What Donald Has Done for Us

What (1)

Earlier this month, Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary race, leaving Donald Trump the presumptive nominee.  The day Kasich made his announcement,  I turned the radio to my favorite NPR station, hoping to catch a little more news about his withdrawal. Instead, I tuned in just in time to catch the end of a news story about a man with stomach troubles who, frustrated with conventional medical treatments, attempted a DIY fecal matter transplant as some sort of homeopathic digestive cure-all.

I’m not a DIY fecal matter transplant expert, but from what the reporters said, the process involved soliciting donor poop samples, making gel caps from the sample selected, and consuming said capsule, thereby introducing “healing” bacteria from the donor poop into his guts. In other words, the guy ate someone else’s shit with the expectation that it would cure him of his ills.

Disgusting, yes. But it was also a remarkably apt story to hear on the day the world learned that a Donald Trump presidency could very well be in our future.  It’s a solid metaphor for what I perceive as the mindset behind those who support Trump: through dissatisfaction with the state of our country combined with mistrust of the establishment, people are ready to swallow Trump’s BS, fully believing — despite a total lack of evidence — that Donald Trump is the one man who can solve our problems.

I cannot fathom ever being inspired to perform a fecal matter transplant, DIY or otherwise, to treat my very real and persistent GI problems. I equally cannot fathom ever being inspired to support Donald Trump as a person who can lead our nation through our very real and persistent socio-political conflicts and economic turbulence. It is next to impossible for me to understand how any reasonable person could be inspired by the person or politics of Donald Trump.

To be perfectly frank, Trump supporters are an enigma to me. They appear in my imagination as gun-toting bogeymen, who are either ignorant hicks, racist xenophobes, or opportunistic arseholes (or some combination thereof). After all, only people who don’t know any better, or who really hate brown people, or who care more about the advancement of their own ideals than they do for democracy or peace could support a foul-mouthed, disrespectful, unstable narcissist like Donald Trump.


Maybe not.

It’s easy for people like me who live in progressive, diverse, and relatively economically secure communities to be dismissive of – or afraid of, or prejudiced against — those who find merit in Trump’s blustering confidence and so-called policies. In many ways, I come from a position of privilege. Society hasn’t failed me, or my family, and I don’t feel as though social changes have violated my core values: I don’t feel powerless in a system that is rigged against me. Donald Trump doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t need what he is selling.

Trump’s personality is a magnet for bullies and opportunists, for the Crabbes and Goyles of the world, and I feel no guilt in consigning a large number of his supporters to a category of people I cannot respect. But I also think there is more complexity among his followers than many of us would like to admit.

I was listening recently to an interview with a man who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary but who plans to vote for Trump over Hillary in the general election. To him, Hillary represents a corrupt status quo that has not and will never work for the benefit of the people.

In another interview, I heard a Trump supporter say that, although he did not agree with many of Trump’s policy proposals he did trust his strength of character. Trump’s brash self-confidence, and his fixedness of purpose were appealing to him, and they trumped whatever reservations the man had about the kinds of policies Donald would pursue.

Donald Trump’s popularity among so many people hasn’t come out of nowhere. We have been paving his road with gold for years now. The last few decades have been marked by upheaval on every level – in politics, in our economy, in technology, in communications, and in our social mores.

And as we have progressed through this upheaval, swaths of our citizens have become disaffected with our political system –  a system that, I think, many of us increasingly fail to understand. We have also  fallen into the habit of “otherizing” those who insist on taking a path that opposes our own. Rifts have become ravines, leaving a vacuum of space perfectly fitted to a person like Donald Trump.

And so, here we are, with a man despised by millions of people across the political spectrum dominating the American political stage. We tell ourselves that this guy is NOT American; that he does NOT represent who we really are; that he has vaulted into popularity in spite of us.

But, as much as I hate to admit it, Trump does represent us, and he is here because of us.

And that is what Donald has done for us: along with all his swaggering, all the cocksure, embarrassing BS he has brought to the forefront of national politics, he has brought something else too — he has given us himself as a mirror, and shown us that he is really nothing more than a reflection of who we are becoming. This is his gift to us.

It’s depressing for people like me to think that we have done anything to deserve Donald Trump as a candidate for president. It’s depressing as hell to think we might actually deserve him as a president.

But there is also a perverse sense of hope that arises when we accept responsibility for the Donald. It means that  Donald Trump (and everything he represents) hasn’t invaded our politics in some sort of hostile takeover– we invited him in. And if we invited him in, we can kick him out.


Trump’s candidacy also gave us this image of him as Dolores Umbridge and it never fails at making me laugh. 


The One Thing I Can Say

If you are currently alive with at least a moderate amount of functioning brain cells and you have access to media of any kind, you are aware that there is a lot of injustice in our world.

There is injustice in Syria and in Iraq and in the Holy Land. There is injustice in every community where people live without food or shelter and in every city where violence rules the streets. There is injustice in our work places and in our schools an in our homes. There is injustice in our justice system.

There is injustice everywhere, all the time. But I think we go through cycles when the injustice is quiet, there but unobtrusive, demanding our attention only periodically. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we go through phases of contentment with our world, when we are able to believe that, on balance, there is more justice than injustice. To be honest, I don’t think we could survive any other way.

But then something, some instance of injustice impossible to explain away, bursts through our complacency, and the injustice that is always there suddenly dominates the landscape.

