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Romania is a country known for its legendary vampire (Dracula was allegedly born here) and its former authoritarian dictatorial regime that turned life for the locals into a nightmare. Being a kid in the hardest years of Ceausescu's dictatorship wasn't fun, even if time tends to gild the pill - the endless queues for even the basic supplies, the harsh rationing, the constant fear of saying something inappropriate that has been implanted into our hearts from our early childhood, the constant lacking, the constant propaganda, the cult of personality... they definitely left a mark. Whenever our fearless leader raised his scepter while standing on the tribune, the crowds broke out in cheers and rhythmical applause, some out of true devotion, others because those not cheering loud enough or not applauding with enough energy could easily end up being visited by the local militia (that's what the police was called back then) or a party cadre asking questions about loyalty, dedication to the building of socialism, and the betterment of the Party as a whole.

Trump Cabaret

Seeing recordings of Trump rallies reminds me - and many other so-called Gen-Xers - of the rare public appearances of our aging Romanian leader, Nicholai Ceausescu.

Seeing recordings of Trump rallies reminds me - and many other so-called Gen-Xers (albeit these boxes don't fit for us, born in an oppressive regime and reaching adulthood in a blossoming, often misunderstood democracy) - of the rare public appearances of our aging leader. The chants and the cheering, the endless applause and the banners, the stupid mottos appear to have been taken from the very same rulebook.

The jokes

The only thing I regret about the Trump administration is that George Carlin was not around to see it. The social critic and philosopher disguised as a stand-up comedian could have written volumes upon volumes about it. The range of topics he could have covered is amazing, from the President playing hardball with Canada and forcing China's hand to reach a trade deal, building walls and playing golf, and Trump being Trump, in general.

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I often feel like all the jokes that we have been whispering about Ceausescu before 1989 are now being played in real life by the current American administration. Here's an example: Ceausescu and his wife were flying in Air Force One when, at once, its engines stop and it falls to the ground. Shaken, he asks the pilot what happened. "Mister President", the pilot says, "we've hit the living standard of our country".

It's fun... except it's not

It's fun to read all the Twitter updates, it's fun to hear all the speeches... except, it's not. If these words were said by any other individual, they would be dismissed as the ramblings of a racist, sexist, uneducated, grumpy old man. Unfortunately, the person issuing these is not just any old man but the President of the United States - and as such, his words and his Twitter updates have weight: they not only shape the policy of the country and its image all over the world but they also enable hosts of previously closeted individuals with similar views to be open about them. After all, if the President can be racist, sexist, and uneducated, it's OK for them to be the same.

Just like Romania still feels the effects of 42 years of communist oppression, America will feel the aftershock of the Trump administration for years to come. For those of us overseas, what happens today in the US often feels like a cabaret... one that nobody feels like laughing at.

Stephen Benoit

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