A few thoughts

It’s now day 3 of The New Normal and I still can’t focus, can’t think, burst into tears at odd moments, don’t give a damn about anything I enjoyed a few days ago. I live with depression. I’ve lived with depression all my life. This isn’t depression. It’s that BSOD message: “Windows must shut down to prevent damage to your computer.” A self-protective paralysis overlying incipient hysteria.

I had a moment of beauty yesterday when someone reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” – “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” I thought I might be turning a corner. Then I found out he died. Moment’s over. That was quick. He may have died on Monday, or on Thursday. I hope it was Monday. Before.

I went through the supermarket today, wondering: Which ones? Which ones decided I wasn’t worth keeping alive any more? Was it her? Who was it that decided my friends and neighbors should be deported, was it him? Who was it that decided bragging about sexual assault and a life spent viewing women purely in terms of their sexual utility wasn’t disqualifying, who felt like telling a crowd things were better when they could just beat the guy up, who wants to muzzle the media unless they only say nice things about him, didn’t matter that much – was it you? Did you decide you liked the bigotry so much, you’d ignore the bankruptcies and the potential for war and the chumming up to a Russian autocrat? Do fetuses matter so much more than living, breathing people who were once fetuses? And if there’s any doubt that people will suffer, check out Shaun King’s timeline, check the news about Penn, or just ask me for the 15 clips I randomly pulled to show you the hatred you have implicitly approved.

Those who voted for bigotry (and they will insist they voted for other things, but if you vote for a bigot, you don’t get to wave it away and claim purity) have made it clear they’ve been revolted by the person occupying the Oval Office for the past eight years. I’m going to understand that feeling, for the first time in my life, a lot better in the next four years (oh, let’s not sugar coat this, it’s eight years, and who knows, with all three branches of government firmly in his control, it might end up more than that). But my distaste does not spring from what the new President Elect is, but from what he’s said and done. If you can show me anything President Obama has ever said or done that’s as offensive as [insert favorite example of bigotry here] that will help me to understand. If you can show me instances where President Obama has been as selfish, as mean-spirited, as vindictive, as crass, as greedy as the new President Elect, that will help me to understand. I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how anything President Obama did affected their lives in a negative way. I’m not saying everything was peachy-keen, but he always maintained an air of grace and rationality. I never doubted his sincerity, and I always felt, even when I was disappointed by some action he did or didn’t take, some degree of trust in his judgment. I was proud to call him my President. Given my age and health, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to say that again.

Some casual online friends of mine were commenting on the election from that place of white privilege (which, I admit, I also enjoy) where everything’s an academic exercise and somehow both candidates were equally distasteful because it isn’t our rights, freedoms, and safety that’s threatened by one of them. I’ve been ignoring this attitude for weeks from all sides (my dental hygienist, a bus driver, a neighbor). But yesterday I cracked. I ended up the bad guy. I don’t like being the bad guy, and it does nobody any good. My intentions were good, and I can’t say I regret what I posted, but I made a fool of myself, and I was ineffective.

People of color have been saying white people don’t like to be made to feel uncomfortable about racism; I never knew what they meant before. I still don’t understand it: I’m always uncomfortable about racism (I’m always uncomfortable about a lot of things, for that matter), fully aware I don’t have any idea what it’s like to be the only black woman in the room, to be the black guy on the street when a police car comes around. I’ve tried to include more diverse voices into my earshot over the past several years. I still have a lot to learn. But fact is, I’m not comfortable with confrontation, so I tend to stay quiet until I’m pissed off to the point of erupting, and that’s never a good approach.

I’ll probably regret this post at some point, maybe even delete it; it’s way too “hot-take”. But right now, it’s something I need to put out here.

I hear a lot about liberals and other Democrats (funny, I always thought they were the same thing) being angry at each other, at individual Democrats, at the news media, at this and at that. Me, I’m angry at Jon Stewart. Yes, the Daily Show guy, the flaming liberal who’s been campaigning his heart out for the side of sanity and reason, the guy who’s show I watched religiously for years, the guy I still miss (though Trevor’s doing a fantastic job and brings an angle Jon simply couldn’t). Because I remember a show he did, just before he left TDS, where he and a bunch of other comedians got together on stage for a simulated circle jerk over the announcement of a certain candidate. They saw jokes making themselves for two, three months, maybe six. They never thought it would go beyond that. They never thought it could happen here.

Guess what – it happened here. And the KKK is throwing parades. This is who we are now.

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6 responses to “A few thoughts

  1. Hi, Karen. Don’t delete your post later. It’s important to keep a record of how we all felt.

    I have a feeling that the swing votes that put him in office were more about the fetuses than the racism. Being a former evangelical, I feel somehow like I get these people. The rallying cry seemed to be “No matter how bad he is…Supreme Court!” I think the same thing as you…even if we somehow avoid a war that kills us all for four years, the climate-change-denying side of it is so likely to hasten our demise that in the balance, I have to believe a lot more already born people are going to die than fetuses will be saved by this clown.