That’s where we are right now. Or at least, that is where I am right now. Because I can’t seem to stop thinking about how unjust our society is.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles and blog posts about what is happening in our own country, on a street in Missouri, on a sidewalk in New York, in a park in Ohio – in every part of our country where people’s rights seem to be determined more by the color of their skin than by their inherent humanity. I have been reading about racism and about poverty and crime. I’ve read facts and opinions, transcripts and OpEds. And I’ve read the comments. (I should never read the comments.)

Every time I read something I get angry and upset. In fact, I get overwhelmed. And I feel like I need to write about what I am thinking, because there are so many thoughts racing through my mind and writing has always helped me to make sense of things that seem incomprehensible.

But when I try to write my thoughts out, I can’t. There just isn’t enough of me left at the end of the day to deal with the magnitude of what is happening in our country and everywhere else in the world. I feel so small, so inadequate in the face of our problems. So I walk away from my computer in frustration, with nothing to say.

But I need to write something. I can’t stay silent. If the magnitude of injustice is so great that it leaves me feeling like I don’t have the words to talk about it, then it is far too great for me to bury in the silence of my heart.

* * *

So I will say one thing, the only thing I feel like I can say: that we, individually and as a society, need to find our compassion.

We need to remind ourselves that there is dignity inherent to all human life. And we need to remember that our own dignity — and the dignity of those who are like us — never trumps the dignity of anyone else. Not ever.

Above all, we need to care. The intrinsic worth of people who are different from us has to matter.

A wise man once asked his followers to love strangers as well as their neighbors, and to love their neighbors as well as they loved themselves. In America today, this advice is worth taking.

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Friday Roundup, Vol. 1

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The idea for the “Friday Roundup” came to me when I was driving around town today. I was thinking about a bunch of different posts I wanted to write and about how I really need to do something regular on the blog. So, I give you this — a roundup of some of the thoughts that have been floating around my brain this week. Maybe I will stick with it? Maybe I won’t? I’m not quite sure yet. That just adds to the excitement, right?

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Mostly, I wanted to post about a few things that are really getting my Irish up. (Or my Polish? Or my Italian? Or my “whatever I am,” which I don’t really know because I’m adopted?) In other words, I’m angry. And having been raised in a family of feisty, ethnic Irish/Polish/Italian Catholics, angry usually results in hyperbolic ranting.

Our country has had a lot to say about our governing bodies and political parties this week. A lot of what I have read has had me standing in my kitchen compulsively shoving balls of gluten-free Rice Krispie treats into my mouth to keep me from developing a permanent eye-twitch. (Yes, I was reading comments. Bad idea. Always.)

I’m not going to repeat what other people have already said. Some of it has been inspiring; the rest of it is infuriating. What I am going to say is this: I am mad at Congress. I am mad at individual Congress people, and I am mad at Congress as a whole. I am mad for a lot of reasons, but mostly I am mad because they don’t seem to have any real connection to the people to whom they are supposed to belong or any real understanding of what their role is in running this nation.

It’s like two parents who are bickering about their kids. On the surface, the fight is about the good of their children and their family. And to some extent, each parent is motivated by a genuine desire to seek what is best for his or her children. But what is really fueling the flames is each parent’s ego. Yes, they are both concerned about their children. But ultimately, they have each become so attached to their own idea of what should be done that the argument has become about THEM — their ideas, their self-worth, their desperate need to be right.

But here’s the thing. What is best for the children and for the family is that the parents get the hell along. Their most important  job is to keep their family together. Those other little things, the stuff of arguments, are never, ever, more important than the cohesiveness of the family as a whole.

I know that the fate of a nation is bigger than the fate of a family. I know that the implications of a healthcare initiative and the budget that funds a superpower are mountainous in comparison to deciding whether or not Jonnie Jr. is allowed to join the swim team or not.

I also know that a nation falling apart is mountainous in comparison to a family falling apart. And it is both maddening and devastating that the petty bickering that rips marriages apart and breaks up families has become the modus operandi of the houses of our government.

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Now back to those Internet comments I mentioned earlier. I live about 30 miles away from Washington DC. This means that a LOT of my friends and family work for the federal government. Most of them are now furloughed because of a congressional standoff, which means that people I know and care about will not be getting a paycheck for an unspecified period of time. Some of these people are living in another country, where they are representing the same government that currently isn’t paying them.

These are all people who have to do things like pay their mortgages and buy gas, and provide their children with food and clothes and shoes and stuff. This whole shutting down of their place of employment — it sucks. It’s scary and depressing and infuriating.

But then there are the internet trolls who feel the need to add insult to injury and denigrate these very people who help run our country. I won’t bring their nastiness into this post. Instead, I will use it to say how very proud I am to know so many people who work for the good of our country, and what an honor it is that there was a time when I was one of them.

Every single person I know personally who works for the government is intelligent and hard-working. More importantly, all of them — from my 22-year-old cousin who just got his first post-college job to my 50-something attorney aunt who has dedicated more than 20 years of her career to our country — are working for the government because they care about this country.

So to all of these people, I would like to say THANK YOU. I appreciate the work you do. I’m sorry for what you are going through right now and I pray that it will be over soon.

* 4 *

Finally, earlier this week my daughter said something that broke my heart and got me thinking. I started a post about it, but realized that I need to do a little more thinking before I can do the topic justice. In the meantime, I am sharing this picture of a beautiful, brown-eyed girl who is so much more than she realizes. It will come up again.

Those eyes are two of my favorite eyes in the whole world

Those eyes are two of my favorite eyes in the whole world