in the car. Act like it. I realize not everyone in the backseat is as frightened as I am. Some of them are even cheering on the driver. But that doesn’t take you off the hook. It makes your responsibility greater.

This Presidency is unlike any in modern history, and it is damaging the norms of U.S. democracy. This country needs your sober leadership, not your reckless cheerleading. Stop pretending everything is okay.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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