Several years ago I saw a car accident about to happen as I was walking out of an Ace Hardware store. I could see the van driving slowly down the aisle of the parking lot, and I could see the sedan pulling out of its parking space directly towards the side of the van, but there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do was stop and cringe as I waited for the inevitable collision.
This is how I’ve felt since the election. As I sit and watch the news and see the country about to fall off a cliff, I scream to myself, NO!!! This will not end well! Stop, before it’s too late!!! But all I can do is watch helplessly, unable to stop the inauguration of someone will who will cause great suffering and possibly death for so many people. (Yes, repealing the ACA will kill people, maybe me.)
I’ve had lots of assorted thoughts over the past few weeks as I’ve waited for the moment of impact that will begin to wreck our lives. I thought I’d share them in no particular order.
1) One of the worst days of my life
I know this sounds dramatic, but I think election day 2016 charts as one of the top ten worst days of my life. I’ve tried thinking of days that were worse, but this is all I could come up with:
- That time my dad told us he was going on a business trip to North Carolina, but never came back, all of which I learned about in a letter that came in a manila envelope that he had mailed me the day he left.
- The day my cat, Officer Krupke, died.
- The day I endured a 9-hour gallbladder attack, which is still the most intense physical pain I’ve experienced in my life.
- That day almost 9 years ago that I got a headache that still hasn’t gone away.
- The day I had a fight with a friend in high school that resulted in us not speaking for several weeks.
- September 11th, 2001. No explanation necessary there. Though Trump’s election might be considered worse because at least after 9/11 we were united.
And…I think that’s it. I realize I’m pretty lucky that there isn’t a lot of death, disaster or other trauma up there. *knock on wood* I have led a rather blessed life. I feel bad that the deaths of my grandparents aren’t on there (particularly since my cat made the list), but the only one I was somewhat close to was my dad’s dad, and he died when I was pretty young, so any pain of that event seems rather far away at this point. There are things I considered putting on the list that were definitely bummers or scary: the time the substitute bus driver in pre-school didn’t know where I lived and I thought I might never get home, the time I crashed my bike hard and needed three stitches in my lip, and that time I walked into work to see all my stuff on a cart because I’d been fired. But none of those felt as sickening as election night. And all of those things turned out ok in the end: the big kids on the bus knew where I lived, my lip healed, and I got a better job almost instantly. This Trump thing though, it’s not going to be ok.
2) So that’s what an anxiety disorder must feel like
It took two weeks after the election before I no longer felt like I might barf every day. I spent two full weeks stressed out. I couldn’t concentrate on work and felt a constant background buzz of stress, like that feeling you get when you have to make an unpleasant phone call or when you’ve got a public speaking event the next day. I was starting to think it might never go away. I still think my country is about to be epically fucked over in ways I can’t yet fully imagine, but it doesn’t do any good for my nervous system to stay revved up about it 24/7 for the next 4-8 years. I can’t remember feeling that amount of anxiety for that long of a span of time ever in my life. Anyone who has to deal with an actual anxiety order or PTSD has my utmost respect, since it must be much worse than what I had, and what I had was not fun.
3) The multiverse
I hope the theory that there are an infinite number of parallel universes is wrong. I’ll be seriously pissed if I find out there is a version of me in another dimension who gets to live through a Clinton presidency while I’m stuck dealing with this shit.
4) Taking the long view
When I’ve talked to my mom about my fears, she’s been taking more of a long view on things, telling me we’ll all get through this together. (Of course, my fear is that we won’t all get through this together, which is the root of the problem.) My mom is in her sixties, so here’s a list of scary national crises she’s lived through: McCarthyism, the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, Watergate, several recessions, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and now the Trump administration. If you compare that to my list, I’ve only had to deal with 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, so she’s got several disasters on me. Maybe if you live long enough you’re bound to hit something awful in your lifetime. My grandparents had to deal with WWII and the Great Depression. And their parents had to deal with WWI. Maybe shit like this is inevitable in a human society and I’ve been blessed to deal with as little of it is as I have for someone in my mid-30’s. Speaking of which…
5) Where are WWII survivors when you need them?
As I mentioned, I wasn’t close to most of my grandparents, all of whom died before I was 25, but I’ve been wishing at least one or two of them were still alive right now so I could ask them what living through World War II and the rise of fascism was like. Were they constantly worried that someone might take away their freedom and rights and hurt their fellow citizens? Did it ever seem like the “good guys” might lose? Were you aware of how historic the time you were living in was when it was happening or did you only realize it in retrospect?
