Written by Jeff Rasley
I retired two years before the lockdown, when I hit sixty-eight. Sherry – that’s my wife – and I had a lot of plans for traveling and things we wanted to do in retirement, but then she died in 2019, less than a year into it. The cancer came fast and furious. Sherry was dead less than two months after the diagnosis.
I was finally getting back on my feet, trying to resume some semblance of a social life a year after Sherry’s death. Then, the pandemic struck. My life came to a screeching halt again, just after I was starting to get out and see old friends and make new ones at the coffee shop and bar where I used to hang out.
Sitting home alone during the lockdown, I started feeling irrationally irritable and had terrible mood swings. One day, I threw the toaster down on the kitchen floor and then stomped on it. I was furious, because two pieces of toast burned. I probably set the timer on for too long, but I didn’t care whether it was my fault or the toaster’s. I just wanted to smash the damn thing. A couple days later, I went outside through the front door and then went around back to survey the condition of the backyard lawn. I thought the backdoor into the screened-in porch was unlocked, but it wasn’t. Ordinarily, that would have been mildly irritating. I would have grunted and then walked back around the house to the front door. But I was so upset I started pulling on the handle of the screen door as hard as I could. When I couldn’t break the lock, I drove my fist through the screen and unlocked the door. I didn’t fix the screen.
I sat in front of the TV hour after hour watching the news about how Trump was fucking up the government’s response to the spreading coronavirus infection. Why didn’t he invoke the federal government’s power under the Defense Production Act as soon as the virus hit Washington State in January? All the experts knew how fast-spreading and dangerous this virus could be. But he ignored the CDC’s advice and downplayed the risk to the nation’s health. Not until mid-April, when it was way too late, did Trump finally use some of the government’s power under the DPA, and even then it’s a half-assed measure. There wasn’t enough testing. There weren’t enough ventilators, not enough PPE, not enough swabs. What the hell was he thinking?
The number of infections kept rising. By the end of March the US led the world in infections and deaths caused by the virus. What does Trump do? He refuses to wear a mask. He’s not going to look like a weakling. Testing? Overrated. It increases the number of infections. Why doesn’t the country have enough PPE and ventilators? Obama’s fault. The President is in charge, but if there’s any failure, it’s the fault of governors and mayors.
He kept repeating his mantra, “The situation is under control.” Pence’s team will whip the virus. If they don’t, well, Jared’s team will. This virus isn’t as bad as the flu. America always wins. Those people wearing masks are doing it to spite me, Donald J. Trump, the greatest President in history. “The situation is under control.”
But the deaths kept mounting. It surpassed annual deaths from auto accidents, 34,000. It surpassed US deaths in the Vietnam War, 58,000. It surpassed the total deaths of US soldiers in World War I, 116,500, and it kept going up. World War II deaths, here we come! Spanish Flu deaths, hah! We’ll beat you too. America will be Number One with Donald J. Trump, the greatest President in history, leading us!
What the fuck!? This is the United States of America! We’re supposed to have the best healthcare in the world, the best of everything. Yeah, Trump made America great again. We’re Number One in coronavirus infections and deaths.
I was getting angrier and angrier about how badly Trump was handling the pandemic. And lonelier and lonelier locked down at home with no one to talk to.
After spending all day switching back and forth among the cable news networks on TV, I’d turn off the television and get on my laptop and rant on Twitter about what an idiot the President is. That was my lockdown life. That’s all there was to it.
When Trump started puffing hydroxychloroquine as a cure, I was sure he, or Jared and Ivanka, owned stock in a company that makes the drug. Why not? He’s tried to sell every product under the sun with his Trump brand. And then, he mused on national TV about sticking a UV light down your gullet and drinking Clorox as a cure. Presidents aren’t supposed to muse about hair-brain schemes that will get some numbskull killed when he burns his throat with a tanning lamp or poisons himself with laundry bleach.
But there was Trump on the tube again claiming victory over the virus. The jobs report was better than expected, so that proves the Trump-Pence team is winning. Hooray! The economy is already recovering. The CARES Act is working. He says America is coming back greater than ever. And by the way, Donald J. Trump has done more for African-Americans than any US president. Lincoln? All he did was free the slaves. Donald J. Trump gave ‘em all jobs.
I turned off the TV and opened Twitter. What did I find? All these Trumpers are praising the President. “The situation is under control.” He’s saving us from the virus! He’s saving our jobs and the economy! Don’t believe those traitors in the media and that Dr. Fauci, who says things are getting worse. God chose Donald J. Trump for this moment. He has it under control.
