Quite recently the world watched in dismay as thirteen Thai boys and their soccer coach languished in a water-filled cave starving and awaiting rescue. Briefly there was moon rise in the heart– all were freed of imminent death by immensely brave people.
To those marching to Trafalgar Square yesterday, to those in the UK and elsewhere whose hatred of Donald Trump seems to rapidly becoming synonymous with antipathy toward Americans in general, I make a plea to have some empathy for those of us who do not support this man.
As an American living under Trump, with Trump as our ostensibly electorally-chosen leader, life can fairly be said to be much like living in a labyrinthine cave in which one worries about running out of air and water. I am speaking of the thinking American, who sees through Trump, an American who believes that he is more thug than leadership material and has deeply spurious fidelity to Russia more than his own country and certainly more than to our allies.
Many of us are prepared to assert that he is a traitor. I am far from the only US citizen who thinks that Donald J. Trump has been groomed for the presidency by the so-called elected president of Russia, Vladimir Putin; hence the terrifying fact before the world that he and Vladimir Putin, despite the recent Mueller indictments, will “summit” alone.
Trump’s agenda, his distaste for Western alliances and presidential conventions, his narcissistic heartlessness which has become ruthlessness with respect to the impact of his “policies” on asylum-seekers, all suggest, as one Jonathan Chait has recently written in New York Magazine, who also uses the metaphor of a labyrinth to describe efforts to comprehend Trump’s motivations, that he may in fact be a skilled infiltrator, far more Russian than American..
I have written many essays about this man including one analyzing him as a kind of hybrid human who is more an instinct-driven monster than someone with a brain and a heart who walks upright to a purpose beyond his own virulent desires, another piece to do with the imperatives of our early democracy when and if we were faced with a “despot,” recently picked up by Vox Populi, a political and literary hub for the literati of my generation.
Since the immigration crisis on the U.S. border, I have in fact found myself constantly blogging about him to the void, sending daily missives out into cyber space as a way to try to have a modicum of control over something fundamentally out of control; this is revelatory to me inasmuch as this compulsion moors me to one thing that has not been utterly changed by his seemingly illimitable reach: as I am among those housebound with disability in our country, to write, to lend my voice to our Resistance, to speak..
If Trump is not other than a criminal who has brought anguish on millions, to look through the prism of one among millions, someone living within the crucible of affliction engendered by a democracy becoming a regime, could be helpful both to the causes of compassion and empathy– and comprehension of what is happening to those of us whose president he is. Trump wins when he turns us into dehumanized rageful beings who turn against each other.
For it seems to me that the world is imperiled by rage incited by and catalyzed by Trump, that if human beings sacrifice empathy to rage, all will be lost, and that the route to empathy is the personal story, the narrative that invites the reader into a private life with its joys and bruises, its terrors and gardens.
One piece that profiled Americans living under Trump albeit via those rural voters who were estranged from and did not understand our beautiful black brainiac Barack Obama and who believed that Donald Trump could speak for and to them was written by friend and colleague , the esteemed American poet Dawn Potter, a ground-breaking article for the TLS titled “The Humanity of the Trump Voter.”
I wish I could claim my friend’s compassion for my own. A year and a half out from the election and on the day after twelve members of the Russian GRU have indeed been indicted for infiltrating our election by Mueller, even as protests rage on around the world wherever Trump is, I too am in danger of sacrificing my humanity in my passion for the obliteration of Donald Trump, his containment, his not entirely figurative castration. A place to start in this missive into the void is to confess to my compatriots and to our allies that I too have succumbed to his blandishments in reverse, and in something brave enough to come forward in the first person.
I am but one American woman, scholar, former professor– compromised by mobility impairments and therefore who is housebound, often curtailed within by agoraphobia, a history of not feeling safe in the world even when it was safer. I am someone who across time has become a poet whose name and work are of minor importance in a small sector of cyber space, a few books to her credit, and in recent years, the good fortune to have had her latest collection a finalist in a major publication prize, but who recently pulled that same manuscript from a UK press because although other Americans are on the house list, it seemed that the publisher had no qualms about inciting an indiscriminate anti-American sentiment in a public environment.
Thus the most immediate effect on me, on my psyche of the Trump regime, has been to have something like a wounded animal reaction to being lumped with anyone who supports the beast dumped into the American presidential election, whose philosophies are aligned with Putin’s and whose so-called “base” is so intellectually challenged it is blind to who and what he really is: a crass pig who has raped our country so that we are living in an era of shame at being American..
I and those who share my view of this man are termed “coastal liberal elites” (although I in fact live and write and dream and love in Colorado) by some of the quasi-articulate members of this base, the same people who have dreamed up the idea that there is such a thing as an American “Deep State,” something that must be combated with Trump as savior, all via sycophants and surrogates who justify supporting everything he says and does.
Since the election, when many American women were sure that we would see the election of the first woman president in the U.S., I have awakened each morning with a mouth dry with dread, deeply depressed, and terrified, as though I have fallen asleep on a life raft adrift in the Indian Ocean. Water, water everywhere and not a rescue ship in sight.
