There is an interestingly imperfect crime thriller out right now called The Little Things that might help us all process how it is that Donald Trump has once again seemingly gotten away with his crimes scot free.
It stars Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as two guys tasked with meting out some form of justice to a sociopathic, creepy criminal third guy (played by Jared Leto) who has spent a lifetime pushing the boundaries of right and wrong for his own amusement and grizzly personal gains (Note: In this case, fast cars and serial murders) and gleefully getting away with it.
It’s a rivetingly weird yet ultimately unsatisfying film you can watch on HBO Max, much in the same way the travails of Trump continue to be a disgustingly compelling yet consistently unsatisfying piece of our history available at any time, day or night, on just about any channel of your choice.
The latest Trump crime of the moment, which can change depending on the time of day, week or month you’re reading this, would be the incitement of the violent, bloody insurrection into the Capitol Building on Jan. 6th by an armed, riotous mob of Trump supporters, some of whom were carrying Trump flags, others of whom were sporting Confederate flags and almost all of whom were shouting things like, Hang Mike Pence, Hang Mike Pence!, as a gallows they constructed for that very deed stood outside the building just mere yards away.
While it doesn’t quite qualify as serial murder, it was an event where five people died, including one police officer in cold blood, and hundreds of others were injured or maimed for life (Note: Another police officer will lose an eye, still another some fingers, and still others ____________).
Despite seemingly endless compelling footage that showed Trump bellowing, frothing and egging on his people, many of whom he knew were heavily armed and most of whom had their D.C. trips paid for by his campaign, the Senate could muster only a 57-43 vote in favor of his impeachment (Note: Ten more votes were needed for a 2/3 majority).
This despite Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, one of those NOT GUILTY on impeachment votes, proclaiming in a fiery speech right after that Trump was indeed:
…Practically and morally responsible for the events of that day, no question about it…The people who stormed the building, believed they were acting on the instruction of their president.
To me this seemed eerily similar to the young woman at the top of The Little Things who, when driving her car and gleefully singing to the B-52s Roam late one night on a darkened highway, gets chased down by a guy in expensive boots and a revved up auto.
Sometime later at a police station she knows in her heart of hearts it IS Jared Leto, especially since she, like those senators, was an eyewitness to his criminal attempt.
Yet somehow, when faced with the prospect of fingering him, she also falls victim to what can only now be referred to as a McConnell moment.
She knows yet she doesn’t know, she wants to step up but hesitates to do so, she commits to speaking out but the imperfections of the legal system allow her to slip out of her civic and, indeed, moral responsibilities.
Though perhaps she, and in turn McConnell, never had any intention of helping to begin with. And who could blame them? Because for most humans it is ultimately, and always has been, about SELF-PRESERVATION.
No matter how many little things land in the column to vote one way, when YOU and yours ALONE are the only thing in the opposite column well, we all know what your final vote will be.
That is, if you’re THAT kind of person. But um, how many of us aren’t these days, in a movie or in real life?
That’s the question the film, and this impeachment trial asks us. And right now the answer isn’t an attractive one.
Any of the fire Sen. McConnell had mustered in his speech began to quickly flame out, reducing him to an amorphous puddle of word mush when he explained that legal precedent dictated that the Senate technically can’t impeach a president who was already out of office.
It was pretzel logic at its worst, since the Senate on that Monday had:
a. ALREADY VOTED that they COULD have these hearings in the first weeks of the Biden administration.
b. That the vast majority of conservative and liberal legal scholars proclaimed very publicly in the preceding few weeks there was no such precedent prohibiting it, and
c. That it was McConnell himself who, just weeks before, when he was SENATE MAJORITY LEADER and could dictate such things, was the person who REFUSED to have the Senate hold the impeachment trial when Trump was IN office in the first place.
These pesky little details seem to both serve and haunt McConnell and the other Republican senators each time they opt to NOT hold a multi-criminally accused mastermind like Trump to the spirit of the law and choose instead, to get too caught up in the letters of it.
Each proclamation is a calculation, and every vote becomes a maneuver. Each piece of evidence is weighed and put in the yay or nay column when at the end of the day the only column that matters is the one that will personally serve EACH OF THEM best.
There is no real truth or justice because all it comes down to is the law that they CHOOSE to see. This law has nothing to do with the spirit of truth or justice. It lives only in the shadows of self-preservation.
In Little Things, Denzel is haunted by a mistake he made in the past that exiled him from respected detective to ordinary beat cop in a non-descript county.
Rami is a big city detective prime for a mistake because of the pressure on him to solve a big city crime before he puts his wife and two little girls on the front lines of danger OR the feds swoop in, take over his case and steal HIS glory.
Meanwhile, Jared is the dangerous mastermind who taunts them with quick and endless bon mots, breadcrumbs towards would-be VERY high crimes committed in plain sight and counters their backtalk with ominous threats in coded language that everyone can understand and yet no one can seem to legally prosecute.
The film asks us to ask ourselves just how much bad we’re willing to tolerate or cover up for or ignore in the name of what WE think is right.
This week Trump’s Senate impeachment hearings once again asked our government and its representatives a similar question:
Just how much can we allow in the name of what WE believe?
Sadly, in both cases, the answer didn’t have much to do with the law. Rather, it was about the people or persons tasked with carrying it out and what personally benefitted them.
A bunch of little things that seem to always willfully ignore the BIG THING standing right before us.