One of the great failings and discouragements of my intellectual life is that I can’t write politics. I admire and love astute political writers and commentators; without them we would have little guidance and insight into the broader reaches of our society, other societies, history, indeed the human condition in general. The best writers offer perspective and context, always, and they are usually the least read. But it is my habit, gift, failing and need to turn most events, whether personal or the furthest universe away, toward metaphor and the reflective patterns of what humans repeat again and again and stumblingly again.
Donald Trump’s egregious election and administration, if one can even call it that, has erased my higher, broader mind, taken it captive. In its place is an inarticulate rage, a helplessness and disbelief, that is a truly useless attribute when attempting to comprehend the selfish idiocy of this person, his political groupies, and the pathetically ignorant (or purely self-interested) people who elected him. A racist showman who began the blushingly backward “birther” distraction, a father who spoke about fucking his own daughter, and who was caught on tape admitting to assaulting women – we took him on, swallowed his nativist lies and race baiting fear mongering, drop by eager drop. My Buddha heart wilts and falls away: I cannot find compassion for people who support this person, and what he has done, will do, to his own country and, more importantly, our dying Earth. I hate him. Part of me hates every single person who voted for him. There is simply… no excuse.
I was thinking the other day, as I often do, of Barack, and how innocent and silly I became during his administration. I loved him – I still love him – despite his failings and overly intellectual pondering on humanitarian crises like Syria. His failings are rooted in a deeply refined intellect and sense of humanity and grace. This country responded to such a presence in a manner so violent, so racist, and in a way so utterly, there is no other word, idiotic, that I don’t recognize myself here. I am ashamed upon hearing the broader, wiser commentaries from black people, brown people, anyone not white and comfortable: “Wake the fuck up. And so it has always been. Trump just gave public permission for these people to more openly align and vent their horrible, ignorant rage and fear. It’s nothing new.”
I am a mother of three children. Most days I am a broken record: “I am single now. Broke. Single mother and fucking broke and as lonely as I’ve ever known.” But then I think: “If I were a black woman… with a black son..” how would I go on? Shame. That’s the primary emotion I feel. Shame, all my love and pride over Barack and his brilliant ambitions shattered by the blind seething larvae that lay beneath that whole damn time.
In the 80’s Barack was going to Harvard, head of the Harvard Law Review. He did community work, and then, as everyone knows, went to Chicago and met Michelle at the great law firm Sidley Austin. (In the oddest personal aside: my grandfather many decades earlier did the same, attending Harvard, Law Review etc, then worked at Sidley… I used to love the idea that a black man with a mixed race background could follow the exact trail of a white Southern boy working his way up in the early 1950’s.)
And, as we all know from such erudite publications as People Magazine and the New York Post, the 80’s Trump was snorting coke and making shit deals to ruin the landscape of Manhattan or New Jersey or Florida or wherever his pathological narcissism led him. The pasts of the two men reflect precisely what they both brought to public service (or public destruction). One, a humanist, an intellectual giant who understood the forces of history, the ugliness of nationalism and the belief that being forever a solitary ascendant world power was a dangerous belief indeed. The other: no belief at all save the most primitive kind, like an Id stripped to its basest form: money, power, more money, submissive women, ownership, and fuck the rest and whomever or whatever got in his greedy way.
Barack is as dignified as the current occupier of the White House is vulgar. Where the latter can barely put two tweets together, and never coherently, Barack is a brilliant student of strategy, history, politics, music, and literature. Who would ever imagine we would have had a great man for president who can also sing like Al Green and reads Alice Munro, a name Trump might hear and think, “Didn’t I fuck her once?”
And so in parallel I place the two together, and compare, like a child handed two toys for evaluation and preference. But unlike the child I can feel the veins of bitterness move into my heart: this administration does so much damage to everything it touches, and is in power at a moment of such profound importance to the planet, to the stability of other countries, that I feel myself grow exhausted from my own hatred. And this trait is, of course, the old and easy path that allows oneself to become mirror and puppet to the thing one least admires. This is the common way of history, of human emotion, of attachment and the desire to see life unfold in ways beyond the control of an individual’s egoic passions.
This evening, after a particularly painful day of loneliness and fear – sometimes I feel I can only wake for a moment to the huge pressures surrounding this new identity of “Single Mother of 3” – well, this evening I poured a lovely, small glass of sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, and it promptly spilled all over my freezer and floor.
Anger, frustration, Small Mind: I became the muttering middle aged woman complaining about her lot in life, and I knew it, which made the moment all the harder and all the more comical.
Suddenly an image flashed through my weary mind. First I saw the smallness of my anger, the waste of it. But that was a micro-second. Next came a picture, a real picture, though still impossible to describe: indelible, real as flesh, a painting, but a truth, too.
There was a god. The god was holding something in his hand, something I could not quite see, but knew. He was holding the body of the Earth. And it was a true body, corporeal and shaped, as if the molten core had emerged but was no longer a supporting sphere. The god was watching with just one eye the slowly writhing, tiny creature, our World, our lives, our Planet. And he said, in the softest voice, “That was a good death. It was peaceful, short compared to some others I’ve seen.”
We are only a passing, quicker than a leopard at hunt. All the parallels, all the loves, the raging battlefields and the awesome peace of a high desert moon; even, dare I say it, the silken first touch of the child just as she emerges from her mother’s hard-heaving body: Passing. Passing. So fast we never know it. Not really. Maybe at the end, maybe at the last breath, when the god breathes us in, and we might share his sight before – oh! – the mind shuts the eyes the heart the heavy lungs.