On January 20th of 2017, we will swear in a new president of the United States. But no matter which candidate eventually places their hand on the bible and takes that oath, the fact remains that the people have spoken - and their message should not be ignored. For as hundreds of thousands of our countrymen continue to step up and vote for a narcissistic madman, a hidden stain slowly bleeds through the fabric of this society.
We Americans cheer wildly when a pop star nails that high note while singing about “the land of the free,” but then we cheer just as loudly when a snake oil salesman exploits your Jesus for publicity, inspires upticks in membership on white supremacy websites, or plays dumb about the Ku Klux Klan. When his name becomes a euphemism for a racial insult, he is deemed a-okay to be a public servant in the "home of the brave." (And all that's just this week...)
So that means Trump isn’t really the problem. Our flawed, imperfect humanity is the problem, and Donald has simply used the “Culture of Mean” as a presidential platform. And as citizens of a democracy we each have the right to vote for whoever we damn well please. Free country, dude.
Fine. So be it. But..
..that millions would give wings to the Trump campaign is like learning that a parent we idolized was, in fact, a liar and a cheat. The widespread acceptance of Trump's garbage-truck political style has shattered an illusion I had about a common decency among us - and the reality beyond the cracks is really rather gross.
So now what?
My faith in my fellow man has been badly bruised, but for the sake of my young son I must not give in to horror, indignation and fear. I must keep the faith in, through, and on the other side of Trump Campaign America, and here’s how. I will:
1. Recognize that this has always been the reality: This Culture of Mean didn’t begin when Mr. Orange began to speak his mind. It’s been simmering for years on TV news scrolls and through the mics of Fox shock jocks: Trump has just leveraged that venom for votes, that’s all. So when I walk out the door, I must remember that I’m walking into the same world that's been out there for years, only now the lowlights have been bumped up in the picture.
2. Work to change policies, not minds: Gone are the days of begging friends to please consider that racism and Islamophobia might actually still be a real thing, and maybe, just maybe all of those black/Muslim voices crying foul are not a bunch of whiners? It’s a waste of time, for if that is not clear from the headlines and the Rise of Trump, then all the links and memes and infinitely long Facebook threads are probably not going to get through to the naysayers.
Now, I’m not saying I won’t spar on occasion (because I so will you betcha), but my time and energy will be better spent taking solid actions towards real solutions. I must move from micro to macro. No more arguing with Uncle Joe when he says the blacks can just move out of the projects if it’s really so bad and anyway maybe they should just do what the good officer told them to do and stop buying iPads with my hard earned money. **sigh** Nope. I must write a letter or a post, pen an op-ed, or - even better - attend a meeting or a rally, instead. Uncle Joe is a lost cause in this battle.
3. Raise a good man: My son is young, and can still feel the difference in his bones between good and bad. I will raise him to trust that instinct, for there is more God in those feelings than in any written text or finger-wagging lecture. I will raise him to be a man who understands the difference between actions based in love and those based in self-centered fear. If I have anything to do with it, in twenty years he will still be able to recognize hypocrisy as easily as he does today. I will raise a boy who respects all walks of life - not just the rich/smart/“peach” kind.
4. Buy a passport. A one-man-show is the end of democracy. As broken as our democratic process is, without it there would be anarchy. Having a valid passport is like having one pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment when you are quitting smoking: you don’t plan on using it, but it is much easier getting through the day knowing that that option is available in case of an emergency.
5. Step away from the snarl of the internet. I practically live on social media. (except for Twitter. Screw you, Twitter.) If I could buy a condo on Facebook, I would. Even so, these days I’m always one status update away from an emotional meltdown. Self-preservation and moral equilibrium are much easier to find at the end of a dog leash than with fingers on a keyboard, so there will be more dog walks and less laptops for me in the days ahead.
6. Stay connected with like-minded friends: The first play I ever wrote was called “Tuxedo Blue.” (Don’t Google it. Thankfully it was never produced) Tuxedo Blue was set in the not too distant future, when a man would never need to leave the house to survive. Everything could be ordered or downloaded: food, groceries, virtual friends of all kinds.
Well that time is now, and on my darkest days it sounds like a damn nice way to live. In my own home, I can control my wild, painful heart swings by turning off the offending stimulus.
- Are there scary religious fundamentalists on TV? Power down!
- Is the internet telling tales about the elementary school-level obstructionism going on between grown-ups holding the highest offices in the land? HGTV, here I come.
- What? That darling friend from band camp thinks Trump would be THE best thing for our nation? Oh, lookie! Grub Hub says my chicken Pad Thai will be here in less than an hour!
But I can’t pull away from the world. I can, but I CAN’T. I have to stay connected to my many kind-hearted homies who keep me anchored to the soft spots in my own heart.
And I have to go outside. I have to go to Target, sometimes. I mean, c’mon.
7. Never Forget. I often think back to when I was a young girl walking through those barracks, staring unblinkingly at the wooden slats upon which piles of people slept and died in filth and feces. I remember wondering aloud to my Mom, “How could people let this happen?”
It’s a question I’ve asked myself a thousand times since. How does a nation of decent, hardworking people become an army of hate? How do the masses rebel so completely against the love that flows in their hearts?
And while I’m sure many fought hard against the spiritual cancer of the era, I’m also sure that many people turned away from the nightmare because it was just too much to bear. I get it, I do.
Because I, too, want to throw in the towel and ignore the soundbites and the headlines of a nation that's gone rogue and is now setting bonfires to the principle of "liberty and justice for all." The rise of Trump is surreal and uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but I owe it to my son and to my 12 year old self not to be like those people who turned away from the nightmare.
That's my piece, and that's my peace. Thank you for taking the time to read my words - it truly means the world to me. Carry on...
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