Since the presidential election in November I’ve found myself frequently asking to no one in particular “what the hell is going on?” I’ve gone from angry to upset to dumbfounded to speechless and repeat. It’s been an ongoing cycle of largely negative emotions with an overarching theme of unbridled confusion. I want to understand what is going on in our country – I really do. But since the election of Donald Trump I’ve been unable to despite my best efforts. I subscribed to The New York Times and attempt to read it daily. I listen to political podcasts, follow political folks on Twitter and even occasionally watch CNN in the evenings. I am trying here. But in the end I’m afraid I’m helplessly trying to make sense of what is increasingly becoming a senseless situations.
Think about what’s happened since Trump was elected. Nearly every person he appointed to a cabinet position fundamentally opposes at least parts of the agency they’ve been charged to lead, he’s shrugged off decades and generations of ethical precedents by refusing to fully divest himself from his businesses, he has continued to pick petty and childish fights with everyone from celebrities to union bosses on Twitter and he’s held meetings with Kanye West and Don King as opposed to U.S. Intelligence officials.
Of course the most perplexing and frustrating series of events were the revelations about Russian attempts to undermine our democracy and interfere with our elections, something that, despite evidence being shown to him backing up these claims, he’s largely refused to fully agree with. Trump has actively sided with people like Russia and Julian Assange of Wikileaks over the U.S. Intelligence community. A couple years ago he was calling for the death penalty for Assange, but now he seems to trust him more than U.S. Intelligence officials. In his press conference on Wednesday, a remarkably deflating and disheartening way to spend your time before lunch, he finally admitted that yes, Russia was involved with the hacking. But he was to quick to mention episodes involving China hacking our country and stumbled into a diatribe about the overall dangers of the “much hacking” that is going on. He essentially pulled a “yeah, but” with Russia, which is the weakest form of admittance. Was Russia involved? Yeah, but China did some dirt too. The “yeah, but” is an out in a situation where an out isn’t needed; where it shouldn’t be needed. I’m assuming we’re in for a lot of “yeah, buts” in the next few years.
Part of my confusion and inability to full grasp the Trump presidency is tied to this weird tango with Russia. Since World War II the general opinion on Russia in America is that Russia is bad. We had a Cold War, we had spies and dirty looks, we have The Americans. We had an opinion and I was under the impression that that opinion was all but a fact. Russia is not our friend. Russia is our enemy. Yet that belief is now one of many things Trump has totally flipped on it’s head. He’s not just destroying norms, but bastardizing them and inverting them. We’re living in the Upside Down world from Stranger Things and it’s the absolute worst. Trump doesn’t simply swim against the current, he erects a dam, destroys the current, kills the fish, creates a new stream full of trash opinions, hate speech and baseless bully talk.
We respect and applaud our veterans, especially those who were prisoners of war. Trump makes fun of John McCain and makes light of his imprisonment during Vietnam. We don’t make fun of people suffering from disabilities. Trump impersonates a New York Times reporter who suffers from a disability. We offer thanks and/or condolences to our Gold Star Families, families who have lost family members who died serving our country in the armed forces. Trump berated and insulted a Gold Star Family on multiple occasions because that particular Gold Star family publicly opposed him. On a lighter note, whether or not we’re a fan of her movies, we can all agree that Meryl Streep is one of our greatest actors. Yet Trump now finds her overrated (despite naming her as one of his favorite actors only a year or so ago.) We don’t agree on much in our country, which is one of the things that has helped make it great. But the few things we do agree on, he has ran straight into them and smashed through them with the force of an insecure Kool-Aid man. What’s next? Is he going to call Simone Biles an overrated gymnast or say The Bachelor isn’t the best show on television? God help us all. Nothing makes sense anymore.
I’ve found myself using that phrase “nothing makes sense anymore” a lot since the election. Or to put it another way…
It’s a valid question. It’s a question I have kept coming back to ever since the votes started coming in on Election Night and it was becoming apparent that Trump was going to win. Ever since then there’s been an absurdity hanging in the air that is skewing the authenticity of our daily actions and life. I can find myself starting to think everything is normal; I can drift off and think about my daughter or about bills or about how garbage day is a day later because of the holiday, but then I see something on Twitter or I think about Inauguration Day and that kicks the door down of that pleasant little fiction and just like I’m back stumbling around this twisted fun house that America has become since the early morning hours of November 8th. Is this real life because to be honest, every day it feels less and less like it is anymore.
The thought of the upcoming Inauguration really wrecks havoc on my psyche and my digestive system. The image of Trump actually being sworn in is depressing. In January of 2009 I had the pleasure of going down to D.C. for President Obama’s first inauguration. It was one of the most moving days of my life and D.C. had a buzz and spirit to it that made you feel that from that moment on anything was possible. There was legitimate hope in the air. Sure there were some protestors, but their negativity wasn’t strong enough – not on that day. Having the images of that day on the opposite side of the frame of images of Trump’s inauguration feels so incredibly wrong. They don’t feel like the same event, like they’re the same country. I guess in some way they aren’t. For better or worse, things are different eight years later. If anything, that might prove that it’s possible for things to be different eight years from now or hopefully, four years from now. Fingers crossed.
Being constantly unsettled is rough way to go about your business. It’s hard to concentrate with a knot in your stomach, a wrecking ball in your head. America is an unsettled world and you can feel it. It’s really kind of sad. I would never speak for a Trump supporter, but I’d think that even they would feel somewhat unsettled as well, either because their candidate is backing out of his campaign pledges on a daily basis or because for some reason, and I don’t know why, the rest of the country isn’t rallying around Trump as quickly as they’d like. Everything has become incredibly us and them, with us or against us. Trump supporters think the worst of the other side, the other side thinks the worst of them. This divisiveness isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, meaning the widespread feeling of unease and instability isn’t either.
A few months ago, I would have bemoaned that fact. But now it’s just the opposite. I think the rumbling in our bellies is a good thing. I think our growing level of discomfort in the current state of our country is a good thing. I think the headaches and sleepless nights and loss of appetites are a good thing. Now is not the time to get complacent. I appreciate the pep talks the media is giving themselves. I think we could all use a pep talk to lift our spirits. Or at least a few swigs of some strong liquor to get the motor running. Anything that helps get the motor running is helpful at this point.
This is real life. This is all really happening. Push aside the curtains of absurdity and the truth is there. It’s a dirty, ugly truth, but it’s still the truth. I know I need to accept that, you might need to as well. But that acceptance needs to happen soon because if we’re left drifting in the fog of confusion and apathy, we’ll be left adrift for years.
Say it again.
This is real life.
This is all really happening.