There has been an uncomfortable thought nagging at the back of my mind for some time now.
It bobs at the surface again every time I read another headline about the Cheeto. I think to myself, “He’s an idiot. He’s a traitor. He’s going to get us all killed. He’s only out for himself and his cronies. He’s corrupt and a liar. He’s the worst thing that has ever happened to American politics.” Every time, I get an uncomfortable feeling of familiarity. I’ve heard these sentiments spoken before. This is exactly how my uncle used to talk about Obama.
How Can We See it So Differently?
I remember crystal clearly, after a beautiful family wedding, having a rather unfortunate discussion with my uncle about politics. Since I had twisted my ankle trying to catch the bouquet at said wedding, retreat was not an option. I remember him saying, “I truly believe that Obama does not have this country’s best interests at heart.” I remember thinking that he was crazy, sounding more like a Stormfront conspiracy nut than my hockey-loving uncle. I wondered, how could a rational person even begin to think that that was true? He was the President of the United States. He was a respected Senator, had been heavily vetted by the DNC, and had the trust and will of the American people behind him.
Not to mention, none of the horrible things that the Fox News talking heads had accused him of had actually come to pass. No death panels, no state-sponsored sweep of gun owners, no Sharia law. You’d have to believe that Obama was secretly a Muslim, and that all Muslims are terrorists, and that Obama was the greatest sleeper cell conspiracy ever conceived, and that he was waiting to destroy America at some unforeseen date for some unforeseen reason, to believe what my uncle believed about him. And my uncle’s hatred was comparatively mild—there were guys out there burning Obama’s likeness in effigy. Keep in mind, we were well into Obama’s second term when this discussion took place. These weren’t the lingering campaign fears of a person who had voted for the other guy. These were the deep-seated convictions of a person who had already lived through six years of an Obama presidency.
What could possibly be going on in this man’s life that he felt this way? From where I was standing, he was doing pretty well. He owned his own home with plenty of land and a barn to house his collection of hockey and firefighter memorabilia. He had just walked his youngest daughter down the aisle. What was so wrong with this picture that it could inspire such hatred and disgust for the President? Even hating the man elected to our nation’s highest office seemed backwards and unpatriotic. Fast forward to today.
I Hate Trump.
This year, those are the most obvious words anybody could type into a blog post. I hate our President with a burning conviction. I hate him more with every smug word out of his ugly mouth, and with every further assault and insult. I now understand how someone could think that the trust and will of the American people were just wrong. The American people could no longer be trusted to vote in their own interests or to pass a sanity test, I now felt sure. I now know what it feels like to look at a cabal of somehow-contented Americans (hovering in the low 30s now, as I understand it) and want to scream “What the fuck are you thinking? Can’t you see that this man is a traitor? Can’t you see that he’s trying to doom us all?!“
In other words, I now stand in the incredibly unenviable position of my Boston Bruins-loving uncle. I hate our President, and I’m starting to hate my fellow Americans for giving our country to him. I feel like the country was stolen out from under me and mine while I was sleeping. By the Russians, by shady corporate money, by who knows who, but I feel like my country was stolen, and I’m telling you right now, I would vote for anybody with a pulse if they told me I could have it back. I would vote for Satan himself if he told me that the Cheeto would be gone tomorrow, and I wouldn’t have to live through another day of watching the very idea of truth and journalism crumble, of schoolyard taunts being traded between nuclear powers, of federal lands being sold off and pipelines being greenlit and billionaires being subsidized and immigrant families being torn apart, and I would personally organize a #Satan4Prez phone bank if he told me I wouldn’t have to see that smug prick’s face on my phone screen one more time.
What the fuck is this presidency turning me into?
This Time Last Year
I remember a Facebook exchange I had with my father as the 2016 election cycle was coming to its ruinous end. He commented on one of my endless re-shared alarmist think pieces, saying that all of those politicians were the same. They were all crooks, and we were screwed either way, so why bother getting upset about it? I remember thinking that he was out of his damn mind. Why couldn’t he see how high the stakes were? Why couldn’t he see how unprecedented and novel this all was? Because it wasn’t novel. It wasn’t unprecedented. It’s how the hard-line right-wingers had felt every day for the past eight years. It’s how he must have felt as he watched Watergate unfold and the endless injustices of the Vietnam war wind down. Same shit, different day. And now, as I look back on the events that turned Romney supporters into Trump voters, I watch what’s happening to me, and I wonder what four or eight years of this presidency is going to turn me into. Will I be a woman in my fifties, apathetic and unimpressed with the media circus around an upcoming election, certain that we are doomed either way? Will I be something worse? The pendulum swung back hard and gave us Trump. What’s the next swing going to bring us?