I confess. I live in a bubble. Absolutely. I click on my Facebook feed, and all I see is a solid wall of politics and art (all well-spelt, by the way). I live in the kind of idyllic, upper-crusty neighborhood I never even dreamed of as a kid, because I’d never seen this kind of suburban utopia. And I teach community college, so I’m surrounded by educated people who, like me, have had the privilege and sheer joy of many years of the best education this planet currently has on offer and chosen to – wait for it – help other people instead of profit. I don’t socialize willingly with a single Republican, and I donate to public radio, drink responsibly sourced espressos, have a hemp shopping bag, all the rest of it. And thus, per the NYT, I judge Fox viewers without knowing them, I don’t understand the pain of white gun owners, I’m a coastal elite, and I’m the one who let Trump win.
Well, yeeeeah. That’s all kinds of bullshit, and I’m not even going to delve into WHY that’s all kinds of bullshit. But it has made a little light go off for me, a little realization about the bubble I actually do live in.
I live in a bubble with refugees, with immigrants, with new citizens and fleeting visitors. I work and live, day in and day out, with people who are everything except “white” and everything but “American.”
I hear ten different languages spoken a day, every day. I’m an avowed atheist who’s celebrated Eid, who’s broken fast with friends at sundown during Ramadan. I’ve helped women adjust their hijab and had veiled women uncover in my office with relief. I’ve helped undocumented students figure out housing applications, helped DREAMers write college essays, helped Afghani military translators find therapists to help with their PTSD, tried to help a mother stop her daughter’s planned genital mutilation. I live in this bubble with people who have seen loss and pain, and joys as well, that I will never understand.
In my bubble are people who tried to rise up in their home countries and make it better – and couldn’t; who are here because otherwise, they would certainly be dead. And every term, every ten weeks, for the past sixteen years, I have had the pleasure, the honor, the responsibility to meet another fifty, sixty, seventy of these people: to meet them where they are, get to know them, and to love them, as best as I can. Because you can’t teach – excuse me; I should say, I can’t teach – someone unless I feel some love for them.
Even the torturer. Even the war criminal. Even the rapist.
And certainly, for fuck’s sake, the woman in a hijab.
And this is where I live. Inside my bubble.
And it’s bigger, so much bigger, so much more wild and complex and beautiful than the entire world of so many Americans.
This is a strange and new moment for the U.S.: a moment less political, more psychological. Our country has allowed – not for the first time, but for the first time in my life – a blatantly mentally ill person to step into its leadership position, and thus into the most powerful position planetwide. DJT … Trumpy … the Tangerine Man ( I still struggle to say or write the name) has become our symbolic head of household, our symbolic Daddy: our newest, sickest, most Freudian, most dangerous Father, ever. We’ve become nation as dysfunctional family, a family headed by a narcissist whose rages and passing fancies will terrorize, imprison, and brutalize us all.
The mind-boggling part? We have entered this family, we have become this abused child, voluntarily, and with full knowledge beforehand.
And this travesty, this slow motion implosion, has happened at a time when more people than ever before have the tools to recognize his specific mental illness.
(I do want of course to acknowledge that the “voluntarily” part was voluntary only for the minority, and that the vast majority of this country knowingly rejected the role of hostage we now find ourselves in.)
Of course, I feel some fascination with our abuser, even as I’m filled with revulsion. I’m also fascinated by the fact that most of the media and the existing government seems to have made an unspoken agreement that, since it would be rude, they’re simply going to ignore the fact that the emperor has no clothes. They’re going to pretend that somehow, this situation is tenable, that somehow, this is fine, and we can just keep up appearances.
Buying into the madness, rationalizing it, suspecting that hey, maybe I’m the problem in this scenario … I can cope … Let’s not overreact .. . this is fine …
Again, we all have the tools to recognize that triggering those coping mechanisms is a precise hallmark of the disorder itself.
Once more, with feeling:
making you feel like you’re the crazy one is itself a symptom of the Cluster B personality disorders.
