So Delilah passed, Tom’s mom passed, I went through an unexpected health crisis with my foot, and then…. Donald Trump came on the scene.
One picture sums up my personal issue with Trump:
Look, I get it if you don’t see the big deal with Trump and think us progressives have been overreacting.
To be honest, I felt the same way when some conservatives freaked out when Obama was elected. People around me would be convinced that he was going to enact an apocalyptic New Deal for the New Era, kill all white people, and turn the country into a fundamentalist Jihad, socialist state. That was insane to me, but it spooked a lot of people out in a genuine way.
And, while I’m being honest, there are groups of people that *I* classify as “overreactive”: people who push the theory of “deep state” (which is pretty much the same thing people thought about the ‘rich Jewish people running Europe’ right before the Holocaust), pizzagate, people who are uber-evangelical, people who believe the earth is flat, people who believe in “new earth”, etc. None of those things make sense to me, and I think that people who have these beliefs need to back up and take a long hard look at things.
So I understand the way that some people view anti-Trumpism as some overblown reaction.
As far as being concerned about socialism and the economy: I just spent several months learning about the history of the US from the 1850’s to the 1950’s, from the age of the pioneers on the frontier through several depressions and the Dust Bowl and the wars. I finally understand why people who either experienced the Depression or were first generation of those who came from that era (like my parents) would vote the way they do. The literal bottom line for many of those families was *literally* not starving to death. They were in danger of losing everything they had. It wasn’t an exaggeration. And just as I hold on to medical trauma, they hold on to economic trauma. It’s valid. I understand it now. I honor that.
But there’s being cautious and then there’s being a racist white nationalist, and the two are not the same.
Watching the lead up to the 2016 election was like watching a bomb go off in slow motion. It was *agonizing*. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for someone, ANYone from the GOP to say “no way, this guy isn’t running under our banner.” To do what they had to not to let that nomination go to him. Nope.
PERSONALLY, I had a lot emotionally invested in that election because Donald Trump made it clear very early on how he felt about disabled people. Not in private, but at a rally. And people LOVED it, they cheered him on. They ate it up. Wonderful entertainment. And anyone who says “oh, you’re being too sensitive” can go to hell. (I apologize for the fierce nature of this, but it’s been pent up for two years and I kinda want to talk about it.)
While growing up, I got teased and bullied and made fun of for something I couldn’t control- my disability. After that happens, you spend a lot of time telling yourself “they were kids, they didn’t know better”, and “this isn’t a reflection of the world as a whole” etc. So, you spend your life having this subconscious internal dialogue in which you work really hard to convince yourself that it’s all okay, the world is mostly safe and compassionate, you have a valid place in the world, you can just go out there and function within society and it’s no one’s business and people will tolerate you and maybe even accept you and not discriminate you for something you had absolutely no control over and can’t make go away… then this:
This guy was elected President.
The GOP’s non-response to that told me everything I needed to know. The election told me all I needed to know about the people this country. Trump’s barely shifting approval ratings tell me all I need to know about people every single day. And it really makes me terribly sad. You go out and see someone come out their SUV plastered with Trump stickers and they look at you and they smile and you wonder deep down if they are being friendly or they are thinking something else entirely. I’m someone who has seen the benefits of “political correctness” firsthand – the benefits of people having to keep their venom and ignorant opinions of those different than them to themselves- to have the concept of “keep your nasty, judgmental thoughts to yourself” seen as a weakness in people was just mind-blowing.
This whole thing has made me doubt pretty much everyone.
Part of me doesn’t care anymore, because I’m in my 40’s and I’ve seen and experienced it all. But that same part of me is so fucking exhausted of this game that we all play, where people pretend that they don’t notice but you know they do and now there’s so much more to it. Like physically disabled people choose this for ourselves. All we want is for people to leave us alone, let us blend in and go about our business. We’re not trying to draw attention to ourselves.
It’s more awkward for us, trust me.
But apparently we also provide good entertainment for a segment of the population.
So, no, I can’t get over that election. Trust me, I understand that I can’t change it. But it’s still happening. All of these things Trump did, and that he does. Every day. Things he says. And rallies of people who just roar in delight and approval, so ebullient that this man is finally giving them permission to express all these things that really aren’t okay.
A part of me still can’t believe all of that happened, that it was tolerated, and then that man got elected. I think my parents voted for him, which is something that is challenging to process to say the least. They have a disabled daughter, and an Asian granddaughter- one who was not born in this country.
They think I’m way too sensitive, and I think they have let Fox literally reprogram their brains, so we clash on this. I just don’t understand how the fiercely protective and compassionate mother I grew up with, the woman who was a tireless advocate for her daughter and who wouldn’t tolerate bullying in a million years could be okay with this.
And it’s not like Donald Trump was America’s only conservative. Trump wasn’t the only one running for the nomination or the most qualified. That’s what really bugs the crap out of me the most- I can’t count the times that people told me “well, I don’t like him at all or agree with anything he says but he’s pro-life so I have to vote for him.” “Well, he was elected so we just have to support him.”