Is the fact that almost every American who remembers WWII first-hand is dead the reason people like me were so slow to recognize the threat of a demagogue in our midst? Bad things that happened before I was born seem like things that would never happen again, but the lesson I should have taken from history was that the past isn’t always in the past, sometimes it’s in the future.
6) Access Hollywood
The fact that Billy Bush got fired and Donald Trump gets to be president after taking part in the same conversation about sexual assault is the most epic example of mixed messages I’ve ever seen.
7) Scared and suspicious
For the first time in my life I’m afraid of my government. I know I come from a place of extreme privilege to be able to say that. There are plenty of people in the world who have been afraid of their governments for good reason for a long time, but this is a new experience for me. I’m genuinely afraid of what the federal government will do to me, to vulnerable populations in my country, and to the world at large. I never thought I would feel this way about America, but I do.
To some extent, I’m also afraid of my fellow Americans. How could so many people have voted for this vision of the world? Whenever I was at the grocery or out somewhere right after the election I would look at other people and wonder, did they vote for Trump? Are they ok with all the hatred and bigotry that the Trump administration is bringing with it? Do they think it’s ok someone defaced a church 60 miles from here with the words “Heil Trump” and a swastika? I’m not used to being suspicious of my neighbors like this. I don’t like it. I never expected my view of the world could change so suddenly in two weeks.
8) Glad I did my reading
I’m glad I read 1984 by George Orwell in June of last year. I did it for fun, but now I wonder if my sub-conscious knew something I didn’t because several of the concepts from the book are becoming quite relevant. For instance, the various ministries in the book do the opposite of what they say. The Ministry of Truth is about lying, the Ministry of Love is about torture, etc. This seems to be the way Trump is stacking his cabinet. The head of the EPA will be a guy who was suing the EPA. The secretary of education is someone who doesn’t believe in public education, etc., etc. The Ministry of Truth is also in the business of doctoring old records to accommodate whatever lies the leaders are telling. I bet Trump would love to have one of those considering all the times he claims to have never said things that we have him on video saying.
So I guess what I’m saying is the book should have been called 2016.
9) The Man in the High Castle
I watched the first season of a TV show called “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon Prime last year. It takes place in a world where the Nazis and the Japanese won WWII. It was uneven, but fairly good. However, I don’t think I can stomach watching the second season that was released last week because I feel like I’m currently trapped in the sequel set 70 years in the future.
I’ve tried to have empathy for Trump supporters who voted for him because they’re stuck in miserable situations and politicians have ignored them, but then Trump does the latest atrocious, despicable, incompetent thing and I’m like, nope, there was no excuse for voting for this guy. I’m sorry no qualified politician was able both to reach out to you and secure the nomination of a major political party, but this guy is a clusterfuck of a human being who obviously should not be given power. At best you have an amazing ability to rationalize bad decisions, at worst you have serious morality issues. Yes, the government and the politicians failed you, but this was not the answer. I don’t know what the answer is, but this wasn’t it.
Here’s a photo of a Scrabble game my family played the week before Thanksgiving.
Notice the usage of the words “sobs” as well as “Pence” and “heap” of “crap.” Photo credit goes to Big Brother, my actual big brother, not the Orwellian one since there could be confusion about that now.
12) Should I be preparing?
There was a Survival Expo in town a few weeks ago when my dad was visiting and I joked to him that maybe we should go, though it wasn’t entirely a joke. I do wonder, what should I be doing to prepare for the Trump administration? Part of me thinks it would be paranoid to keep large sums of money under my mattress and stock up on canned goods, but another part of me thinks it never hurts to be prepared for the worse. Seriously though, what should one do to prepare for a possible fascist takeover of the government? If the worst happens, what simple things can I do now that I would regret not doing later? For some reason my first instinct is that I should step up my exercise routine and get in peak physical shape.
13) What a difference 70 years makes
Two weeks after the election, my brother and his wife travelled to Germany for a vacation before she attended a conference there later in the week. It was rather odd that they were leaving a country where a demagogue had just been elected and going to a country whose leader was described as “the Liberal West’s Last Defender” by the New York Times and that Germany was the latter and not the former in that sentence. Seventy years makes a big difference, eh?
