Presidents

On screaming and weeping

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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.

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Former President Carter ill with advanced cancer

Jimmy Carter

A number of years ago, I was in the women’s department of Macy’s in downtown Washington, DC, searching for a winter coat. I looked up from the rack where I was browsing and first saw a flank of dark-suited men forming something of a semicircle around a distinguished-looking, elderly gentleman who was sitting quietly on a chair near the dressing room. He seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. I then looked in another direction, saw an elegant woman winding her way through the clothes racks, and thought she was familiar as well. It suddenly became very quiet, and I had the sense that I was the only other person in the store—though I don’t think that was actually true. Then, it slowly came to me that I was just feet away from former President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and a Secret Service detail. Something took me over and gave me courage and wings as I watched myself nearly fly to him and blurt out, “President Carter, you are my hero.” Until that moment, I hadn’t known I felt that way, but I surely did. And, I do still.

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