No, you don’t. You don’t have to vote for him. You don’t have to support him. That’s kind of the point of this whole thing called America.
This didn’t have to happen. It can end at any time. There are plenty of conservatives who will work to protect the economy and whatever else conservatives hold important and they’re all lined up. There was a lot of opportunity for that. There still is. Yet when push comes to shove, it turns out that deep down people do agree with most of what comes out of Trump’s mouth and support him.
Clearly, I’m not a conservative, but the fact that someone like John McCain couldn’t be president and Trump, as president, MOCKS HIM as McCain is dying from brain cancer seems like a sign of something being cosmically broken.
All of this has been absolutely unreal, and every day it goes on it gets worse *because* it’s still going on. That’s why this whole issue is a big one for me.
I’m not ignorant, I know all the social issues that have surfaced in the last few years were always there, bubbling under the surface, and had been for years. But you hope that every day things get a tiny bit better, or at the very least maintain.
[I still wonder if maybe there wasn’t some fucked up disaster in time-space that allowed this to happen. But it did happen.]
If I felt like the bottom has dropped out when Delilah passed away, and I had been treading water since then, something about the election turned the water I was treading into a whirlpool. Life as I knew it was over, and this new, weird reality had taken its place. I had absolutely no bearings anymore. Nothing made sense at all. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the sky ripped open and orange aliens poured out. I still wouldn’t be.
I now feel like anything can happen, at any time. The adults have left the building, no one is going to step up and say “nope, this got out of hand, but lets get it back on track.” And that’s some scary shit.
That is why I am pissed about this particular situation, because it’s ONGOING. When you lose someone, like we did with Delilah and with Tom’s mom, it happens and it’s big, but it happens one single time and you go from there. The wound heals with time. You get some distance. Things change, evolve.
But with Donald Trump, *every day* is the election. Even worse. He’s pulled all of us along with him on this horrifying ride. Every time his face pops up, or I see one of my neighbor’s lawn signs for Trump (they still have them up!) it’s the election all over again. This coming election is another Trump cycle- one of his favorite guys is front runner for Florida governor. I’m in a 99% Republican town, county. So, yeah, I’ll be laying low for a while. I’m tired of being dragged behind this ridiculous clown car.
For a while I would obsessively search the news, looking for an kernel of *something* that would indicate the world had gone back on its axis, that this incident was a mistake and would be somehow corrected. But now people are talking about Trump in 2020. So I’m back to my news fast because the idea of this going on is just too much for me to handle.
Anyway, so there was that. Do I think if the election had gone another way I’d be in a different mental space right now? I will say yes. I’ve never felt this sense of uncertainty before, and I know it’s shared. Even when W. was president, I still felt like there were people in power who were sort of doing their best. It still felt more balanced and less crazy. It wasn’t something I supported, but I could get distance from it without having to completely disconnect.
Now it’s like I live in a snowglobe that someone keeps shaking up, every minute. I think a part of me has shut down just so I could anchor myself in somewhere, anywhere. Routine has become my way of staving off depression, actually. I think it really could have been so much worse if I didn’t double down.
Another thing that was beneficial to me after the election was going into Buddhism. I was so desperate for something to ease that sense of doom and disbelief I just dedicated myself to studying and practicing Buddhism for about 18 months. It was rigid, it was stark, and it was kind of “get over all your personal shit that you are bringing into this and just deal with the facts. You’re not in control, so what can you do?”
I did two year-long intensive courses on Buddhism and it kept me focused on something other than the news cycle. I still consider myself a philosophical Buddhist, but when they started talking about latent karma causing cancer in little kids, I had to step back. I realized that I loved spirituality, I love researching it and learning about it and practicing it (and I spend a significant amount of my time on this, to this day), but fundamentalism and extremism in any flavor, including Buddhism, does not sit well with me. Bottom line, I’m a science and nature geek. Those are the things that are divine to me. But I love the Buddha’s philosophy and it makes sense to me.
I don’t think I would have committed myself to that if not for the election. It’s put me back in touch with my spirituality, which has always been a big interest in my life, but I sort of lost touch with in the last five or ten years. Buddhism finally gave me permission to drop a lot of limiting beliefs and fears and weird little superstitions I picked up from my years in fundamentalist/evangelical high school and really embrace the universe and what I believe is coursing through it. So that’s one extremely cool thing that has come from this- my spiritual practice. I’ll talk about that down the line.
Okay, so to recap: Delilah passed away, Tom’s mom passed away, then a screw worked its way out of my foot and that was pretty much a year of intense stuff. Then the campaigns and election. At this point I was on pretty shaky ground, It was a new reality. I had to get used to it and figure stuff out. Deep breath, let’s do this. I figured I’d just take it day by day, take baby steps. Deep breaths, one moment at a time.
… Six months later, Tom gets diagnosed with cancer, out of nowhere. It’s treatable, but his is fairly aggressive.
As he’s in the hospital getting an organ removed, a Major Hurricane pops up on the scene. They predict the island I live on will be totally washed away. All in the same week.
(clearly, I’m going to continue this is another entry. Thanks for reading- writing all this is very cathartic for me.)