In Trump’s Wake, Hurricane Harvey

Hope against hope, like it or not, as it was in the beginning so it shall likely be in the end: We the American people shall not be deprived of the daily company of Donald Trump in his guise as the President of the United States.

This means three and a quarter years, give or take, of government by tweet, White House luncheons, meetings with heads of state as a prop for getting things off the presidential chest, a steady diet of public rallies in red states, a roster of new nicknames for perceived enemies (most having to do with size), the permanent placement of “fake news” in dictionaries and the elimination of the phrase “The Buck Stops Here” — in the sense that the president will take personal responsibility for policy matters. That particular buck was last seen in the eye of the latest hurricane approaching the United States, gone with the wind.

We now live not only in the age of Trump, but in the age of the permanent news cycle. When there is no news, the president has become compelled to make some.

Nothing could illustrate this more than the last few weeks of unprecedented natural disasters, a mass murder in the most fantasy-soaked setting this country has to offer and a shocking, game-and-culture-changing scandal in Hollywood, a place that would appear to be immune to the effects of shock, schlock and scandal.

Through all this — including three devastating hurricanes (and a few minor ones, plus earthquakes in Mexico) and a devastating fire that wreaked havoc and wrecked homes and vineyards in Northern California, with more than 40 people killed — President Trump roamed through the front pages, adding his two-cents’ worth, creating a moral crisis out of the NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem and throwing out rolls of paper towels in a wholly underappreciated visit to Puerto Rico, where most of the lights are still out.

There’s more: like a pugilist coming out of retirement, he picked a fight with a retiring senator, an ailing senator, NFL players and team owners, his own secretary of state, the Republican Party and most recently the parents of various soldiers killed in our ongoing and far-flung wars.

This was classic Donald Trump: say something outrageous, backtrack and blame someone else. Better yet, create problems where there are none. (Whatever happened to Christmas, by God?)

He — and the GOP — also tried to wreck Obamacare again, then called for a deal. And so on.

But there is a light at this end of the tunnel (perhaps, for now, only a flickering candle). In the course of things, some of these issues not only trigger rallies, demonstrations and exposure of our ongoing divisions, but they get talked about, with urgency, vehemency and anger.

Case in point: Harvey Weinstein.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul known for such Oscar-winning productions as “Shakespeare in Love” and for his support of rising directors, became even better known for his years if not decades of creepy sexual harassment of actresses, female employees and models. Before you could say #metoo, Weinstein — a man with a penchant for giving unwanted massages, having women watch him shower, greeting them at the door sans clothes or much, much worse — lost his company, was voted out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (now he can’t vote for Best Picture) and basically saw his reputation and career make a crash-landing.

It went beyond sexual harassment in the workplace; several women accused him of sexual assault and one (the actress Rose McGowan) also accused him of rape. Big names popped up — Jolie, Judd, Paltrow — and many male stars, sounding somewhat chastened, also spoke out.

And social media blazed with women — from all sorts of backgrounds and workplaces — who told stories of being harassed, molested and under siege from unwanted male attention. Before long, the #metoo-ing was off the charts.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall, if you will. And so, it appears, has the discussion about how men and women and women and women and men and men deal with each other, talk about each other and look at each other. In Hollywood, this is, of course, an endless discussion, just by the numbers (only one woman has a Best Director award to her credit).

It looks like the beginning of an intense debate, from which there is no returning to a status quo where the outrageous activities of a Harvey Weinstein go unnoticed or are excused as locker-room normalcy or power plays about which you can’t do anything. (For context, see Fox News, Bill Cosby and, not last or least, the Billy Bush tape.) Trump at first chimed in, as did his minions, trying to pass it off as liberal Hollywood shenanigans and hypocrisy.

But what seems to be happening is that once a loud cat’s out of the bag ­­— police interactions with black men, Confederate statues, the gun lobby, sexual harassment and, yes, even Christmas — people start talking.

Can you hear the people talk? #wearelistening


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