Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sore winner

Should the new president of your country make you feel, "Uh oh!?"

No, the president shouldn't.

Yet holes have opened in me, the wind whistling through, and gravity has loosened its grip, unevenly, on my feet. I read the same sentence over and over yesterday afternoon. I rechecked meager tasks, just to feel like I was doing something until the day was over.

The day needed to be over.

I'm the last bastion in a new variation of the Martin Niemöller polemic against fascism, that begins, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist …" and ends, "Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me."

I'm at the end of that line, in among the last they would come for, the only kind our new president has not insulted and mocked in his ascendancy: A white male. I don't think he's insulted Protestants specifically, or even Catholics, poor specimen though I am. Almost everyone else, though: Mexicans (Latinos by extension), the African-Americans, women, Muslims, Jews by tangential code in television commercials and retweets, immigrants. Almost everyone else he has invited others to scorn and deride and blame.

Our new president.

What he has said and done has now been endorsed and enshrined in the most powerful office in the land.

I have escaped the scorn as a white male, but I can't escape this — this waiting. This feeling of … dread. For everyone.

Nothing so global has felt like this in my adult life. Even the tragic events of Sept. 11. Holes went through me then too, but they filled, and the world moved forward. Forward into tragic war, still fought, but weirdly, 9/11 had a feeling of ending.

A vlog by Luke Bland, an American expatriate in Finland, whom my son and his fiancee followed and used in their decision to study there, posted a video yesterday all about the election. At one point, Finnish coworkers stood around an office TV screen, and when the new president complimented Hillary Clinton on a hard-fought campaign, one of them bowed toward the screen in sarcastic exaggeration. The world watches, even more puzzled

"I'm just waiting for what's coming," Bland told a coworker in yesterday's vlog. Waiting. From all the way in Finland.

A swimmer from Ghana who corresponds with me on occasion expressed sadness and said, "We are hoping for the best."

Before this, no presidential transition I can remember caused me to feel any worse than business as usual, life going on. Even President Obama's historic election did not hit me in any particular way until I took a job as a teacher and witnessed the untrammeled joy of this moment — posters, streamers — of the school administrative staff, most of them black. It made me think of the great personal devotion I've read that many Americans held for Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

This, though. This is "Uh oh!" This is What Will Happen? And When? And When Will It End? And none of it feels like hope.

How much of this wall will be built, and at what cost in money and blood? When will the deportations begin? When the sanctioned attacks on immigrant communities, when the escalating war with a new or simmering enemy, in a show of the new president's self-proclaimed unpredictability?

What's to become of our free press? Second Amendment, sacrosanct. First Amendment? Not worth the paper it's printed on. And justice for what's it worth to you?

When will the many threats be carried out, the revenge come due?

I know I'm not alone, which may feel like a sort of hope. Most of the people I "know" on facebook™®, my only real social media, for whatever reason feel the same. Yesterday the posts didn't even have to mention the election result, but the subject was clear. Swimmers were trying to rinse themselves clean. Some offered favorite songs as a kind of antidote, or puppy videos. Others posted lyrics without any context, such as:
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win
Crowded House
But recipients knew.

Donald Trump rose to office with few detailed plans, little apparent understanding of world affairs, but an intensely brilliant understanding of what would raise the ire of the already angry. I listened to Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, of all people, supposedly an expert at persuasive techniques, describe the new president's brilliance at this skill, of beta testing catchy insults before his supporters ("Heartless Hillary" or "Crooked Hillary?"), of evading facts with purpose and precision, and getting people to imprint those insults on their intended victim with each new actual or perceived misstep.

I get that folks are angry and frustrated. I don't feel represented; I feel like I hand over my vote like allowance to an indifferent overseer, and I am ushered out through the side door until next time. I understand the angst that the government we have is not the government we should have; that it should serve us, not the other way around. I get that money and power flow to the few, and we live and work below.

I get that change should come. This, though, this is not that change. This is not the eradication of entrenched elitism and favoritism and policies that benefit the few. The rigged economy is not going to unspool under the man who dances in its ratlines.

This is not revolution. This is "Uh oh!"

You say our president will be different in office than on the campaign trail, but his surrogates said time and again, "Why change what's working?" You say our new president will be held in check by our system of government. But the House and Senate remain Republican.

You say the president is an outlier whom Republicans will suspect and rein. I believe our president is Republican ideas unmasked and unvarnished, finally spoken explicitly, ending decorum and restraint.

But I have not been a participant in the process, either. My voting record is full and unbroken, but that's all I've done as a citizen. Even in this moment of great test, I voted and nothing more than donate some money. I did not think would be such a great test, but instead a wearying joke we could stop laughing at Nov. 8.

(Even satire, that rich and voluminous corrective salve in our jewel of free speech, seems to have lost its punch in this new and strange time.)

I need to be that participant now, even if, especially if, I'm late to the tea party. I have stood by, and now I can no longer. I dread the restrictions and limitations to come — which will no doubt happen in the name of liberty — and I want to be ready to work against them. I must stand with those under threat.

Right now I can't listen to any more words from our new president. I tire of hearing his voice, and we'll have four more years of it. But I know I need to. I need to, in his words about something different and cruel, "figure out what the hell is going on."

Damned if I know.

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