[A couple of evenings ago I read Yonatan Zunger’s blog post “Trial Balloon for a Coup? Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours“. The next morning I woke at 2:47 am from a strange dream. The following is fiction.]
[draft / evening eds. mtg.]
A little over a day has now passed since the Trump administration’s announcement of the suspension of the US constitution. A day of nervous waiting. The announcement by Mr Trump — surely few now refer to him as President — of the uncovering of a “secret liberal plot” to “frustrate the will of the American voter” has been watched and re-watched and dissected. But the uncomfortable truth is that, apart from the brief statement of “watchful neutrality” issued by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, we know little more than we did yesterday.
And so we go about our lives. Thinking perhaps of loved ones in the US, who are no doubt thinking of us. We glance over our shoulders; skittish. Many who lived through the Cuban missile crisis remember this feeling well, and never thought they would experience it again.
For the time being the world’s conversation is stilled. Twitter is suspended, despite the efforts of its engineers in Toronto and London to take control of its servers. Facebook is blocked in North America, and unreliable across the rest of the world. Their main offices and data centres are reported to be guarded by the same men in unmarked uniforms who were earlier observed surrounding the headquarters of the US State and Justice departments. Web connections time-out and telephone calls fail to connect. Perhaps surprisingly, email and text messages continue to leak out of the country, but the fragmented stories that they bring — street protests met by force, panic buying of food, disappearances, and convoys of unmarked vehicles arriving at sports stadiums in major cities — provide no reassurance. Only anguish.
Global financial markets remain closed. The skies over the US are clear of aircraft for the first time since September 2001, and tens of thousands of passengers find themselves unexpectedly deposited in Canada and Mexico. The governments of those countries remain tight-lipped: perhaps nervous of a repeat of yesterday’s lethal events at Niagara Falls. And the irony of US borders that are finally impassible to migrants is unlikely to be lost on anyone.
Since it seems clear that the US federal government has been largely suborned, and the its military will not intervene, all now depends on the response of the individual states. With the exception of Hawaii, Virginia and Texas, we do not know how the state governors have reacted, or whether Trump’s unprecedented nationwide federalisation of national guard units has been obeyed. The widely publicised eyewitness statements of the Queen Mary 2 passengers and crew demonstrate that the plans of Trump and his backers were well executed, at least in major cities such as New York. On the other hand, the film of open battles at Shreveport and Oklahoma City, and the rumoured siege at Portland, suggest that not all is going their way.
It is clear that the US has experienced a coup d’etat. It may even be that, after two hundred and forty years, the great American Experiment has failed. What is certain is that in these dark days the world needs cool leadership and more than a little good fortune.