It’s not often you get to see history made, especially here in the northwestern corner of Nevada where I live. But a couple of Saturdays ago our Lyon County Commissioners held a ceremony renaming the building housing the district courts, sheriff’s office, and jail “The Donald J. Trump Justice Complex.”
The commissioners did not make history in the sense of doing something notable that historians will record, and future generations will remember—or at least I hope not. In fact, the whole thing was banal, run of the mill political theater, meant to ingratiate the commissioners with the local Trump followers and, not incidentally, improve two of the commissioners’ chances for promotion to the state assembly.
Events might eventually turn The Trump Justice Complex into an intolerable embarrassment. A few facetious locals have liked the sound of a Trump County Jail—not so much the courtrooms. But it’s not hard to imagine a future county crew discreetly prying the commemorative plaque off the wall, spackling over the screw holes, and touching up the paint job.
But maybe not. What if The Trump Justice Complex is simply a milestone on the way to something truly historic, such as the replacement of American Democracy with an authoritarian and ultimately dictatorial form of government?
The milestone in this case is the annihilation of truth, and “annihilation” is exactly the word. As Garry Kasparov, the Russian dissident, put it “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
Truth is wiped out, its very existence obliterated. But not through argument or rational discourse. It takes a ceaseless, high volume barrage of patently false statements which, even if they are easily disproven, are presented with such authority and conviction that they finally worm their way into the national consciousness.
The Trump Justice Complex fits the bill in spades. The commemorative plaque marking the name change features a bas-relief Trump with raised fist, followed by five obsequious paragraphs extolling the accomplishments of the ex-president.
The text checks a number of boxes, such as touting Trump’s appointment of “strict constructionist” judges and his protection of “our security through the enforcement of U.S. borders.” But it is the bald-faced lies now permanently affixed to the wall outside our courtrooms that might well cement the Trump Justice Complex’s place in history.
First, of course, is the fundamental contradiction between Donald Trump and any meaningful understanding of justice. As president, he short-circuited the entire justice system by pardoning a score or more of associates and supporters—from simple swindlers to perjurers—all of whom had been properly investigated, indicted, tried, and found guilty by juries of their peers.
Other excesses from the plaque are worth quoting in full. For example: “President Donald Trump demonstrated outstanding support for the men and women of law enforcement and the judicial system.”
This would be news to the almost 150 Capitol and District of Columbia police who were injured on January 6—not to mention those who eventually died—while protecting Congress from a Trump inspired mob.
And, “President Trump faithfully supported the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.” Never mind that Donald Trump was the first president in the history of our country to refuse to acknowledge the results of a free and fair election—the very heart of the Constitution.
Pardon the figure of speech, but the jury is out on the future of democracy in America. It may be that our commissioners have done their part, and taken us one small, historic step closer to our own Mussolini, Putin, or some lesser authoritarian light. Or truth might survive. I’m just not sure exactly how.
Erich Obermayr is an author, community activist, and career archaeologist specializing in sharing historical and archaeological research with the public. He writes about Nevada politics and social issues. He lives in Silver City, Nevada, with his wife. Support Erich’s work in the Sierra Nevada Ally here.
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