Right. So it is somewhere between 4 and 5 am and I cannot continue the fight against insomnia, so I figured maybe it is time for a blog post. I know that my output here doesn’t look like the next statement is true, but I do write every single day. Fiction and journaling work marches on though it goes, mostly, unseen. Once upon a time I tried to keep some pretty rigid rules for myself around what I put into a public space, particularly if it isn’t related to writing work, but you know WWIII could start tomorrow so screw it.
It’s no secret that sleep has been sort of hard to chase down. I suspect this is true for a lot of us watching events unfold and dealing with the impact of this political moment in our daily lives.
I have probably discussed this one before, but it is hard to describe the sense of alarm I feel whenever I see one of those red hats with that bullshit statement on it. Any red baseball cap in that red color makes me reach for my mace and I still don’t relax even if it turns out not to be THE hat. But the notion that there are people still, at this point, willing to advertise their enthusiasm for fascism in the White House disturbs me for a couple of reasons. One: If this one person is gauche enough to announce this affiliation to the world how many are there out there that I can’t identify? Two: The ones in the hats seem particularly rabid and hostile. Three: How does the person not understand that no, I don’t want to talk to them and why that might be?
I’m not saying that noticing someone’s proud republican bumper sticker hasn’t caused any reaction in the past, but I can’t remember actually feeling afraid in the way that I do when I see a Trump hat. Someone’s poster declaiming political views that I don’t share might irritate, or spark some sort of ranty internal monologue, but I have never reacted with the level of paranoia that the Trump hat engenders. I’m not saying it’s right, but I am saying it is something I have to work through to get through my day. I am not alone in this. And this is only a very small detail involving American life under the current regime.
You know, on inauguration day eve in my new town, I saw one person wearing that hat. It was a young person, he was by himself and all smiles. I avoided eye contact and kept on walking, probably at a slightly faster pace. I was on my way to a march in a major city nearby. At that moment, I did not feel all that threatened, the only threat I felt was the possibility that the person might draw me into unwanted conversation if I did the friendly thing and smiled back in spite of the hostility implied by his head wear. I marched and felt hope for the first time since the election. There was a moment when I was struck by the beauty of all the voices raised in solidarity echoing off of the tall buildings and I cried. I am in a new place. Everyone there was a perfect stranger to me, but I don’t remember a time when I felt so connected to the humanity around me, so at one with something so much bigger and more important than my own individual turmoil. At least, it has been a long time. Selfishly, it turns out, civic action just feels amazing.
And then the week after inauguration happened. ( If you want a list of all the atrocities already in play, I recommend presterity.org. ) Of course I’ve got the day to day to attend to. Day job. Bill-paying. Chores. Writing and workout schedule. All the usual stuff we would be grumbling about at any other time. But during all that there is this constant backdrop of anxiety, anger, restlessness. A desire to be doing something further than making phone calls and ranting on twitter about what is wrong with the political landscape right now, a need to do something meaningful about it. Sometimes the road is clear and then sometimes it is not. There is one firm, incontrovertible constant and that is that this is wrong, it is not normal and we must stand against it and support others who are standing against it. It is the guidepost that keeps me moving forward.
The next time I saw a Trump hat, it took me by surprise and it upset me more than I thought possible. But by then it had been a week and the terrifying executive orders had started. I believe that day the issue that had my brain spinning was freedom of the press. I was at the laundromat. When I do laundry I tend to go for a walk between wash and dry cycles, rather than sit around waiting. But during the dry cycle, it’s a habit to take advantage of the television there. It is always on local news. I don’t have television at home, so it is kind of a nice thing. Standing in front of that television was a guy in that hat. I wasn’t exactly sure what the broadcast was about except that I heard the word “Trump” and saw the guy in the Trump hat standing alone with a smile. I saw him before he saw me and so I went over to the corner where my laundry was in the process of losing the last of its moisture and hid behind a long row of machines. Why did I hide? Well, one of the things about hanging out in a laundromat is that generally, people like to engage in small talk. It was crucial, at that moment, to avoid the possibility of interaction with that person. His smile at the mention of the Neon Narcissist’s name registered as creepy. And anyone, who by this particular time could proudly declare support of that man, seemed a person to avoid, at best.
One thing that crossed my mind is that all of these people in their creepy red hats might be baiting the opposition. Do you think they might be baiting us? If they are looking for a reaction, they certainly have one. In my case, it is simply avoidance.
The trouble with that is there are plenty of scenarios where we cannot avoid them. The co-worker who voted for Trump and won’t stop talking about it even when you politely decline to engage for the sake of a harmonious workplace and, oh, I don’t know, keeping the job. The family member you have to see at holidays and family gatherings if you have a desire to maintain relationships with other, less insane family members. How do you balance the mandate to rail against with the need to survive your daily life? The answer is somewhere in that old cliché, pick your battles. I have no easy answers. There is no panacea. Sometimes the stream is clear and other times the river is muddy. (Feel free to use that quote for pee jokes, Alec Baldwin.) I’ll speak freely with my allies and strategize for meaningful action. I’ll yell on the streets in a march, I will state my case on the phone or in a letter to my representatives in congress. But I can’t reach across the aisle to directly engage with what amounts to Nazi support.
So how about you guys? How do you navigate the daily with this crap in the air that we breathe? What do you use as the metaphorical face mask to filter out the poison? What are some of the small details in your day to day that are different? I ask because I think it is important to note these things. They are the things that will become normal and hard to pinpoint later. There’s more to say, there always is, but for now, coffee, workout and words in the fiction project I am working on. Fingers crossed I see no red baseball caps today.