– posted by Max Burns (@themaxburns) on Twitter
Since I began Ruminationville five years ago, I have tried to write thoughtfully and well about topics of importance to me, which I hoped also might be meaningful to those who follow or who otherwise read my blog. Since the election of Donald John Trump, though, I have been unable to write anything that didn’t hold between the lines an Edvard Munch-style scream or a flood of tears. But as a writing teacher, among other things, I know that unfettered emotion in a piece of writing can get in the way of the intended message, so I thought I’d just better keep my mouth shut for a while until I could express myself honestly but with a necessary restraint.
The new leader of the free world’s first week in office has given us a magnificent view of the hell we are in for, and there is no escaping all manner of articles, videos, and TV news programs attesting to this fact. I, for one, have been unable to tear myself away from the news, though my preoccupation with our collective fall from grace has already had an impact on my health and well-being. It is important, then, to find ways to stay sane in a country that has given itself away to those who would be king or who would curry his favor.
I can say, though, that I will do whatever I can to resist this new regime. Writing is one way to do it; teaching my community college students strategies for being critically thoughtful about the world around them is another. I also can engage my impulse towards activism as it relates to immigration, and I was cheered beyond measure yesterday by the outpouring of outrage and compassion for those affected by Trump’s (and Steve Bannon‘s) malignant executive order and travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries.
On a related note, I have spent the better part of my professional life working with (and for the rights of) immigrants. Specifically, I have focused my efforts on those who have come here from Latin America seeking refuge from war, repression, and poverty. The stories I have heard would break open any heart, including one beating in the chest of a colder-hearted North American.
I feel a special affinity for people who come here from Mexico because I have spent a good deal of time in Puebla studying Spanish and living with the kindest family you might ever find. I can only imagine how much pain they must feel about the dictator-in-chief’s contempt for their country and about his ridiculous promise to build a wall Mexico will pay for, a promise that has prompted considerable, and deserved, ire from the Mexican people.
Within the past several days, in fact, they have risen up en masse and have said hell no — with calls for boycotting American companies there, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Walmart, and Starbucks (see a Time article on the topic). To this I say hippity hip hooray. Nothing else will put a crack in a wall of wealthy, self-interested white men faster than a threat to their own interests and wealth.
Last Saturday, I went to pull on a sock and instead pulled every major muscle in my mid-back. I fell flat out on the bed and sobbed — not so much because of the physical pain, though the pain was considerable, but because Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.
In the days preceding the back event but following the election, I was left to contend with an unremitting migraine behind the left eye, a bout of despair diarrhea, and a stress-induced shingles episode that, among other things, left my shoulder numb. The body is a genius.
It would be wrong, though, to think that I am yet one more aggrieved American adding to the volumes of articles written about Donald Trump and his last-gasp entourage of greedy, self-interested, racist, anti-Semitic, white-skinned misogynists since, as Jon Stewart in his understated and affecting interview with Charlie Rose reminds us, not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. Some, he says, are afraid about their health insurance premiums.
For 11 days now, I have borne witness to my unfettered feelings of anger and fear, and I have seen the underbelly of contempt I possess towards my particular version of “the other”; yet, while I am not proud about admitting I am a container for the very darknesses I ascribe to those I already have condemned to the wrong side of history, I am happy to report I still have a heart that beats stronger for love than it does for hate.
There is my daughter, whom I have loved freely and unconditionally every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year for more than three decades. No one taught me how to feel this love. It appears to have come in the same box with the rest of my parts.
And no one told me how, or why, to love A., whom I have loved without end for some 17 years in spite of the fact that these feelings have never been reciprocated. Something from within (or from without) winged me to him, or him to me, and I came to know, without knowing, that I was to love him without condition or expectation.
The love I feel both for my daughter and for A. is a very great mystery, and I can say only that love’s capacity to awaken us and to help us evolve from the pipsqueaks we really are puts into perspective the shallow affairs of nasty men, who, like the rest of us, will one day fall to dust.
An Open Letter to Donald Trump:
I try my hardest not to be political. I’ve refused to interview several of your fellow candidates. I didn’t want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. I thought: ‘Maybe the timing is not right.’ But I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now. Because along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.
I’ve watched you retweet racist images. I’ve watched you retweet racist lies. I’ve watched you take 48 hours to disavow white supremacy. I’ve watched you joyfully encourage violence, and promise to ‘pay the legal fees’ of those who commit violence on your behalf. I’ve watched you advocate the use of torture and the murder of terrorists’ families. I’ve watched you gleefully tell stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood. I’ve watched you compare refugees to ‘snakes,’ and claim that ‘Islam hates us.’
I am a journalist, Mr. Trump. And over the last two years I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm— the hateful one is you.
Those of us who have been paying attention will not allow you to rebrand yourself. You are not a ‘unifier.’ You are not ‘presidential.’ You are not a ‘victim’ of the very anger that you’ve joyfully enflamed for months. You are a man who has encouraged prejudice and violence in the pursuit of personal power. And though your words will no doubt change over the next few months, you will always remain who you are.
Brandon Stanton (founder of Humans of New York)
Generally, I do not write about politics, but my often deeply personal writing is always deeply political, if by “political” one means rooted in larger forces, both seen and unseen. That is to say I am incapable of separating who I am, what I believe, and what I have lived from the historical, social, economic, and cultural influences that have shaped me.
As a young girl and then as a grown woman, I suffered considerable emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. Even a few doctors had their way. Yet, while it is true that I have been badly wounded by these abuses, my deepest scars come from the violence my soul has had to endure. Those who are violent, even if it is emotional violence, are incapable of seeing the humanity that animates their victims, and they lack the capacity for self-awareness and self-honesty. How else could they justify the pain they inflict?
I grew up in an extended family of arrogant, self-deluded misogynists not unlike Donald Trump; even the women hated women (or, more precisely, they hated themselves). So when I listen to Trump speak hatefully and cruelly about women — and speak grandiosely and with high regard about himself — I have to admit that I feel right at home. Although he is as much a victim of history and culture as my family is and was, he nevertheless is a bankrupt and soulless human being who, if elected president, God forbid, would have me waxing nostalgic about those very dark Reagan and Bush days. And, while I am as left of left as they come, last night I was giddy to learn of Ted Cruz’s victory in Iowa because perhaps it means that Trump will soon be down for the count — though Cruz is only slightly less reprehensible than his rival.