    I’m embarrassed. I disliked him a long time before he ever became a politician. I saw him as one of those crass, self-promoting twats who used the media to present himself as someone having gravitas in a certain area (business) he didn’t deserve. He was a reality TV star. He still is. His debate style is pure Jerry Springer. He doesn’t even know how to reason through anything, so even if he gets as answer right–and three or four of the ideas on his 100-day plan are good ones–he gets it right for the wrong reasons. I am embarrassed that my people so perish for lack of knowledge, that being an intellectual is now seen as something so unworthy of being.

    I posted something on my Facebook the other day. It’s actually from an essay by C.S. Lewis I read back when I was an evangelical. The essay was “Learning in Wartime.” He was addressing university students, explaining why it was important to stay engaged in study when WWII was raging around them. He imagined it would seem to the students like it was fiddling while Rome burned to study Philosophy or Literature while there was a war on. He wrote this: “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.”

    His “edge of a precipice” is the fact that all humans live with the mortal choice of heaven or hell. If we all lived our lives thinking too much about this, we’d feel nothing else mattered, and nothing would ever be accomplished–no buildings built, no scientific theories discovered, no songs written, etc. We’d just preach on street corners. But this isn’t what we ought to do.

    Karen, if you were blogging about stories before the election, you should blog about it now. Whatever was worth doing then is worth doing now. The world is always in crisis or close to it. As with the war in Lewis’s day, this election creates no new condition, it “simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.”

    Lewis continued: “Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward. Men are different.They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffold, discuss, the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.”

    If this all isn’t enough to convince you to keep doing what you do, what about spite? Spite is a really good motivator, I find. Trump supporters (I won’t call them “conservatives,” because I respect Conservatism too much) are having a grand old time laughing at the tears and melodrama we are showing them. So don’t show it to them. Continue living your life.

    A touch more than half the country didn’t vote for him! Of those who did, a lot were voting while holding their noses so they could accomplish one or two things. Not everyone who supported him is a racist or misogynist. The people you see in the grocery store are no more contemptible now than they used to be. If all this fiction you read does anything for you, it should help you to understand that there is an explanation for everything people do.

    Think of Ted Chiang’s story you just wrote about. In the long run, humanity is probably going to ruin itself. That was always true. We are flawed and foolish and selfish and noble and beautiful and pitiable. We are the image of God and a sinful nature all at the same time. Don’t let the fact that we do bad things stop making you appreciate the absurd wonder of our self-destructiveness.

    • I don’t write a lot of personal posts, though most of my story and mooc posts include a fair amount of personal material. The thing that bothers me most about this post is all the “I”s. Nearly every sentence, every paragraph, starts with “I”. But it’s a post about me, so I guess that’s unavoidable.

      One thing I didn’t even allude to is the impending threat to the environment. These folks aren’t stupid; they can’t actually believe the nonsense they claim about climate change, but I’m not sure how they rationalize the effect our actions now will have on their children and grandchildren. I guess they figure people in power, people with money, usually manage to escape the worst effects of any catastrophe; they’ll be in the French Quarter while the rest of us in the 9th Ward are washed away. But who’s going to clean their houses after that?

      Interesting, for some reason I’d thought you were British. No idea where I got that impression. Not sure you’d be better off – the whole world is going in this same direction. A nuclear world led by selfish bullies sans shame: what could go wrong?

  2. Karen, Please do not take down this post! it is brilliant. Needed and eloquent and moving. We need so much of this said, written, read, heard. Don’t worry about the “I” references: I’m sensitive to writers who write too much about themselves too, but this is not that. This is important. It should go viral. We are, so many of us, reeling and feeling helpless. A dear friend, almost 90, usually very diplomatic with her cantankerous, T-supporting daughter, “cracked” (to use your word) in a post election chat and now the daughter is being even more nasty and selfish. Of course my friend blames herself for speaking up. But we have to speak up: now or never. And don’t get me started on some of my in-laws in PA, a state that could have saved us all; one of them, an otherwise dear woman, “hates” Hillary for unspecified reasons; moving past, I urged to vote at least for Katie McGinty. She said she “didn’t want to” because (are you sitting down?), “She reminds me of that other one, almost the same hairdo, who was elected attorney general got convicted and is going to jail.” I said, “But Katie McGinty is not Kathleen Kane,” and she said: “I know, but McGinty has too many ads, I have to watch QVC and my bill is going to be terrible.” Given this kind of willful, bizarrely idiotic nonsense, this commitment to everything that America is not supposed to be, passionate and articulate voices like yours are vital, essential. This is now or never time. Keep on keeping on.

    • I would be surprised if more than a third of those who voted – in any election – could name an actual policy proposed by each candidate. And to be honest, I’m the same way when it comes to most downticket races.

      Different standards apply to women, and it’s nearly impossible to meet them in a national contest. Women candidates can’t be angry (men can be forceful), can’t be soft (men can be compassionate), can’t be too pretty or too ugly (men can be anything), can’t be too intellectual (women are bookish, men are brilliant) or too easy-going (men can be absolute idiots). Someone tweeted the other day: Once again, we see that men will be forgiven anything, women will be forgiven nothing.

      And the kicker is that women are just as resistant to women as men are. Even when the alternative is… well, you know.

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