I have long lived experience with the Cluster B group of personality disorders. I spent childhood in the orbit of a Cluster B who destroyed her own life, her husband’s life, and significantly disfigured the lives of her seven children. I married a person whose ex is a Cluster B, a person who, because of custody laws, will remain in my life for perhaps the next decade. I have a once-beloved brother who has sunk into the Cluster B morass and who seems, from the safe distance I keep myself, to be a direct physical danger to anyone in contact with him. I’ve learned, in other words, a thing or two about the situation we’re now facing with The Trump.
In my nightmares about this personality disorder – and I’ve had many – tropes from horror movies recur. Like a zombie virus, the disorder takes over a unique soul and converts it to a shuffling husk. It inflicts a double death, as you first watch the person disappear, replaced by the tics and mannerisms of the illness, and again as you excise the zombie from your life – which you must, if you want to remain sane. Other times, I dream of this disorder as the vampire, the deathless, life-draining vampire who patiently waits, charmingly smiling, for the OK to pass through your door – and who, once allowed in, will fall on your throat with an open, clotted, charnel-house mouth. These people, disordered people, are like golems, like flawed and endlessly recursive machinery, like scraps of miscoded and destructive programs looping, looping, like malware infecting node after node and shutting down every functional core. In all my dreams, the recurring thread: this disorder is infectious, and this disorder has no cure.
People with these disorders have no deep or lasting friendships; they have no passions other than themselves, no interests other than themselves, no drive to create anything other than conflict. Their world is narrow and shallow and consists of only themselves and their reflections. Those around them, people, animals, the entire natural world – it all exists only to either prop up or attack their sense of self. In the hall of mirrors where these people exist, only themselves and surrogates for themselves are real. Their only fuel, their only sustenance, is conflict, and like malware they toggle between a very few sets of behaviors: creating alliances, creating enemies, and setting up conflagrations. There is no autonomy in their world; there is only what feels good (to them), and what feels bad (to them). Others, since they do not truly exist, are not ceded the right to have feelings or experiences separately from the disordered person. You can imagine the particular hell that children of these people must endure. And as for the person with the disorder — I can think of no life more barren.
But even I, the ultimate empath — I just can’t care all that much about their pain.
Personally, when I think about our political moment, I am still flailing, stuck in shifting levels of confusion, fear, anger and grief. I’m still trying to fathom what it means to stand here on this particular brink of this particular national disaster and still trying to feel my way forward. But I am absolutely clear on one thing: We need to look at the disaster and understand it. This is so very, very not fine. Stay out of the fog and keep your focus on that fact.
Accepting the unforseen, unforseeable consequences of my actions. Specifically, falling in love and accepting all the joys, but also all the baggage, that entails. My specific version of this universal situation involves accepting a chronic disease, an impaired child, and a sociopath.
Taking stock and counting out the balance: what have I done, so far, weighed against what I have wanted to do, and against what I aim to do yet. Saturn return shit, midlife crisis shit, you know, the regular.
Assessing the psychic weights I carry and trying to let go what shreds and scraps I can.
And the big theme 2017: accepting the unforseeable consequences of a political situation that’s veered through slapstick into the realm of the criminal and kept right on into the stratosphere of extinction-level event. I’ll level with you – I am still stuck, tarpit-level stuck, in denial, having barely pulled myself out of grief. And grief, you know, is a debilitating thing. My sweet spot has always been anger – to rage, rage against … the machine, the dying of the light, the Man. To put up a fucking FIGHT.
The fight hasn’t gone out of me, but it’s certainly died down for now.
I’m sometimes just so damn tired. I feel the unclean residue of being in the orbit of some things I despise – life is like this, right? If we work, associate with others, are part of a family, then we’re stuck being in contact with some things, some people we simply find personally revolting. This brings me down, sometimes. I’m still a laboring prole, still living close to the bone, still putting in 16-hour days, week in and week out. This definitely brings me down, sometimes. And I have to be emotionally attuned, emotionally awake and connected to my family and my students and never cut corners, never dial it in. That will bring you down, even while it lifts you up.
But. But. I am regrouping, rebuilding, revisioning. I’m in a reflective place and feeling capable of sharing thoughts once again. It’s still all messy, a pastiche, a thing in the process of becoming, horrifyingly imperfect, but still – I remain alive, remain myself, still scratching out a little sign in the universe to prove it.
