So Trump is awful. But I already knew that. My struggle now is… what the hell should I do? Not in terms of “call to action”, but with my actual day-to-day mindset.
“Well,” says the Internet, rolling his hungover ass off my sofa in a shower of disgruntled cats, “You’ve basically got four options.”
(1) “Fuck that guy and literally everyone who voted for him.”
An appealing sale here. Any time somebody says “Oh, yay, Trump!”, images of my personal human circle flower up: South Americans, immigrants (legal and illegal), LGBT community members, survivors of sexual assault, Muslims, atheists (who are particularly fond of church–state separation), etc. From someplace deep in my uterus, I assume, there’s a visceral lust to give a knee-jerk “fuck you” right back. Unfortunately though, I have to live on the planet. You know, the one with other humans on it.
The urge to burn bridges is there. Several times this week alone, I’ve found myself mentally stroking the slick shiny red metal of my sweet torch blower. But I live in a red state. And it’s been a dry season. Those wooden rope bridges would go up like brush in a desert wildfire.
In part, I’m unforgiving: Yes, Trump is a con-artist. And if he’d pulled off some kind of Oceans 11, multi-man, brilliant never-saw-it-coming shit, I’d feel a lot more sympathetic toward his voters. But holy shit. These people voted for the class president candidate who claimed he’d end homework and put ice cream machines in every classroom. His promises were ridiculous and, even if possible at all, clearly unhealthy.
In part, I’m selfish: I don’t want to have to deal with the enormous social fallout of satisfying that particular knee-jerk desire. Telling people to fuck off is lonely, exhausting work. And as my middle school career attests, the more isolated you become, the weirder you get. Notably, people also have the capacity to be vicious. I used to think you could voice your thoughts bluntly and openly without any repercussion other than people bluntly and openly disagreeing with you. What a sweet summer child I was. In reality, people are nasty. They’re petty. Grown ass women will be mean to your sister out of the damn blue. It’s fucked up. Especially in my case (I live in Peru half the year!), I can’t host a “fuck you” parade, return to my home abroad, then leave my family behind to suffer the consequences.
Option 2, please?
(2) “Fuck that guy, but maybe don’t fuck EVERYBODY who voted for him.”
The middle ground. Cool. Everybody except the KKK can probably agree on “Fuck the KKK.” But what about that lovely middle-aged white lady who lives down the street? You say “hi” to her in the grocery store! Can’t very well hurl out a “FUCK YOU” on the sidewalk then beam a friendly “Oh hello Agnes, how are the kids?” next time you’re in the canned foods aisle.
And what about friends? Forget Agnes, what about Sally? You’ve known Sally since grade school. Sally is shortlisted a spot on your chainsaw school bus for the zombie apocalypse. Your friendship sits atop a graveyard of chardonnay bottles. You know Sally. You care about Sally. So hearing the shit that came out of Sally’s mouth this election was like turning around to realize your 8-year-old was fucking possessed. It was shocking, horrific, and now that the exorcism is over, you really just want to pretend the whole thing never happened.
I can already hear my carrot-over-stick friends arguing that empathetic discussion is the answer. And really, I know in my heart of hearts that they’re largely right. These friends aren’t tone-policers; they’re genuine steely-nerved humans who can turn around, see that possessed 8-year-old kid, and kneel down without blinking to hear the kid out on why whatever nightmare scenario should be perpetuated. Then they can patiently introduce seeds of thought on why maybe building a temple from mortar mixed with the blood of innocents is, perhaps, not really the best plan for the economy. They’re calm, level-headed, gentle people. They’re fucking heroes.
But can I do that? Especially right now? I feel wounded at a personal level. Anybody making a “let’s all get along” plea might as well be pleading with a pissed off raccoon caught in a garbage can lid. I am hurting. I am outraged. I’m hungry for a lot of shit I’m evidently not going to get any time in the near future. I was just trying to go about my daily fucking business, and BAM. Now I look like a jackass for making basic assumptions like “Being a not-white or not-Christian or not-male human totally doesn’t affect a person’s degree of publicly acknowledged humanity.” As it turns out though, I couldn’t navigate that garbage at all, let alone with the grace I expected.
Maybe with time I’ll get my head (and heart) to a point where Option (2) is viable. But right now we’re trying to fight off Steve-fucking-Bannon as the White House chief strategist. So let’s give it another few weeks.
