THEODORE Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, once said: “It is the duty of all citizens, irrespective of party, to denounce and, so far as may be, to punish crimes against the public on the part of politicians or officials.”

American citizens now find ourselves thrown into this duty, each in our own way. Donald Trump’s indictment is a test and an apocalypse. It will both test and reveal the nature of America’s justice system, our democracy, and our collective will.

Yesterday, a Manhattan grand jury indicted former president Trump on more than 30 counts. Notably, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating “hush money” payments from former president Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to allegedly cover up an affair. This according to the New York Times.

Trump is expected to surrender in Manhattan for processing at some point next week. It is the first time in US history that a president has been criminally charged.

READ MORE: Donald Trump 'expected to surrender' to authorities after historic indictment

News of the indictment brought immediate and strong reactions from Trump supporters.

Former vice president Mike Pence called it an “outrage”. His son, Donald Trump Jr, was on a live podcast when the news broke, ranting that it was “communist". He added that “this is the stuff that would make Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot blush," according to the Huffington Post.

Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s apparent rival for the GOP 2024 nomination, preemptively refused to comply with any extradition requests as the governor of Florida, Trump’s home state.

Echoing the anti-communism of the 1950’s, DeSantis called the indictment “un-American”.

Trump seemed to try and get ahead of the pending indictment in two key ways. First, he wrongly predicted his arrest this past Tuesday.

Even though the indictment failed to materialize on that timeline, Trump raised about $1.5 million through the post. Then, last weekend he hosted a rally in Waco, Texas where he referred to his 2024 campaign as “the final battle”.

In the conspiratorial reality of MAGA, this week’s indictment makes those words seem like prophecy.

The rally featured Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress who prayed God’s blessings over Trump, and the "J6 Choir". The choir is comprised of men charged for their role in the Capitol Insurrection, and sang a recording of the national anthem.

It’s not hard to see how Trump has set the stage for his passion, a persecution narrative which will function as propoganda for “Christian America”. Jeff Sharlet, in his recent book The Undertow, helps us see a slow civil war being waged across the United States.

This analysis is compelling. A slow civil war seems to speak to the existential crisis of American life. One where we pivot from mass shooting to mass shooting to indictments of our presidents.

A slow civil war is a way to see Trump’s indictment less in terms of political expediency or legal possibility, but in terms of its cultural potency.

Trump’s indictment, in the context of this slow civil war, might be interpreted as a sort of fascist theater by a great many Americans.

There has always been a drift towards fascism in American life. It creeps under the surface, offering Americans an escape route from the constant maintenance of democracy.

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Trump has long made this offer in coded language and in silence, as crowds stormed the Capitol.

In his study on fascism, Jason Stanley observes: “The pull of fascist politics is powerful. It simplifies human existence … encourages us to identify with a forceful leader who helps us make sense of the world, whose bluntness regarding the 'undeserving' people in the world is refreshing.”

The National:

We are witnessing this pull to fascism in real time in everything but name. History is filled with stories of deposed and defeated leaders who clung to power past their prime.

In fact, that’s the norm. Napoleon, exiled. Louis XVI, executed. Hitler, suicide. Caesar(s), assassinated.

But the United States at its best has attempted something different, something beyond the reign of one, even as it struggles to reach these ideals.

Often as it falls woefully short of them. George Washington, the first president, set a new precedent: resignation.

Still in his prime, Washington wrote: “I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking in the midst of my fellow citizens the benign influence of good laws under a free government.”

When news of his indictment broke, Trump’s response could not be more different: “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.” 

Since the 2020 election loss, Trump has imagined himself as a deposed leader. He counts himself a victim of election fraud and a target of political machinery. He can never grasp the revolutionary liberty characterized by Washington’s resignation.

Now, as in many times before in many different ways, Americans are, in the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “engaged in a struggle testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”