What sucks is when you’ve lived more than 70 years, and not for one day have you known what accountability looks like, not for one day have you understood justice.
For you have known you were doing things for which others were punished, but celebrated your impunity, cursed accountability, fled justice.
For you have only known law, but never justice, and therefore mistook justice for the slow, institutionalized revenge your own wealth bought you in the courts of the United States.
But now there are less than seven hours between you and the end of your power. You have glimpsed the brutal end of impunity, but cannot fathom what that means. It is beyond your experience that your political enemies would favor the courts not for the revenge it could sell them, but for the peace it could buy them. It is beyond your experience that a person might be willing to send attorneys after your ill-gotten wealth or police after your fleeing person, and yet not be willing to send the horned and howling mob.
For what was the difference to you? Every exercise of power was to please yourself and punish those you disliked. Every choice of instrument was made based on no more thought than whatever weapon you could find to hand.
And now, now you know fear that you haven’t known since you struggled to flee your father’s belt. You run, certain that those who weild the power you once did will be as corrupt, as vengeful, as spiteful at heart as you yourself, but you cannot run from time.
It falls away, this armor, this ablative armor of Time, carrying with it your power and your protection. There are less than seven hours left, now, and already you have been alert for ten minutes, forced awake by the need to rush to your plane, to flee far from the power of the next president.
You should enjoy these last few hours of plenipotency, but you cannot. The cold tile in the shower sinks into your skin like fear. The decor that once declared your own power, now shouts endlessly to you, wherever you look, of the strength you are losing, the strength your enemies gain. Even the floor upon which you stand is nothing but the foundation of another’s power.
And what is the power of another, but your own vulnerability?
You will eat this morning, but not taste food. You will clothe yourself expensively, but fail to enjoy any texture on your skin.
These moments, these seven hours, they are all of them, all of them too filled with fear the flavor of bitter almonds for anything else to register in your perceptions.
And you tease yourself believing that you might, after these seven hours, craft a new plan, from a new base of power, that might allow you to strike back, to steal time, another four years and more to once again feel secure.
But that power, that safety will never come. You will never know another moment without fear of desperate, violent revenge until you come to understand the lives and thoughts of others, their motivations and their humanity separate from your own.
If you could do that, then you might understand the difference between taxation and theft. The difference between due process and lynching. The difference between justice and revenge. On that future day you might understand that in the United States a white man with wealth truly is safe from this morning’s nightmares.
But on that day you would feel something worse: for if you were to feel the humanity of other people, if you were to understand why people wish to hold you accountable for your wrongs, you would have to truly comprehend the wrongs you have worked. And on that day, guilt, guilt in true horrible appreciation of the harms you have inflicted on others and the malice within your own soul, would inflict its own punishment on you, more terrible than anything within the power of a judge to mete out in sentence.
And so you will fear. Out of desperate necessity, you will fear everything and everyone for the rest of your days. What really sucks is experiencing how desperately awful these next seven hours of losing your power can be, while your fear whispers to you:
It only gets worse. It only ever can get worse from now until the end of your life.