As all thinking global citizens know, our imperfect but generous country has for many years been the flag rescue ship for the rest of the world. Now, much like the Indonesian refugees whose boats broke apart on the shoals of Christmas Island in 2010, I and we are flailing in water, fighting for our psychological lives. Running from this behemoth in place, we are ourselves asylum-seekers unable to depose the source of our tyranny, utterly desperate to know that it will not always be like this, that hope still lies in the outcome of the Mueller investigation and the fall elections that could change the balance of power..
But another result of Trump’s hegemony over the American psyche? .
That hope itself is on life support. Every day, Donald Trump takes another action to dismantle something I have counted on– to draw a breath of clean air when I brace up to briefly ambulate to our deck on the south end of our house–a home which also seems to know that something has made it unsafe to be in this country at this time, as it lists back into the sapling poplars that are surrounding and occluding it from view, settling into the earth..
Here, where I live with my husband and our Golden Retrievers, where I am about to turn 70 and he is 76, where we rendezvous for a cup of coffee to take a break from writing projects for part of the day, or to peer together into the virtual world to at least see and “speak to” a like-minded person, we have created something of a hermetic world brought about by as I disclosed, my disabilities, our mutual aging, the welcome distraction and demands of our beautiful dogs who take us out of ourselves– and in perhaps in an unconscious reaction to the theft of our country by the Trump machine which looks ever more like a Putin machine, and one pervaded by a criminal mentality and disregard for the rule of law that in theory has separated America from your every-day dictatorship..
I have heard it said that anger is depression turned inward. Try rage. On some mornings, I vacillate between an impulse to follow Anthony Bourdain into oblivion and wanting to find someone, anyone, to be my proxy in taking this heap of self-blind protoplasm out– to take a page from the deeply paranoid communities in the deep American south where citizen militias are teaching their toddlers to shoot AR 15’s because they live on the idea that the government at some point will make them give up their guns. In my darkest moments I think, “We are overdue for an assassination.” .
Trump is their president, you see, those to whom it will sound unbearably elitist to call those who have emerged as his challenged, nothing-if-not-thick, black and brown-people hating, often evangelical supporters.
When Congresswoman Maxine Waters, in deep emotional distress over the Administration’s criminally unconstitutional kidnapping of asylum-seeker’s infants, deporting nursing mothers without due process, and in defiance of international law, stealing an indeterminate number of children and spreading them out into militarized encampments and shelters, purposefully insuring that reuniting these families would be impossible and heinously, their infants given to American families, she called on we liberals to “surround” Cabinet members, telling them they were unwelcome in their own country.
To this excellent call to boots on the ground activism, Trump, who desecrates the dignity of the office daily in governing by tweet, replied, “Be careful what you wish for, Maxine,” a dog whistle to those very white, black person-hating people who would love to have a reason to pick off this brave woman, his latest target.
When we began to receive news of what had happened on the border, when we began to realize what Donald Trump had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to do, when we saw his racism on full display as he described asylum-seekers as insects infesting our country, when we saw the first videos of infants screaming for their mothers sitting framed by the flaps of pup tents within chain link enclosures, I wanted to die.
How many of us are defended against the anguish of an abandoned child, a baby clinging to a metal chair that onlooking staff and the errant visitor are forbidden to comfort, doubly heinous.
In my anguish, I held on to my husband, who also leached tears. I furiously blogged and sublimated in my poems, taking on the persona of the Latinas I knew as my extended family during my childhood in Albuquerque, where my Irish immigrant grand-father Bernard S. Rodey settled with his American bride, founding the University of New Mexico, eventually winning a seat in the House of Representatives and going about the hard work of getting New Mexico admitted to the Union as a multicultural territory whose Native American and “Spanish-American” and Mexican American populations he thought should be equally advantaged to the 19th century educated and refined Americans who brought white culture to Albuquerque. In my mother’s scrapbook were dance cards, her doings with those who in high school she called “her gang,” beautiful and willowy young women who went on to pledge Kappa Kappa Gamma and marry Ivy League Yankees who ventured West.
One of my treasures is an invitation to my grandmother, who went to girls’ prep school in Washington, an invitation to tea at the Roosevelt White House. Teddy Roosevelt and Rodey went hunting in the wilds of New Mexico, loosing their hounds on cougar and bear.
As we all know, white privilege has its skeletons. Also when I was a small child, my father was a young forest pathologist for the U.S. government. My mother, Rodey’s youngest grand-daughter, was brilliant, a painter and playwright, an alcoholic who eventually fell apart in the first of what we came to call her “nervous breakdowns.” On a grade-one government salary, my father, who had been Captain of a MASH unit in the Pacific Theater and played hockety for Yale, earning his PhD in Forest Pathology at Minnesota, didn’t have any insurance; he was urged to have her committed to the very mental hospital out on the desert that my great-grandfather had also founded. .
