A friend of mine whom I respect and relate to surprised me the other day when she said, "I have a crush on Vladimir Putin. I think he's hot. I wish Putin were in charge of me."
I was flabbergasted by this declaration. I honestly didn't know how to react other than laugh.
This state of current politics is like nothing I've ever experienced in my nearly 45 years on planet earth. In some ways, the 2016 Election of Donald Trump is worse and scarier than 9-11 was. "Who knew 11-9 would feel just as bad as 9-11?" A friend of mine in New York corrected me when I said that , saying no way. Not even close. No comparison. But in one regard, he is wrong.
When 9-11 happened, Americans came together. We realized something profound and all came together, rural and urban, black and white, men and women, born here and not.
When 11-9 happened, it was the opposite. I am not afraid of faceless suicide bombers. I am afraid of my fellow American.
Because I did not vote for Donald Trump (and because I have serious and legitimate concerns about his ability to be President) his legion of fans (and/or "trolls") on Twitter and other websites will attack me, calling me any variation of the following:
- "Sensitive Snowflake"
- "Whiny Loser"
- "Not a Real American".
They will accuse me of:
- living in my parents' basement
- being jobless
- being a hater of police and the armed forces
- being treasonous
- being on the government dole
- wanting my free "Obama phone" (whatever that is)
- wanting to stay in my "safe place" with my coloring books (?)
- wanting America to fail.
They will make fun of me personally after cruising my profile, calling me fat or making fun of me being an artist, insulting my dogs. It gets creepy really fast. They don't know me at all. I'm somewhere in the middle, politically-speaking, with a left lean. I'm fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The correct answer is always somewhere towards the middle but nobody wants to go there. I aim for civil conversation and bridging the gap. These angry Trump people don't want your civility. They want to chum the waters with your critical thinking.
Being in our own "bubble" of like-minded friends is what causes the shock and awe that such a legion of angry people exist, so I put myself out there to try to have discussion with these Trump people. Rarely does one try to have a calm conversation. When they do, I appreciate it. Generally it's something more like this:
Donald Trump has been elected our president and spends each day tweeting insults about people who question or disagree with him, attacking the press, individual citizens and successful businesses like Boeing, the NY Times, Vanity Fair. His legion of "deplorables" (they proudly call themselves that) take to the internet and attack on his behalf.
So, instead of trying to keep up on the ever-escalating ridiculous news coming out of the Trump transition and staying up too late into the night arguing with people on social media, I am condensing all of my election angst in once place. My fears for the future of the United States are very real. Don't tell me to Get Over It. I won't get any joy from the inevitable "I told you so"ahead. There will be no satisfaction a year from now, as our country's economy, environment, global standing and its very security lie in ruins.
2016. A rotten, no good, terrible, very bad year.
So many brilliant people died. FujiFilm of Japan stopped producing my most favorite instant film in February (which felt very much like a death of a loved one). In April Clarkdale's baby eaglet vanished. In June my dear pal and coworker Lisa quit working with me after 13 years of sharing an office. Though she is still alive and still my friend, her leaving our office also felt as though something died.
Election years are always terrible and this was the worst ever in my lifetime.
Dangerously ignorant "Don the Con" Trump, a modern day P.T. Barnum, managed to get elected president, dividing the country more than ever, and started filling his crony cabinet with silver spoon billionaires furthering the divide.
First, a disclaimer: There were some good things that happened in 2016.
The Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.
2016 was the Centennial of the National Park Service.
Friends and family visited us in Arizona.
Children and baby hummingbirds were born.
Our buddy Tim was elected mayor of Cottonwood, AZ showing me politics at the local level have a lot of heart.
Because Fuji ceased making FP-100C I bought myself a fun little red Pentax digital camera that I love.
Art was made and sold successfully.
Adventures were had both near and far--including a trip to Mackinac Island with my mom in June and Chad's birthday adventure to Laguna Beach in late summer.
I saw the Roberts in South Haven on Dawson's birthday.
