By Alec Dubro
So many of my progressive friends and social media buddies are openly salivating over the prospect of Trump in the dock and moldering in prison. I’m not.
Certainly, a time of reckoning approaches for Donald Trump, but also for the rest of us. He is set to face a number of serious criminal and civil prosecutions that could last for many years. And although the prospect of him humiliated in court and sitting in prison is enticing for many, I’m thinking of an alternative to the usual legal proceedings and punishments: Exile. St. Helena rather than Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.
I realize that although classical exile isn’t an explicit option in the criminal codes, I think it’s often been applied in the cases of non-citizens and even to citizens when they’ve been ordered to move elsewhere as a condition of sentencing. However, it’s never been used in the case of a major political figure, or in this case, the major political figure.
Others may want to extract revenge for Trump’s devastating reign, but I want… nothing. And as much nothing as possible: I want his name and his future deranged statements to be erased from public viewing and listening. I want him gone. And years of Trump trials will provide no escape from the dominating image and personality of Donald Trump. We’ve had enough of The Trump Show, years after it jumped the shark. We’ve listened and listened, read and read and reacted and overreacted. I want it to end. We’ve had… enough.
And exile is a fitting punishment. Although ancient Rome didn’t invent exile, they it codified it. A Colby College history notes that the poet Ovid lamented his suffering in exile, “… ancient Roman law actually adopted the penalty of exile in an effort to avoid excessive capital punishment.” And that “… different degrees of exile allowed the state, or ruler, to impose a punishment that more fairly matched the severity of a particular crime.”
Ex-president Trump isn’t about to be executed, and isn’t even likely to end up in prison, but exile sure matches the severity of his biggest crime: getting into our heads, driving us crazy and distracting the nation from some of the most serious problems we’ve ever faced: reckonings on race and justice and, even more so, the increasing existential damage of climate change.
But exiling Trump to St. Helena as Napoleon was, is today neither an option nor even fitting. And, the British wouldn’t want him. After all, it’s not Trump’s physical presence that we’re immersed in, it’s his media presence. So, I think that in exchange for suspending all criminal charges, he must also be erased from television, social media (especially Twitter) and all other media. His actual residence is less importance than his presence.
One caveat: I’m only proposing exile as a punishment for criminal charges, not civil ones. Prosecutors and his lawyers should fight it out in court and, as seems inevitable, decimate and disburse his alleged fortune. But he would be proscribed from any sort of public statements.
I realize that this route deprives his victims of sexual assault their public days in court. But, since they were unlikely to see any retributive justice other than money, they should be put at the top of the list of his creditors to be paid out.
No, I don’t think the nation would be deprived of justice, which would be interminably delayed and unsatisfying anyway. Instead, it would be mercifully relived of the destructive and corrosive influence of the worst public individual the nation ever had. But be prepared, though: The sudden disappearance of Donald Trump would like cause withdrawal symptoms as we lose the focus of our attention and our daily dose of emotional stimulation and entertainment. Life will be less exciting without Donald Trump, but don’t worry, you’ll survive.
Alec Dubro is a lifelong writer and journalist and now an inveterate meme maker. He is past president of the National Writers union and a resident of Washington, DC.