One year ago today it became official—Donald Trump was to be the 45th President of the United States of America. Looking back, there’s a lot to be said, little of it positive. No one needs a step-by-step summary of how rapidly, or how raunchily, things are decaying—environmental de-regulations; devolving international relations; degrading women’s rights, especially reproductive ones; gun control, or the glaring lack thereof; tax reforms to further favor the rich and corporations; absurd immigration policies and positions; the tramplings of run-away capitalism; inaccessible healthcare; the struggles and challenges of simply trying to afford being alive.
If you’ve been alive this past year you’ve likely seen all of the above, and more. In fact, sight is a good lens for consideration, as our eyes have been incessantly bombarded with nonsense for so long that we’ve grown numb to additional provocations.1 Most of us are only a few clicks away from Malcom McDowell’s character in A Clockwork Orange. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider the following, a short list chosen indiscriminately:
We live in a time when the cries of our collective consciences come from late night comics rather than our elected leaders, phrased alternatively as, Why does Jimmy Kimmel have more of a backbone than (Insert Congress-person)?2 Amongst the many gods we worship it’s difficult to say whose sacrificial expectations are more damning—Money’s or Gun’s, although it’s clear that in neither case are our offerings sufficient. We laud senators who question—question, not-vote-against—the President, as if seeing a snake coiled in its cage and warning others of its poison deserves commendation. We praise John McCain for a No vote on a piece of legislation that would have terminated healthcare for 20-plus million people, even though he (and other “mavericks” of his ilk) support—in a very active, ongoing and present tense—Trump and the modern Republican platform.
The list goes on. And on. And on. What is one to do in response? Protest? Write your congressperson? Donate funds to good causes and organizations? Turn On? Tune In? Drop Out? One year on and I’ve done it all, and this is what I have to show for it: I’m news-wary, cyclically fatigued, red-eyed and worn.3 This past year has been sickening, insane-inducing, and overall goddamned depressing.
People say that all the time—it’s depressing—so much so that in the repetition frequently much substance gets lost. But it’s no less true for being reiterated: this past year has been terribly depressing. Repeat depressing things enough and eventually you begin to feel overwhelmed; repeat feeling overwhelmed enough and eventually you become exhausted. And one eventual solution to exhaustion is an elixir of distance, indifference, and pinched-shut-eyes, all of which contribute to outcomes that are certain to ensure the continued and ongoing repetition of the depressing things that started the entire cycle.
This might seem silly, but Rock Master Scott’s “The Roof is On Fire” has been stuck in my mind this past week. The chorus of this 80’s hip-hop classic goes,
The roof/the roof/the roof is one fire
We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn
With the exception of the fire’s location—it’s in the basement, where there’s plenty of fuel to feed it, and it consumes upward, steadily—I think it’s a pretty accurate song for today. I’m not an apocalyptic nut and this isn’t a Revelations-type diatribe, but if you’ve been paying attention this past year clearly you smell the smoke, and only the most willfully blind cannot see the flames licking the walls.4 All of which makes me wonder—Who are the firemen we are to call to douse the flames? What is their number? What will they expect to be paid? If we all inhale deeply and hold our breaths will there eventually be no more oxygen to fuel the flames?
If I were a superhero fireman my gift to the world right now would not be water, but silence. A slow speechless quiet that numbs the fever-pitched, shrieking sounds of the endless political posturings whose masturbatory gruntings are exponentially magnified in the news cycle. A hushed, tranquil pause that allows us to listen to the cries of our better parts—those aspects of us that know we’re currently selling ourselves short, demand more from our worlds, and are capable of dreaming new realities into being. A silence that allows us to fully hear the snapping crackles of the flames consuming the floorboards beneath us.
I realize silence isn’t typically used to put out fires, but perhaps listening to our society burn is exactly the sound we need to hear.
- Here’s a 20:20 vision test: How did you respond to the news of the recent gun massacre in Texas?? I sighed heavily; I was not surprised; I dreaded the absence of conversations that was certain to follow; I knew nothing would change. In that, I had perfect but exhausted vision. [↩]
- And let’s not kid ourselves—in the reality where actions have consequences, Kimmel, who hosts a multi-million-dollar late night show, had a lot more to lose by speaking his piece than any member of Congress ever will, especially those whose terms [Jeff Flake, John McCain, etc] are about to end; in other words, his stakes were higher, and still he managed to use his mind and his heart to speak to an important truth. That comparable actions from our elected officials is beyond most individuals’ capacities is despair inducing. [↩]
- And to what end is all of it oriented? Should I hold out hope for impeachment, reworded as, Does anyone honestly believe this Republican controlled Congress, the one that this past week voted to forward tax cuts whose benefits will almost exclusively accrue to the wealthy donors who bankrolled said Congress’s election, will bite the hand that tosses them treats? Should I hope all those over-cooked, ketchup-drenched steaks Trump’s said to love will finally kill him with a heart-attack? Do I really want Mike Pence in charge? [↩]
- In the days I’ve been writing this a man drove a van through a bike path in Manhattan, killing 8; another man shot 26 people at a church in Texas; several former members of the President’s staff have been indicated for collusion with Russia, and one has already plead guilty; Trump once again rattled his nuclear designs against North Korea; you get the idea. [↩]