It's probably no coincidence that I watched the film, Gravity, last night. But the thought didn't occur to me until later during the sleepless night and I began thinking about the election and how it has made me feel.
The movie's visual effects included space trash speeding into and destroying whole space stations, astronauts spinning out of control and untethered into space and frantically grabbing for life-saving handholds in a gravity-free environment. All apt metaphors for how I feel and, it seems, how a plurality of the country's voters feel right now.
After several days of allowing grief to have its way (not that it's over, just that I needed to step aside and honor this part of my process), I'm looking around for handholds. Today I have two.
The first is intellectual, and something I've been thinking about for a while: electoral reform. Ideas I'm interested in and following are:
1) Remaking the electoral college not by constitutional change, but by statute. So far, ten states and D.C have voted for a change at the state level that makes a lot of sense to me;
2) Eliminate jerrymandering of Congressional districts;
3) Repeal Citizens United (I know, fat chance now that Republicans have most of the legislative, and - soon - judicial, power, but still).
My second hand-hold consists of self-care practices I've developed to deal with the pain of chronic migraine disease:
1) Remember to breathe deeply and slowly, soften my hands and belly, smile just a bit. A cup of tea.
2) Step away as needed from noise, chaos, news, and other anxiety-making things around me;
3) Go to the Y for a workout even when I really don't feel like it;
4) Meditation, reflection and prayer.
5) This is the handhold I determined on during those first shocked moments when the election was called for Trump, and the one that remains strong, if hard to follow: I promised myself I would not descend into hatred. That determination includes rejecting the impulse to do as the Republicans have done to Obama and Hillary Clinton - deride every move and word, refuse to see anything positive in the person or the policies, block all cooperation and collaboration out of sheer vindictiveness, and make up and disseminate lies.
I must admit, though I'm not proud of it, the impulse to hatefulness is in me. Parts of me feel vengeful, self-righteous and radically unwilling to stick to the high road. Give them a taste of their own medicine! It's their fault we're in this mess!
Even typing the previous paragraph makes my blood boil, and yet I know I'll be unhappy with myself, ultimately, if I allow those lower impulses to triumph.
I need to stop and take some deep breaths. But first I need to make one thing clear: taking the high road precludes me from what I described above, but it also gives me a place from which to point out misogyny, racism, xeonphobia, white nationalism, and other forms of prejudice (against persons with disabilities, for example) I fear have become normalized by President-Elect Trump.
< breathe >
< breathe >
< breathe >
Today is election day, I have my 'nasty woman' tee-shirt ready to wear for result-watching tonight, and though I'm not suspicious, I don't dare not wear it. And also on my mind is what we've been through for the past eighteen months, especially the nastiness, hate and disrespect I've heard mostly from Trump but also once from Hillary ("basket of deplorables").
This country hasn't come off well in this election season, something I suppose you could say about most election seasons. This one, though, is different than any other, most experts I've heard agree. For myself, I do not understand, will never understand, why people think it's OK to speak mockingly and hatefully of people who seem different.
Didn't we all learn better than that in kindergarten?
Good teachers of young children know that to keep an atmosphere conducive to learning and growth, you establish cooperation and respect in your classroom. You corral the kids' wilder, childish and unguarded impulses into manners that make space for development of personalities and minds into future citizens. You nurture each one as an individual while reining in and retraining behaviors rooted in unreasoning fear of what's different or unexpected.
Maybe what this country needs is some good kindergarten teachers scattered throughout the halls of power and election teams.
Final word this election day: let's all go vote.
My previous post, "Just what does 'telling it like it is' mean?" (below), talked about how I believe fear is driving Trump supporters, and that Trump is cynically exploiting that fear.
This morning, what's on my mind is future ramifications of Trump's pronouncements and his supporters' willingness to believe his lies. But I've been pulled up short on that, for a bit, anyway.
A fellow graduate of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at Goucher College, Nick Tabor, had an article in New York Magazine recently. It's a set of interviews with nine women who support Trump, and one who switched from Trump to Clinton. As I read it, I'm struck by some things in what many of them say: they're
There's a mix here I wasn't expecting. Setting aside for a moment ridiculous excuses for Trump's bad behavior that are cringe-worthy in the extreme (like the woman who avers that groping is what heterosexuals do, bring it on!), these women generally sound more Republican than they do Trump supporters, and that surprised me. I thought we had a cult of personality here, and that Trump's message didn't matter so much as his angry, 'tell it like it is' speech, and the allure of a TV star.
