Getting Ready for the Trumpsformation


This week I’ve been struggling to get ready for the moment at which our American molecules reconfigure and we morph into whatever we’re going to become on this Inauguration Day.   Metaphors like “changing of the guard” or “passing the baton” just don’t work for me when it comes to the space between this Thursday night and Friday morning, so I’m calling it the “Trumpsformation.”

The reason the Trumpsformation is so terrifying is that it threatens my very sense of self.  Sure, there are lots of other reasons I’m afraid of a  Trump Presidency. But the prospect of going to bed thinking I’m Barack Obama and waking up the next morning as Donald Trump is the kind of thought that keeps people like me up at night, composing mini-essays in my head.

I’m stating this in such identity- confused terms because in a very important way, the President is us. The man or woman holding the office is not a manager but an ideal, the face we show to the world and a symbol of the values we hold dear and with which we identify.

When we elected Barack Obama in 2008 it seemed to me like we were on our way to becoming what we aspire to be, a government for all the people. By reminding us time and again that we were united by shared values,  Mr. Obama appealed to the best in us, and gave us the best in him.  The fact that his best was met with such relentless opposition is a source of immense disappointment, even grief, at the sobering realization that we are not where I hoped we were.

But the ascendancy of Mr. Trump is in a class by itself. It is not disappointing, it’s disorienting.  And with Martin Luther King Day on the one end and the Inauguration on the other of this strange and ironic week,  it feels like we’ve boarded an express train headed backwards in time, through a wormhole, into some alternate universe in which a tangerine-headed Grinch has stolen America.  And come Friday I won’t even be able to pretend that this is just a bad dream. How sad!

Oops, The Trumpsformation is beginning…..

At times like this,  psychoanalysts like myself (confronted with patients like myself) strive to provide a sense of perspective. So here’s an old fashioned Freudian idea that comforts me. It’s called “Regression.”  The idea is that when we find ourselves facing  new situations that exceed our ability to cope we humans tend to retreat to attitudes and behaviors that may have done something for us in the past, though totally out of kilter with the present.  You know, one step forward,  2 ++++ steps back.

While there are surely logical and scientific flaws in any effort to explain the psychology of nations by the psychology of individuals,   it makes me feel a whole lot  better to view this gargantuan step backwards as a temporary retreat and the inevitable result of the forward movement that put Mr. Obama in the White House.  If our reach as a nation exceeded our grasp, that doesn’t mean we stop reaching, and it doesn’t mean we turn and run in the other direction. We can’t return to the 1950’s,  I’ll never be 20 again, and America’s greatness will never be found in a return to some mythical past.

So I’m going to try to get through this one by telling myself we are still the nation that elected Barack Obama, twice. Nobody can repeal that fact. Come Friday and the Trumpsformation,  I’ll try to remember that,  every day.  And hopefully, the goodness that he embodied and reflected will rise to the top again, and  our stay in craziland will be just a temporary sojourn instead of a permanent residence.







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