Hitting a Wall

Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

No, not that wall.

A figurative wall.

It’s been about a month since my last post. There have been a ton of things that have happened in the world of Trump during that time. Would anyone like me to review?

I didn’t think so.

I just don’t know what more to say about it anymore other than “Ick.” And I think I’ve expressed that opinion previously.

So, what to say?

Just to get something down on paper, maybe I’ll fill you in on a little bit of the things I’ve been up to.

Family time. A whole lot of it. Mostly fun stuff. Mostly chaotic. I told my brother Dave I wouldn’t vote for him for president. He seemed slightly offended. I kicked my uncle in the seat of the pants for making a transgender joke. He seemed slightly surprised.

Music. My kids think it is funny when I get into the music and start attempting to sway to the beat. At Braun Bay, a nearby boat blasted Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light – a song that Phil could not stop chuckling at when I introduced it to him back in 1977. At the Cape, we were going through other similar blasts from the past. My brother Dave singing the lyrics to Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is quite a scene.  I requested Indian Reservation by Paul Revere and the Raiders. But my kids’ favorite from this summer has to be me singing along to Beyonce’s Sorry with my middle fingers prominently up while on the boat. Heather asked me who I was thinking of as I was singing. Trump, of course. Tell him “Boy, bye.”

Movies. I went to the movies with Nicole one night. Wonder Woman. Oh, how I want to be Wonder Woman. I played this fun game during the movie. Every time Diana said “Ares”, I thought “Trump”. It worked quite well. Nicole thought I was a bit odd, but laughed.

Keeping up with real life heroes. Those would be Warren, Markey, Tsongas, and Healey. They are fighting the agenda of this administration with everything they have. I can’t remember if I already told you this, but I’ve signed on as the town co-ordinator for Maura Healey’s campaign. I’m supposed to be going to farmer’s markets with bumper stickers, but I have yet to do that. But I have started a Facebook page, and I put out a sort-of-weekly newsletter that I’m pretty proud of. 

Reading, non-fiction. The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Oh my. Nixon? JUST LIKE TRUMP. 

Richard Nixon treated the presidency as sacred, even as he set about defiling it. He decorated the Oval Office in imperial style, instructed the White House staff not to address him directly, referred to himself in the third person; he was no longer “I,” no longer an individual; he was Richard Nixon, President of the United States. He was not above the law – he was the law, as he famously explained: if a president does something, “that means it’s not illegal.” Especially in time of war, the president’s powers, in his view, were virtually unlimited.

Reading, fiction. I read somewhere that people should re-read books that they really liked. So when a deal came up on either Amazon or Goodreads for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, I jumped.

Oh my. Zaphod? JUST LIKE TRUMP.  

It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the presidency, a decision that had sent shock waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy. Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

The book also makes clear the answer is 42. Though we aren’t sure what the question is. This morning I was thinking, maybe the author got it slightly wrong. Maybe the answer is actually 45, and the question is “Who will destroy the United States?” But then I thought some more and realized the answer is in fact 42, and the question is “Who should be the first First Husband of the United States?” Too bad we didn’t know the question before the election.

Reading, article. Meagan sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic entitled How America Lost Its Mind by Kurt Andersen. The author starts the article by asking “When did America become untethered from reality?”

The author goes on to assert that the 1960’s was “the big-bang moment for truthiness” followed by the internet age where “believers in anything and everything can find thousands of fellow fantasists, with collages of facts and “facts” to support them.”

Combine American culture with that and here’s what you get:

Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

The author provides numerous supporting details from the ’60s to today that increasingly distressed me.

But, at the end of the article, he finally got to providing some recommendations to make America real again that I will include in full since I think they are excellent:

What is to be done? I don’t have an actionable agenda, Seven Ways Sensible People Can Save America From the Craziness. But I think we can slow the flood, repair the levees, and maybe stop things from getting any worse. If we’re splitting into two different cultures, we in reality-based America—whether the blue part or the smaller red part—must try to keep our zone as large and robust and attractive as possible for ourselves and for future generations. We need to firmly commit to Moynihan’s aphorism about opinions versus facts. We must call out the dangerously untrue and unreal. A grassroots movement against one kind of cultural squishiness has taken off and lately reshaped our national politics—the opposition to political correctness. I envision a comparable struggle that insists on distinguishing between the factually true and the blatantly false.

It will require a struggle to make America reality-based again. Fight the good fight in your private life. You needn’t get into an argument with the stranger at Chipotle who claims that George Soros and Uber are plotting to make his muscle car illegal—but do not give acquaintances and friends and family members free passes. If you have children or grandchildren, teach them to distinguish between true and untrue as fiercely as you do between right and wrong and between wise and foolish.

We need to adopt new protocols for information-media hygiene. Would you feed your kids a half-eaten casserole a stranger handed you on the bus, or give them medicine you got from some lady at the gym?

And fight the good fight in the public sphere. One main task, of course, is to contain the worst tendencies of Trumpism, and cut off its political-economic fuel supply, so that fantasy and lies don’t turn it into something much worse than just nasty, oafish, reality-show pseudo-conservatism. Progress is not inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.

And so, I’ll stop sitting here staring in abject apathy at that wall as is my privilege, and I will once again fight the good fight as best I can. 

Maybe I’ll even go to a farmer’s market with some bumper stickers.

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2 Responses

  1. susancolt says:

    I think I am at the same wall. After reading your blog I will try a little less head banging and a little more music:) Thanks!