Sunday marked the official first day of spring on the calendar here in the northern hemisphere. It's also the beginning of Easter Week. Typically it's a time of hope. Of rebirth.
2016 is also an election year in the US, and this fall, Americans will elect a new president following eight decidedly mixed years under the Obama administration. We have spent the last few years living abroad in France, so this will be our first election here for a couple of cycles.
I would say that spring, 2016 is a time not of hope, but rather one of fear. There is a lot of fear in the air. A lot of recrimination. A lot of anger.
Much of the fear and anger is swirling around Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Some of the noise of course comes from his likely opponents in the fall on the Democratic party side; this is of course not surprising. What is more unexpected has been the tone of the attacks, which have been less about policy differences between the Democrats and Republicans, and have instead focused on how Donald Trump is an existential threat to American values themselves; how Donald Trump is unfit to be president. Indeed, on how Mr Trump is practically the verbum caro factum of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic ideas that previously have been confined to the darkest corners of the political zoo.
Equally surprising, these cries have been joined from an increasingly panicked chorus from Trump's fellow Republicans.
Things have gotten even uglier, with "protestors" who have begun to show in numbers and strength at Trump rallies with a thinly-veiled agenda simply to make it impossible for him to speak.
Let me state in advance that
- I voted for Mr Obama eight years ago during a similar time of chaos and fear, in part because he promised to be something of a uniter who would try to end the foreign wars
- I am not a supporter or fan of Donald Trump, who I think at the least lacks practical experience to be president (CEO of the country is not an entry-level job), and who has thus not articulated any sort of specific, workable plan
That said, looking at screaming protestors on the one hand who make it impossible for Trump to speak, and on the other, to the increasingly ridiculous, paranoid attacks on him and his supporters from the Democrats and Republicans, I'm left more with a set of questions rather than serious thoughts.
Trump's campaign was first greeted with incredulity and jokes - the New York Daily News ran cover stories with Trump caricatured in clown makeup, and his candidacy was mostly covered as a sort of running joke.
Which it was.
Well, the joke thus far has been on the leadership of the crumbling Republican party, who now face the real challenge of whether to accept the likelihood that Trump will be their party banner carrier in November or to continue the quixotic battle to unite behind Ted Cruz or John Kasich as the only two opponents left on the battlefield.
The current Republican leadership have only themselves to blame - the party fielded a pretty poor group of warmed-over candidates (Jeb Bush?), for years have said that tax cuts are the solution to every problem, have more or less ignored the problem of illegal immigration - which has been terrific for their big businesses backers - while talking tough about the border, and have supported a disastrous policy of invade the world/invite the world that has squandered billions of dollars on hopeless foreign wars.
Reince Priebus deserves Donald Trump.
In the end, it looks like it is going to be Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton; Hillary's backers, having survived the scare of Bernard Sanders, are turning their focus now on Trump.
Now, Trump has made some pretty risible claims about Mexican immigrants (whatever one thinks about illegal immigration, the idea that the bulk of illegals in the US are drug mules or rapists is simply ridiculous); his plans to look at a ban of ALL immigration from Islamic countries is poorly considered. His signature proposal to build a wall along the border is not practical.
But I suggest that if one looks at the facts, the anger and vitriol against Trump is misguided.
Mrs Clinton says she wants at the centre of her campaign to help the middle class and to level the economic playing field. Inequality is the root of all evils.
Mrs Clinton has late in life, apparently, discovered religion.
Donald Trump may not be the terrific businessman he clains, but I would ask, for the past 25 years, has it been Donald Trump who, first in the White House, then the Senate, who helped shape public policies that led to the 2008 financial crisis? Was Donald Trump the Senator from New York who was taking millions of dollars from Wall Street firms?
Who is to blame for the alleged inequality in our system?
Donald Trump is attacked because he says impolitic things about Muslims, and wants to ban them. He's an Islamophobic bigot.
OK. Which person - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton - voted to support the war in Iraq?
Trump doesn't like refugees, and would block their entry.
OK. Who - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State - helped topple the government in Egypt, helped foment the civil war in Syria, and supported the efforts to overthrow Muamar Gaddafi? Was it Donald Trump who read (and foolishly) believed stories about liberal-minded revolutionaries in the Arab Spring, believed to be "liberal" for the incredibly shallow reason that they used Twitter and Facebook?
Donald Trump may speak poorly of refugees; Hillary Clinton through her policy choices creates refugees.
The popular press - most recently this weekend, the Los Angeles Times - have run editorials that claim Trump is unfit to be president. He may be. The Times think so, because of the tone of his words.
I suggest that because of the record of her choices, Hillary Clinton is unfit for public service. Period.
Trump says ugly things. Clinton votes for to make them happen.
One of the most horrible images I've experienced is the infamous photo of little Alan Kurdi, a tiny three year old boy who lost his life on a Turkish beach in September, 2015. It's a horrifying image. A haunting one. A lifeless little body in a red tee shirt and tiny sneakers.
Donald Trump's words did not kill that little boy. Hillary Clinton and Samantha Powers and other people in the US State department who pushed the Arab Spring lie on the world, I'm less convinced. Hillary, at the time describing the US intervention in Libya, quipped "We came, we saw he (Gaddafi) died."
Whatever Donald Trump's shortcomings, one simply must think of this incredibly shallow, callow statement alongside the images of little Alan Kurdi and ask is it Donald Trump who is unfit to be president?