Dedicated with love to Cathy, Cindy, Betsy Ann, Linda, Tina and Rebecca
I haven’t cried yet. Maybe the Zoloft is to blame. Maybe it’s that I said for months that Donald Trump was going to win and did some anticipatory grieving. In fact, I haven’t come close to tears, unlike many of my friends, who have endured crying jags.
I can talk okay. Starbucks friend H and I just mourned and processed for half an hour. Plenty of words are on my tongue, punctuated by cleansing breaths. At home with wife Kathy and son Micah, observations stumbling with frustration and disbelief share space with reflective pauses—as if to invite reality to take hold. How else can we move on without accepting the verdict of the Electoral College? We’re talking ourselves through the surreal.
So I have much to say, but hardly anything to write, which is a drag. Writing is how I work my way toward truth and locate beauty, those two essential elements for a fulfilling planetary residency. As H wisely pointed out, we’re weathering a privileged sadness. I sip green tea and note that drizzle is falling from the sky, nothing more. Aleppo this is not.
Perspective helps in the sense that functioning isn’t a problem. I can drive, buy milk, go to daughter Elena’s for lunch, as I will in a couple of hours. But there’s no denying that on this writing day, the only voice I have is lament.
The temptation to indulge a litany of complaint and foreboding is considerable, but what’s the point? The sad fact is, the genuine exchange of ideas is either palliative—the likeminded completing each other’s sentences—or absurd—our society’s shared reverence for facts and fairness having been profaned.
The vengeful, chaotic, ugly presidential transition already underway points to governance that will resemble a demolition derby. Beholding the spectacle amounts to keeping vigil at the deathbed of our democracy.
I can’t watch anymore. Reading The New York Times is bearable, but television’s evening news is psychological torture. Anyway, my lament isn’t primarily about the carnage I expect from a take-no-prisoners Trump administration collaborating with a party that has spent the last eight years legitimizing obstruction as a modus operandi. All might go swimmingly, but I expect ravenous politcal cannibalism in the months ahead.
I’ve gotten used to wretched behavior among politicians, but the election of Donald Trump has set the basket of American citizens’ most deplorable instincts and beliefs in the middle of our national table and encouraged their enthusiastic public display. The slurs formerly bandied about in living rooms are now the full-throated cries of Trump supporters, who interpret their candidate’s victory as a mandate to hate and intimidate.
H told me three stories of gay friends who had been harassed or threatened the Wednesday following Election Day in our town, Erie, Pennsylvania. Two local college students have also been suspended for posting a racist statement on social media. Such incidents now number in the hundreds nationally.
But the fear of millions reaches beyond physical safety to personal rights. My sisters, both gay, wonder if such basics as their marital status and health insurance coverage are vulnerable. I imagine that Muslims and Mexicans are bolting upright in the night with racing hearts.
Their pain is abstract until I open myself to the details:
- New York City editor Mehreen Kasana tweeted, “I have a scarf on. Passed by someone on the platform today and he says, ‘Your time’s up, girlie.’”
- Texas State University restrooms were decorated with fliers bearing this message: “Now that our man TRUMP is elected and republicans own both the senate and the house—time to organize tar & feather VIGILANTE SQUADS to go arrest & torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this Diversity Garbage [capitalization sic].”
- “Build the wall,” chanted middle-schoolers in Michigan.
- This incident hasn’t happened yet: My sister Cindy, one of the most gentle people I know, pumps gas in North Carolina as a pickup pulls up beside her. From the cab comes a snarl: “Hey, dyke, go to hell. America is mine now!”
The problem is, the President-elect’s followers have found his truth, and that truth has set them free. Remember the commendable passion Bernie Sanders stirred in his supporters? What he stood for was greater than the man himself; therefore, he couldn’t control the movement he inspired.
Donald Trump has also unleashed a movement, except his terrorizes and depresses those whose only offense is the color of their skin or the content of their character and identity or the One they worship or the involuntary twitches of their muscles or the love they have for anybody who is oppressed or all of the above.
Told of the words spoken and actions committed in his name, Trump said, “I am so saddened to hear that.” And then, two impotent syllables: “Stop it.” We’ll have to wait and see whether the President-elect commands obedience as keenly as he glamorizes rage and ridicule. My hunch is those saying “your time’s up” know that their man doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about victimization. His brutal spirit is a matter of public record.
So today I’ve got nothing to offer but a lament. People I love and others just like them are afraid of the person who will take the Oath of Office on January 20, 2017. They recognize that the Leader of the Free World considers them of no account. (Ironically, he feels the same way about his supporters. They just don’t know it yet.)
What did it feel like on November 9, 2016, to be a woman or gay or black or Muslim or Mexican or disabled—whom did I miss? I imagine the worst part was the instant they realized that they had been thrown under the bus by their fellow citizens.
We all heard Donald Trump demean nearly everybody other than white males. We had before us irrefutable proof of his distain for anybody who doesn’t see the world his way.
We understood that the policies he promised might well threaten the well-being and safety of folks like my gay sisters and others whose hearts burst with dreams of a loving America.
And tens of millions of us said, “I can live with that”—which is another way of saying, “You really don’t matter that much”—which is another way of saying, “You are not beloved.” These may not have been the intended messages, but I’m certain they were received with g-forces to countless souls.
That’s what I lament. Folks who have done absolutely nothing wrong feel shunned by their own country and suspect that some of the neighbors they wave to wish, deep down, that they would go away.
I can’t live with this kind of hurt and am not resigned to it.
Of course, I’ll live, but honestly, I have to figure out a new vision for my American citizenship. I have to look harder to find truth and beauty. And I have to wait for good words to return.