So it is that I know something about maternal absence. The anguish of suddenly motherless babies came through me like a burning arrow, against which I had absolutely no shield. In desperation, wan as parchment and unable to eat, I wrote my first of roughly six poems about this crisis: “Tu sabes cuando se desparecio tua madre…” You know when your mother has disappeared. .
This crisis continues in our country with only those with trained intellects able to see Trump as he really is. In my long lifetime, I can only compare the powerless desperation and rage Trump’s pogrom against mothers and children engendered in me, beyond the obvious other human tragic and unconscionable tragedies, to the loss of a mare and foal, in which the veterinarian dispatched by the woman from whom I was buying the mare lost his temper when she couldn’t push, the foal hung up by a shoulder, booting her again and again against our shed, only to have to cut her carotid artery where she lay and then perform a “field c-section” to try to save her foal as she bled out. I marked my forehead with her blood and had the first of several alcoholic relapses that dark day now twelve years ago.
Bearing witness to her anguish made me want to obliterate that veterinarian and myself. Bearing witness to the anguish of the children has made me want to do the same things. In my rage, I have exposed myself to potential apprehension for treason, for I ran this prayer through Google translate and posted it on a Facebook page followed by two million Muslims: Blessed is he who delivers the Infidel to Allah.” We all know who the Infidel is to the Muslim world is, especially after relocation of the US Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem?
I would have no self-awareness at all if I didn’t acknowledge that mine are the desperate actions of someone who feels powerless to stop the Trump juggernaut and the outright pain he daily inflicts on the rest of the world..
The point of my essay is to proclaim that I and other educated, humanistic Americans who have the ability to see Trump for what he is, feel as impotent, as outraged, as “tied to the stake,” as those looking at us from without our borders–perhaps more.
Consider that we are immensely disadvantaged by the fact that Republicans of Trump’s ilk hold the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The founders of our country could not foresee when they drafted Amendment 25 to our Constitution, a scenario in which the largely male members of Congress and the Vice President himself, would relinquish their balls in order to cover their asses.
They could not foresee Republican cowardice in the face of obvious high crimes and misdemeanors, nor the rise of a cult around a President who is incapable of seeing that baby balloons float in the UK because of what he has said and done. That he sees himself as a victim, the US as an extension of himself, that he is a rabid bear or a bull elephant in musk on the world stage who should be brought down with a high powered rifle today, is lost on him and on those who privately ready themselves to take a stand against an impeaching Congress.
At this writing Trump is in England being protected from what he has created in the world. All on his own Trump suffers with immense hubris and arrogance, a lack of empathy, a distorted vision of himself and the world. We see this. Many of us, we Americans, have organized to insure a shift in the balance of power. We wait with immense concern for the outcome of the Mueller investigation..
If Mueller confirms our worst suspicions, that Trump is not only an ally of Russia but a “spy” to rival any nefarious turncoat in fiction, that he is a traitor who with Putin’s skilled and meticulous efforts has infiltrated our country to the astounding extent that he is our President, what will happen?.
Will all of those working to protect him who would find such a hypothesis insane even as they operate with their own bubble of insanity in ginning up the base, dividing the country, encircling someone who may well be a traitor to protect him from those nasty liberals, take to the streets if anyone in Congress mans up enough to initiate impeachment proceedings?
We are crouching on a ledge in a cave filling with monsoon water; many of us do not know how to swim–not through the Sargasso, not through sewage..
It is all well and good to exorcise your hatred of Donald Trump, to put a “baby-blimp” aloft over Parliament, to piss-bomb his motorcade and feel empowered by the same degree of rage we have had..
But consider that to a great extent, the shoe is on the other foot now. Anyone who believes that all Americans are playing ostrich until the fall midterm elections, turning a blind-eye to human rights atrocities and the degree to which Trump as monster is destabilizing the world, think again..
Do not tell me that because I am an American I support this man, that I and others like me do not pray that someone ready to go down in a blaze of glory takes him out, or is mustering up the courage to do it himself or herself..
Care about us. Hear us. Help us. We are all citizens of the same world; rage runs a course and leaves us empty, talking to volley balls named Wilson, too emotionally exhausted to put up a flare.
copyright Jenne’ R. Andrews 2018
Jenne’ R. Andrews is an American poet and essayist whose career spans forty years. She holds the M.F.A and is a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts in Literature. A former protege of Robert Bly who edited and published her first volume, her most recent collection, Blackbirds Dance in the Empire of Love appeared from Finishing Line Press in 2015 with commentary by Jim Moore, Dawn Potter, and Patricia Kirkpatrick. Her collection Mater Mysterium Est was a finalist for the Autumn House Prize in 2014 and from 2016-17 approximately fifteen poems slated for the ms appeared in Vox Populi, a “‘zine founded and published by Autumn House founder Michael Simms. Mater Mysterium Est was slated for publication in 2019 by a European press, but the poet recently withdrew the manuscript out of concern for a pervasive anti-American cyber climate permitted, at times incited, in her view, by the publisher–despite Americans being on the list.