14) Paying for journalism
I recently subscribed to both The Washington Post and The New York Times, which I never thought I’d do in my life. As a web developer, I know how to get around their paywalls without paying, but I think it’s important to support journalism right now. Those papers broke stories about Trump’s taxes, his shady Foundation dealings, and the Access Hollywood story, and even though that didn’t swing the election I thought it was a good effort, so that’s why I chose them. When I subscribed, they both gave me the first few weeks at a reduced rate, which was really annoying. I don’t need a free trial! Just take the money! Do the journalism! Even more frustrating, the New York Times just sent me an email saying they’re going to give me 25% off the next 12 weeks. This is the only time in my life I’m going to say this, but please stop giving me discounts!!
I’m not really sure what else I can do at this point, other than to resist in whatever ways I can and support people who can stand up to Trump. I’ve been considering going to the Woman’s March in DC after the inauguration, but will probably attend a satellite rally here in town instead. I would like to do more, but I’m not exactly sure what. These recent events have made me face the fact that I’m not a particularly brave person. I don’t want to get harmed or arrested resisting Trump, and I feel bad that I’m not willing to put more on the line personally. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good women to do nothing, right? I don’t want to do nothing, but I don’t know precisely what to do instead.
16) Spoilers, please?
If the last 18 months had been the first half of a book, I would be flipping to the ending right now to learn how things turned out. Does America make it? What happens to this Trump character? Having to live these events out in real time without knowing how it all ends is excruciating.
It also makes me wonder how I’ll look back on this time 5 years from now. Hopefully it will be with a laugh about how scared I was when everything turned out just fine. However, I find it more likely that I will look back and think, “Girl, you didn’t know how good you had it.”
17) Wow, I check social media a lot
The first few weeks after the election it became painful to check social media because it was full of reminders of the horrible thing that had just happened. As a result, it made me realize how often I distract myself with Facebook or Twitter. I found myself reaching for my phone and then pausing, questioning whether I really wanted to check Twitter and deciding, no, I really didn’t.
I’ve adjusted to the shock of Trump’s win now, and even though I still get hit with pangs of fear whenever he does something terrible, I can tolerate reading the news again. However, I’m still reading my “Less Politics” list on Twitter instead of the full feed. I like to think of Twitter as fun, not painful, so we’ll save the painful news stuff for when I’m surfing the web.
18) Great for my vocabulary
If one good thing has come from all this political unrest, it’s been great for my vocabulary. In 2016 I learned the meanings of words like “kleptocracy” and “demagogue.” It had me asking questions like, “How is an autocrat different than a dictator?” or “I know ‘fascism’ refers to an oppressive government, but what are the specific qualities that make it different from other oppressive governments?” I can’t wait to see what new words I’ll be learning in 2017!
19) Revenge plans nixed
Remember Robert C? The C stands for cowardly co-ed who fucked with my moving plans and never bothered to apologize for it. Well, I had been planning to take revenge on Robert C. I had his cell phone number and there are lots of terrible things you can do to someone if you have their cell number. Like, say, going on Craig’s List and posting free Justin Bieber tickets with their cell phone number as the only point of contact. I was going to wait at least 6 months before doing anything to be sure he wouldn’t suspect me, but in the meantime I’d taken great delight imagining my revenge. It was going to be great. I was going to cackle. There would be LOTS of cackling. I was really looking forward to it. I’d even worked out how to avoid getting traced.
Then Donald Trump got elected and I realized taking revenge on Robert C is exactly the kind of thing Donald Trump would do, and I have no desire to be anything like Donald Trump. So I have decided not to take revenge on Robert C. It’s funny that he’ll never know that the election of a petty, vengeful man saved him from having a very bad day.
20) Best case scenario
I’ve been trying to imagine what the best case scenario is for the Trump administration. A quick impeachment would be nice, particularly since he’s got so many business conflicts that could cause trouble, and he might have colluded with a foreign government to win the election. But then we’d be stuck with Pence, and liberals who live in Indiana know how horrible that would be. That said, Pence would be horrible in a conventional way, whereas Trump is horrible in an unpredictable way and has no respect for the norms that keep our society stable. And even if we somehow got both Trump and Pence out of office, the next in line is Paul Ryan who wants to take away my health insurance and endanger my parents’ Medicare and Social Security, so it’s not like there’s a frolicking unicorn at the end of any of these hypothetical paths.
At this point I think the best case scenario is that government bureaucracy makes it exceedingly difficult to get anything done. In fact, this is a known method the CIA has used to sabotage enemy operations. Then I just have to hope Trump doesn’t do anything that forces us into war or economic collapse or prevent free elections four years from now. *fingers crossed everyone!*