Dear President Trump,
We’ve been in it for what feels like nearly an eternity at this point, but I still remember times when it was possible to focus on just one or two big current events at a time or on a small handful of political issues that were at the forefront. Do you remember those times? Really, they seem like they were ages ago. It’s possible, of course, that reality has always been as complicated and multilayered as what we have happening now and I was just somehow more insulated, maybe too taken up with things in my own life to let the complexity register. Maybe, but it really does feel qualitatively (and quantitatively) different now. I said yesterday that I’m tired of being on edge, and today I’ll add that I’m tired of there being so incredibly many hard things vying for my attention, things that I wish I could turn away from without feeling guilty.
On the same virtual front page of the same newspaper (no surprise, it was the WP) today there were stories about how we’ve horrifyingly thrown the Kurds and our own service members stationed in Syria under the bus, how a 28-year old African American woman was shot and killed through her bedroom window by a white police officer in the course of a “wellness check,” the rising death toll in Japan from climate-change-driven flooding, and the House Intelligence Committee considering not calling the Ukraine whistleblower because they are concerned for that person’s safety because of you. Of course the list could go on much longer, and yes, there was also news of Simone Biles’s stunning performances at the World Championships and of 15-year old Coco Gauff winning her first singles title, but gosh are we inundated by shitty shit these days.
So where to alight? Where to attempt to shine a light?
On Friday night Laura, a dear friend of ours, and I went to see Rachel Maddow downtown. She read from her new book about the oil and gas industry, talked about breaking news that wasn’t even 15 minutes old, and took questions from a local radio personality. It seemed she was holding up a light for us, that she herself might be a beacon to follow. Then, at the end of the evening she urged us to be open to working with people we don’t agree with to heal the country in the post-Trump era. It was a rah-rah, kumbaya moment that got a lot of applause. And it was unsettling as hell.
Not all that long ago, say 25-ish months ago, I would have agreed with her, back when there still seemed to be some hope that most people who voted for you would see their folly and would turn from you, would disavow you and your racist, hate-filled greedy ways. Yes, a few here and there have snapped out of it, thankfully. But for the most part you still have your base enthralled and with them your pandering GOP props who are afraid of their own shadows. So although I know that technically Maddow is correct, that we can’t get around having to work with people with whom we do not agree, because those people, your people, will almost certainly not admit the error(s) of their ways, will not back off their hate-filled stance towards those of us they don’t want to work with or live near or see their daughters marry, we have to set the conditions for whatever work we agree to do with those people exceedingly carefully.
One of our most important light-shiners, a true beacon, Julius Goat, explained authoritarianism on Twitter very, very simply and succinctly and in the process made clear why we cannot “work with” you all on any but our own terms. He said:
“‘Meet me in the middle,’ says the unjust man. You take a step toward him, he takes a step back. ‘Meet me in the middle,’ says the unjust man.”
May we be safe from our own kind, conflict-avoidant instincts.
May we be willing to hold firm and not take steps towards unjust men.
May we understand that for our democracy to be truly healthy, we will have to engage those who would annihilate us with very fierce compassion, indeed.
May the natural consequences of our betrayal of the Kurds haunt you and yours forever.