What options are left, Internet?
(3) “Maybe let’s not fuck anybody?”
FUCK YOU — sorry, knee-jerk reaction, trying to get it under control.
We don’t know what Trump wants. At least not beyond power and money. His policies are poorly defined. His explanations of statements that shocked the world have been underdeveloped if given at all. What we do know is exactly what Trump is willing to do to get what he wants. He’ll stomp on you. He’ll stomp on me. He will shit on human decency, and he will lie so unabashedly that past politicians will look like downright saints.
Mike Pence, in comparison, has such a boner for traditional gender definitions that I secretly suspect he’s softly humping every podium he stands behind.
Hillary said to give the Trump/Pence presidency “a chance”. She had to say that. But what exactly does that mean? If “give him a chance” means “maybe don’t resort to full blown anarchy just yet”, then fine.
Otherwise, the only acceptable interpretation of “give him a chance” is “pick your battles”. Policies that are moderate are now things we’ll probably have to swallow. We’ll have to swallow them because there are big fights coming. As I see it, among the biggest will be the Supreme Court appointments.
What we have right now is a wanna-be Scarface for president and Dolores Umbridge as VP. These kinds of people are dangerous when they’re sitcom-esque grouchy grandpas doing nothing more than whispering vile punch lines in your children’s direction at an awkward Thanksgiving. Now they’ll soon have the nuclear codes. And arguably worse, they’ll have the loudest megaphone on the biggest platform in the world. Everyone will hear everything they have to say.
In short, definitely going at the very least with “fuck Trump.” Every protest, every demonstration, every effort at obstruction, every speech, sit-in, walk out, even every live-art performance… It matters. And it’s valuable. And it is exactly what Trump deserves.
Hard pass on option (3), basically. What’s the last possibility?
(4) “Move to [not America].”
Alright. I could actually do this. Technically, I’ve already done this. I live in Lima, Peru most of the year. I’ll be on a plane to South America in January.
The sentiment behind this option is that you just ostrich out. Head in the sand, baby. You see that house blazing, but fire hoses are hella heavy, so you point your butt at the flames and ram your head several inches into the blissfully silent earth.
But I can’t bring myself to mentally check out. I care, damn it. Besides, sticking your head in the ground doesn’t mean your goose won’t get cooked: That fire is going to spread.
“So… you’re gonna go with what, then?” The Internet slams the fridge shut, scratches his balls, and cracks his next beer.
I grew up in a small town–suburbia hybrid in KY.
This place is simply beautiful to me. My heart and my memories are full of it. I know the way the air smells in every season.
Kentucky did a lot to me—I learned firsthand that religion much more easily fuels ego than love. I’d seen, I think, three black people in person by the time I left for college; I’d interacted with one. I learned a poignant kind of intolerance for anyone who was “different.” What I think parents viewed as “protecting” was really a kind of starvation; in many ways, I grew up with a mind that was far too thin.
But on the whole, I always felt this place did far more for me than to me.
Returning here has always marked a period of re-charging, a time of calm and generous kindness, both toward myself and others. I return to myself here. I revisit my original identity, the one I held effortlessly, the one that existed before I was a globetrotter and before my mother died. At risk of losing readers who started reading in search of sass, when I come home, I “find myself.”
I hate the men preparing to move into the White House because they stole that from me.
Now I walk through this town with frayed nerves. I’m skittish and angry. Am I a fraud to smile at people who I know happily voted Trump? I hate myself when I smile. But I’d also hate myself if I told these people, these people who are as quintessential of my beautiful home as red bricks and deciduous trees, these people who I’ve loved for decades, to “fuck off.”
My dad says that he just doesn’t get fired up about politics anymore. My husband seems calm. They don’t gaslight, but their placidity is unnerving. Am I overreacting? Is there a fifth option the Internet hasn’t considered? (5) “Chill the fuck out”?
I hope I’m overreacting. I hope I’ll look back on this period in about a decade in the way I look back (a little cringingly) on my absolute “fan girl” Obama period. I hope I’m still just shaken by an unusually tense election, and that the balances of our government are naturally strong enough to prevent the promised madness. Of course, really, I’ve had political differences with hometown people since I realized that politics actually offers choices. But still. But still.
It’s never been quite like this.