I saw the Dahlbergs, watched the boys play little league games and I ran through fire hydrant spray with my brother at a real Chicago block party.
Chad's folks are doing well and my Mom turned 75 this year and is in good health.
I won a giant TV set in a gas station giveaway.
So yeah. Not allll terrible. I scroll through the year's highlights and there was a lot of good in 2016.
But I'm scared to death of 2017.
Every day the presidential news gets more bizarre. Like we're living in an upside-down world, where left is right, right is wrong, dark is light and night is day. Fake news is real. Real news is fake. Bend over for the Russians. We're their puppets now.
Donald Trump named failed Presidential candidate (and failed "Dancing With the Stars" contestant) Rick Perry his nominee to lead the Dept. of Energy, a department he'd forgotten the name of during a debate ("Oops.") when vowing to destroy it.
It compounds the insanity of current Cabinet nominations that include Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil with ties to Vladimir Putin, and big oil business pending as soon at the US eases sanctions on Russia (which would be his job as Secretary of State!). Dr Ben Carson who initally said he was not prepared to play a role in the administration accepted a nomination for head of Housing and Urban Development, which he knows nothing about (but Trump seems to always associate "urban" with "black" so that's probably the sole factor).
Other nominees include the lady in charge of the World Wrestling Federation to head Small Business, and for Dept. of Labor, the CEO of Carls Jr. fast food chain who is publicly against just about every employee benefit available to workers.
The man chosen to lead the EPA has sued the EPA.
(SNL had a funny skit where "Breaking Bad" meth-king Walter White was named head of the DEA).
The list goes on-- crony billionaires who supported Trump during the election are now being awarded roles in the White House antithetical to their known stances. Trump is putting foxes in charge of the hen houses.
Trump's Chief of Staff "alt-right" (read: White Supremacist") Steve Bannon, on record as an angry hateful fellow, was quoted in The Daily Beast in 2014 declaring “I’m a Leninist." Though later he denied the remarks, the journalist quoted him saying “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
That's what all of this feels like. Everything tumbling down and being destroyed or dismantled. As an artist, I can understand that sometimes that sort of deconstruction can lead to something great, even by mistake. But to be fair this isn't a simple arts & crafts project. There are bigger ramifications, globally, to such destruction of our country's government.
Trump, a lifelong liar, a con man, a draft dodger and adulturer, somehow snowed the voters into seeing him as a breath of fresh air, a drainer of swamps, a "tell it like it is" maverick worthy of their vote. But he fooled them all. He immediately stocked the swamp with the same old slop.
He's a bully, a thin-skinned narcissist attacking private citizens via Twitter, rallying hatred and violent threats against those that disagree with him.
Trump supporters rail against any discontent with the President Elect, telling us to "get over it" and "your guy lost- don't be a crybaby".
That's not what this is. My choice has lost before. But I never felt this sort of deep, dark fear from a Presidential election. Over the past 8 years I never understood the hate for Barack Obama, a class act who had to be twice the man of most white presidents. The Tea Party "patriots" vowed to obstruct his every move and in doing so hurt us all.
Obama fixed the broken recession economy he inherited, he got Osama Bin Laden, he kept us in cheap gas and high global esteem. He showed grace and respect and intelligence. I thought his administration, while imperfect, was a huge step into the future for the United States. Sustainability, conservation, environmental protection, diplomacy. These things were all valued.
Also, I didn't worry every day about what next crazy story would come out of the White House. What shocking new revelation. What insanely rude tweet. I was able to stop thinking about politics most days. It was really nice.
It's May of 2018 now. I wrote most of this story in January of 2017, before we even knew as much as we do now about the deep-seated corruption in Trump's administration.... before porn stars and pay-offs, before half of Trump's appointees quit or were fired, before Robert Mueller and the Special Counsel, before James Comey's book, before Michael Cohen and before Rudy Giuliani... Every day it's some other insanity.
One good thing about it? I've gotten more involved. More than ever before. I write letters. I donate money. I've joined the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. And one other good thing? The comedy. Late night TV has never been so great.