The Third Third

What REALLY Upsets Me About the Trump Administration?

What upsets me most about this era dominated by the Trump Administration?

I’m trying to prioritize my angst and outrage to stave off the hopelessness and despair that have settled in. To use an unfortunate phrase that Trump successfully weaponized  in 2016 (despite saying so many, many worse things),  I’m thinking I need to examine the whole basket of deplorables as discrete issues, to consider each separate element of what I now experience as a crisis and to think about what I can or can’t, might or might not, do about it.  As it happens, just when I sit down to sort this out, there’s another development in what I see as the dismantling of the democracy — this week the Attorney General’s interference in the Roger Stone trial.  Is this just another distraction, or a core concern?  It feels pretty awful.   Read on.

First, the basics:  I am a registered voter and I vote in every election.  I make financial contributions to specific candidates and to nonprofit groups advocating for women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, and economic justice.  I try to stay informed, subscribing to three daily newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, an assortment of newsfeeds and The Atlantic, the New Yorker, and The Economist.   I watch hours of network, cable and other political news shows, and follow, occasionally,  a couple of podcasts, e.g., On the Media, Can he do that?, The Daily, and the New Yorker’s Politics and more.  For respite, I read advice columns — Dear Prudence, Dear Abby, Carolyn Hax —and obituaries, saying to myself as I do, “And you think you’ve got problems?”  Perspective, perspective.

But these days, this feels like such an exercise in futility, as if I am merely a good little girl doing all my homework while the teacher pays more attention to the rowdy boys.  As a result, I have a short fuse and an increasingly bad attitude, directed particularly harshly toward those who don’t play by the rules — even on the road and/or in the grocery store aisles.  This is the very definition of impotence: while Rome burns, I’m seething “Excuse me” to someone whose grocery cart is thoughtlessly parked in the way of the cherry-tomatoes-on-the-vine that I want.

Meanwhile, back to where I started:   my analysis of the “real world issues” (not those of my own little world), leads me to acknowledge two existential crises.  

The first is the climate crisis and our failure to harness science and industry to address it.  Actually, it’s worse than that:  the Trump administration has doubled-down on destroying the very earth that gives us life and any future we might hope for.

The second is more personal.  It concerns the abandonment, actually the Trump Administration’s  repudiation of truth and reason and the concomitant divorce of meaning from words and moral, democratic (small d) values.  All that we once learned — and believed — was “self-evident,” has been sullied beyond recognition, used in the service of an autocrat’s agenda.  Disinformation (Do read The 2020 Election will be a War of Disinformation  by McKay Coppins) has hijacked the media and rendered obsolete the “informed electorate" responsible journalism strives to serve.  It’s as if nothing I say or do, nothing I have known or believed over six-plus decades, matters anymore.  And as I watch those few brave souls in positions of more power than I stand up for these values and beliefs, only to be struck down, dismissed, mocked, slandered and worse, I realize this nihilism is pervasive and, perhaps, the scariest thing of all. 

By virtue of age alone, it is common for women in the third third of their lives to be made to feel as if we are invisible and irrelevant.  I think it’s important to remind ourselves that our votes count just as much as anyone else’s (well, except for that whole electoral college thing) and our dollars spend just as well as anyone else’s and that the stakes are too high for us to go "gentle" into that dark night.  “Rage, rage,” the poet Dylan Thomas advises, telling me what I need to know about the function of my despair.  

As for what to do, vis-á-vis the climate crisis, we’re taking an environmental accounting of our household and pledging to do better — investing responsibly, moving toward electric cars, reducing water and electricity use, researching carbon offsets when we travel — and we’re prodding elected officials and political candidates at every level to do more, too.  

On the issue of truth, I will continue to research, study and write.  And to speak my truth to power and to my friends.  I’m also inclined to redirect some of my energy to learning something new, to feeding my soul and psyche with poetry or history or music or the Spanish language and spend a little less time, as my sister suggested after my most recent rant, obsessing about the politics playing out on TV.

Please share how you’re coping.

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