Thursday, November 10, 2016
They dare return us to the old slavery
The dog still needed to be walked Wednesday morning, as always. She didn't know it had been a late night, or who was just elected president. Snapping her collar on, and plunging out into the chilly morning about 6:30 a.m. felt normal. The leaves were colorful, the air crisp, the sun rising. The world was still here.
Okay, I thought. We'll manage this. He can't really build the wall—unnecessary, vastly expensive and logistically insane. Start deporting those 11 million undocumented immigrants and the crops rot in the field. Dial back gay marriage? Can you really unring that bell? Umm yes. His vice president kicked a hole in the Indiana economy trying to do just that. Has that kind of right ever in the history of the United States been extended, and then a few years alter snatched back? "Sorry ladies, guess you won't be voting after all!!!"
Bargaining. That's what, Stage 3 on the Kubler-Ross grief scale? I seem to have skipped over No 1, denial—can't very easily deny this Hieronymus Bosch painting, transpiring in glorious red and blue before my eyes, with the New York Times real time win-prediction meter starting deep in Hillary territory then pinning itself for Trump. Denying the outcome would be like denying the sky because it's stormy. It's right there, big as life, every time you look at it. A mighty nation brought low. Mass folly.
At home, coffee was still here. Cafe du Monde. The papers arrived, freezing the midnight moment when the balance had not yet completely swung Donald Trump's way.
I wonder if there'll be papers at all in 2020?
Of course the world wasn't really, there, not the world as it had been the day before. By the time I got back, the emails were showing up.
"I guess it's time to head back to Israel and get drunk..."
And the phone calls.
"You fucking kike Democrat boot-licker phony fucking journalist. I'm laughing at you, you faggot!"
Trump fans reaching out to bind up our divided country. Adding their undervalued perspective to the national conversation.
Phone numbers come up now when people call -- they don't realize that -- and in my pre-coffee fog, I phone one back, under the quaint notion that he would regret the bile so easily spilled into my voicemail. "Wrong," as the president-elect likes to say. Which did give the chance to leap back to Kubler-Ross Stage No. 2, anger, because it's infectious, and when somebody starts screaming at you, you tend to give back in kind. Mental note to self: don't call people back. Don't answer emails. Let them have their moment, ululating over the fraud whose lies they bought. They'll have time to regret what they've done.
Or not. He'll just lie some more and tell them how wonderfully he's done, like they do in Russia.
Though to be honest, the reader response was not really worse than could be gotten on any given day pre-Trump. We can't blame him for the vileness in the American soul. He didn't create it, it was already there. He just weaponized it, monetized it, for himself. Turning anger into political capital he could spend to buy the White House.
The White House. Suddenly I saw those elementary school placemats with the presidents. Postage stamps. Those future kids, yet unborn, proudly memorizing the presidents, starting with, "Washington, Jefferson, Adams..." ending "Bush, Obama, Trump" and then whatever godawful specimen comes next. Because as bad as this is, it'll only get worse. Or not. We'll all get used to it, and it'll just be the Way Things Are. The pit-of-the-stomach dread of today—like somebody died—will just be a historical artifact, half trivial, half amusing, grandpa putting on a black armband when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected. Thought he was a tyrant.
They say in American anyone can grow up to become president. Now we know what that really means.
I called my parents.
"How could people vote for someone like that?" said my father, 84. "He made fun of people with disabilities. And people could vote for him. It says something about our country, that's for sure."
Yes it does dad.
My mother, 80, got on the phone, all defiance, explaining that this simply means the first woman president will be Elizabeth Warren.
"Dad and I will still be here in 2020," she said, "and we'll live to see that day."
I sure hope so mom, I said.
"How could this person be the president of our land?" she said.
Can't answer that one, mom.
"I'm wearing all black today and reading 'Confederacy of Dunces,'" she continued.
That's a plan. Mourn and amuse ourselves. The last Kubler-Ross stage is acceptance. This is what happened. The pieces of the vase cannot be glued back together. Is that acceptance? Or complacency, normalization? He'll be president, yes, but that doesn't mean we have to accept anything he tries to do: Barack Obama never got that courtesy. Acceptance is a luxury we can't really afford right now, a sort of privilege. Being Jewish, my rights won't be plucked away as fast as others' rights will--women, Hispanics, Muslims. But tying yourself into a knot of anguish won't help anybody.
Which is one way of viewing it. Another is that we may have lost the battle, but not the war.
The keening was endless on Facebook. I added David Remnick's mournful analysis, An American Tragedy, and Eric Zorn's excellent, grim, assessment, Can America Survive President Donald Trump? Spoiler alert: no.
I posted my column, of course, the fourth written Tuesday, as events unfolded. And then, prompted by some essential rebellious gene, the La Marseillaises scene from "Casablanca," where the German occupiers singing "Watch on the Rhine" in Rick's Cafe are drown out by the French National Anthem. Something uplifting, defiant and apt, particularly the lines from the second verse, which they never get to, "C'est nous qu'on ose méditer/De rendre à l'antique esclavage!"
Or in English: "It is us they dare plan/To return to the old slavery!"
Mike Pence might lull himself to sleep thinking about cramming gays back in the closet. Donald Trump might have based his campaign on making every Hispanic citizen a suspected illegal alien, on defunding health care for poor women, or stuffing the Supreme Court with justices who'll dial back women's rights 50 years. He might have been carried to the presidency on the shoulders of the most motley band of alt-right haters to ever dart blinking into the sunlight, their ranks augmented by the grumbling dispossessed who'll swallow any flattering lies and don't sweat the details. But this isn't done yet, and they can't just start shredding modern life, not while free American citizens have a say about it. He'll be president, not king, and though he has Congress at his bidding, the struggle has not ended. It has only begun. Allons enfants de la Patrie!