It's odd, because -- again, despite my horror at some of the things they say to excuse their candidate and the way they talk about Clinton -- I have more respect for them than I thought I would when I began reading Nick's piece. That gives me pause.
But first, hurrah for good journalism and unbiased reporting.
Second, I'm glad to be reminded that principle does play a part in national politics and in the minds and hearts of people I don't agree with. I know, how snobby and elitist does that sound? I was ready to write off a good portion of the nation's voters under the assumption that they didn't care about anything but hating Hillary and loving Trump. Yuck. I am really not proud of that.
New York Magazine admits this is an unscientific survey, so I don't extrapolate the results to all women Republicans and Trump supporters nationwide. But I'd been so very concerned about what I thought might be reactionary, thoughtless acceptance of Trump and who/how he is, that I'd begun to ignore the fact that people are passionate about principles and will vote those principles, some of them, no matter who's on the ticket. I know Dems who do that, too. i don't agree, and I still think some of those principles are fear-driven, yet I can respect a person who is passionate about her principles.
That still leaves what bothers me so terribly about conservative views, talk and reporting about Hillary Clinton. So much of what is believed about her is based on innuendo, judgment and fear rather than fact.
But that's tomorrow's post.
I write nonfiction. Most of my reading is, and has been for most of my adult life, nonfiction. (With the notable exception of 19th century British authors, my comfort food of reading). So I normally relate to and agree with the concept of 'telling it like it is'.
In the past eighteen months, that phrase is one I've heard often from Trump supporters. And that makes me wonder what it means. Trump inflates his income, brags about molesting women, mocks people with disabilities and, well, we know the list by now. It's endless, and endlessly offensive to many of us.
What does this kind of speech, this way of being in the world, have to do with 'telling it like it is'?
And whose 'it is' are they talking about? (Oh dear, I sound like Bill Clinton in a deposition.)
Because lying about your wealth and about your opponent's criminality, deriding people who are different, and bombastic, sensationalist speech are not reality - they're not any 'it is' I know about or care to participate in. And I keep trying to figure out what is so appealing about Trump's rhetoric.
And I've decided - or as near as I can come to anything as certain as a decision - that it's about fear. Trump is tapping into and exploiting the fear of people who (1) feel left out of the power and economic structures of this country, and (2) subscribe to the belief that this is a white, Anglo-Saxon nation that is being taken over and ruined by immigrants, Jews, blacks and anyone different from them.
I wrote about #2 in yesterday's post, "We, the [white men] of the United States, in order to form ..." (below).
It's a cynical, manipulative effort on the part of Trump and his campaign to garner support and votes from people they don't really care about, at least on the evidence of the way they've lived their lives.
What's also distressing is that, in their fear and sense of disenfranchisement, his voters don't or won't see that.
Ultimately, he will betray them. Yet they will only feel betrayed if Clinton is elected.
The class and race divide is indeed deep in America. Trump's candidacy and the enthusiasm of his supporters make that achingly clear.
David Duke said this at a Senate candidates debate in North Carolina last night: "We're being out-numbered in our own country."
Duke, along with Donald Trump and his supporters who keep shouting about making America "great" again, believe this is the country of white people. They want to return to the time when white people, and, let's face it, white men, had all the power and privilege and none of the messy necessities of a diverse population like compromise, willingness to get along, and ability to see another point of view.
Historically, this attitude was - although artfully masked by the word "People" in the Preamble to the Constitution - made manifest in the fact that women and people of color had no voting or property rights, and were not even persons in the eyes of the law and of the powerful men who owned them.
So I cringe when I hear that we should make America great again, because it is the rallying cry of people who believe they have a rightfully superior claim to this country, its resources, and its governance. And there's no arguing with them because, in their view, they're white and so they're right. No wonder Trump sounds appealing - even if you're not so bold or self-aware to say what Duke said, you must be really gratified that someone, anyone, is finally speaking your truth. Telling it like it is, they say, is why they like Trump.
And so the borders must be closed and universal health care must be repealed and a regressive, rude, cruel, elitist white man must be President. Because we own this country.
I surely don't have to point out the Grand Canyon of difference there is with Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan and her longtime dedication to equality and justice for all.
Those of us for Hillary need to make a committed and intelligent stand against both Trump and the guiding principle of conservative ethos to make this a white man's country once more.
This blog chronicles my work and thoughts as a writer. - Carol D. Marsh