Winter has passed and it’s spring, but I am cycling farther and farther down and I can’t stop it. Trump’s lies and crazy talk haven’t stopped. When the demonstrations started in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed by that cop, something snapped in me and I really lost control.
I was losing track of what time it is. I mean, like, what year is it? Is Lyndon Johnson the President? I can hear my dad yelling to turn off the boob tube. But I can’t turn it off.
The talking heads on CNN are talking about the Kerner Commission Report. They keep saying the findings of the Kerner Report are still true today. It must be 1967? They say there are two Americas, one black and the other white. Black America is ripped off every which way, income, housing, job opportunity, education; the system is rigged against you, if you’re black. You can’t trust the police. They aren’t there to protect and serve, if you’re black. All these images of police beating or killing unarmed black people scroll across my TV set; there’s Rodney King, Malice Wayne Green, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor …
Sitting alone every day staring at my TV watching the street clashes between protesters and cops, and then shops going up in flames, stores and cop cars vandalized, looters busting out windows and jumping out of stores with stolen goods. I’m losing my grounding in the present. This must be 1968. I was an anarchist revolutionary then, but I’m an establishment Republican, if this is 2020. But what year is it? Who am I?
There he is on TV again! That big orange clown figure with that bloated face and ridiculous hair. He’s babbling about MAGA loves black people.
That’s it. I know what I have to do. I’m no longer a retired businessman and country-club Republican. I am nineteen years old, a militant, an anarchist.
I pack the car. I put my twelve-gauge bolt-action shotgun in the trunk. I don’t know how long it takes. I don’t know how many times I stop. I arrive in Washington D.C. What’s the date? June first, 2020? No, it’s 1968.
I smell tear gas in the air. It draws me toward the White House. I walk in that direction. I’m dressed in black with a black bandana covering my face. There are lots of demonstrators around the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Some are yelling at cops in Lafayette Square across from the White House. People are shouting, chanting, screaming. Cops with shields and batons are lined up confronting the protesters.
Then it happens. It’s around six thirty. Secret Service agents, military police, Park Police, National Guardsmen, and Arlington County Police all in riot gear advance on the demonstrators in Lafayette Square. A Black Hawk helicopter swoops out of the sky and hovers fifteen feet above ground blasting gusts of wind that snap tree limbs and send volleys of dust and broken glass-like shrapnel tearing through the crowd of protesters. People are screaming and running for cover in panic and confusion.
There wasn’t any violent activity going on, just chanting and singing, people waving signs. But the forces of The Man are advancing. They shoot smoke canisters. They’re pushing the crowd of people with their shields. Protesters trip over each other trying to back away. People on the ground are beaten with batons. Heads, elbows, and knees are bleeding in the street. Cops shoot pepper balls. Horses charge defenseless demonstrators and trample them underfoot. Everyone is forced out of the park into H Street. A few protesters throw water bottles, but no one fights back. The pigs keep advancing and beating helpless protesters holding up their arms to shield their heads from baton blows.
I jog around past the melee on H Street, south past the White House grounds skirting the fence along the west and south lawns, and then toward the statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback. Lafayette Square is deserted now. I run through the little park. I sneak across H Street. I’m at the opposite end of the street from where the security forces are still attacking, pushing, and pummeling the protesters. I hide behind a large oak tree on the southeast corner of St. John’s Church’s grounds.
I have a clear view of The Man as he walks up to the parish house of St. John’s Church. There’s a group of men with the Evil One. I know I should recognize them from TV. Is that little Billy Barr? No matter. My mind is buzzing too much to get a clear signal. Two blond women are in the group. One is The Daughter. Then, He steps away from the group. He’s carrying a book. Yes! It’s The Bible. He’s standing there holding The Book upside down. The final signal!
I aim and pull the trigger. What? Nothing happened. Could it be? I shoot the bolt. There’s no shell in the chamber. Some demon must have stolen my ammunition. The gun isn’t loaded. I scrounge through my pockets. No cartridges there. Oh yeah, now I remember. We only fight with handheld weapons. So that’s what this is. It’s not a gun. It’s a club.
I let out a war cry and run toward The Man holding The Book. Before he can turn to see death approaching, something happens to me. I’m flying. No, I’m falling. Did something hit me? I didn’t see it.
Jeff Rasley is a retired lawyer and long-time social activist. He is a director of 6 nonprofit organizations and has taught classes on community development at Butler and Marian Universities. Anarchist, Republican… Assassin is his 11th book.