A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”
The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.”
She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”
“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”
“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”
The man smiled and responded, “You must be a Republican.”
“I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”
“Well,” said the man,
“1. You don’t know where you are — or where you are going.
2. You’ve risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.
3. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.
4. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”
Classes are good this term, I’m on three committees (Textbooks, Asian Studies, and “CT Bond”) and chair of one, I’m chair of our Subject Area Committee (ie, of all ESOLers districtwide) and am a hair’s-breath away from tenure. I run a sewing group with 220 members and keep my family free from scurvy and beri-beri with my nutritious home-cooked meals. I stay politically engaged (when not politically enraged) and I’m truly, truly a crap typist. I bike *home* from work (if not all the way *to* work). I make my own pickles. And I see live music on occasion.
So when sometimes I blow off my literary followers … all three of you … I can only beg for forgiveness. Would that I could promise to do better, but as all CEOs know, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission …
I am somewhere in between disgust and rage about all this.
I voted Obama for CHANGE – not corporate profits.
I voted Obama for a SINGLE-PAYER SYSTEM – not corporate profits.
I voted Obama – Not Lieberman! Not Stupak! Not Olympia Snowe!
I am begging you: scrap this so-called reform bill.
I want single-payer or as close as we can get, and I want it done by reconciliation, and I want it done NOW – before the ’10 elections.
Don’t you guys get it? You HAD the public behind you. Now, once again, we – ordinary people, struggling to pay our bills – see Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We see a party of cowards, rolling over for powerless scumbag Republicans and bending over for the lobbyists. We get it, and we hate it. And as much as we hate the “teabaggers,” we are losing our faith in the Democrats – fast. Hatred of the Fox News puppets won’t be enough to energize us to fight for your party. We’re being sold out, and we know it.
At this rate, Democrats will LOSE in the midterm elections!
When you’ve lost the Senate, Obama will never get a thing passed ever again!
And then Obama, like Carter, will go down in history as the smartest guy, the most compassionate guy, and the most incompetent, pathetic loser ever.
And the left will not get elected again in a generation.
All this because we, who WOULD BE, who SHOULD be your army, organizing and fundraising and heated up to fight the good fight, are disgusted by you. For Christ’s sake!
I plead with you:
Scrap this bill. It will not work, and if the Democrats want to win again in the next decade, you have to have health care reform that actually works – works hard, works fast.
Scrap the “public option.” Medicare IS an existing, working, well-loved single-payer system. We’ve got it! Just EXPAND it! Let anyone – ANYONE – buy in. You’ve killed 2 birds with 1 stone: funded Medicare, and created a single-payer system without reinventing the wheel.
Pass it. Get it through the Senate by reconciliation. Oh, my God, why does ANYONE give Lieberman a second’s worth of their time? He is human filth. He degrades the conversation by being a part of it. He is irrelevant! Get him the HELL out of the conversation! And the same for Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln. Zero loyalty, zero guts, zero ethics, all of them. Get them OUT of the conversation – and then kick the OUT of the party. You have reconciliation as an option! We know about this. Just do it! What the hell – do you think the Republicans wouldn’t? Or what? Why the cowardice?
Pass it with a simple majority. And then – make it work. Because, if it works, the Democrats will be in power the next half-century. The Republicans are tearing themselves to pieces; take advantage of that! Get something DONE and make it work! Show some fucking guts and DO SOMETHING.
Or else, so help me God, it’ll be Jeb Bush in the White House and teabaggers in the Senate.
The Democrats will have nailed themselves into their own coffin and spat on their own grave.
And you had better not come whining to me and ask one one penny. I’ll be spitting on your grave, too.
Just remember, y’all … it’s my favorite holiday of the year … Buy Nothing Day 2009! And thus I’ll treat you to the one and only time that this particular animated hate-droid (whose name I can’t be bothered to type) will ever grace my page. My favorite Christian: Rev. Billy.
A nice low-key Thanksgiving here: a not-too-fancy dinner. Pumpkin pie. A movie, a pint of cider for me. A steady rain all day and quiet time with my little family. However you spent yours, I hope it too was enjoyable.