“Open your eyes now. I will. One moment. Has all vanished since? If I open and am for ever in the black adiaphane. Basta! I will see if I can see.
See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end.”
― James Joyce,
…on the obedience we all give to Trump.
Imagine this: One night you’re watching TV and Trump appears in a breaking news address, live from the Oval Office, with the portrait of Jackson behind him. He’s gripping his diamond encrusted golden iPhone and live-tweeting as he says, “I’m the president now and trust me I’m the best president there ever was, really fantastic, and I command all of you to think about me every day, a lot every day, and it will be some really great thinking because it’s about me.”
Would you do as you’re told? Well, some people would. But the majority of Americans would flip the bird at their TV, say something to the effect of kiss my ass you ignorant and perfidious bastard, and spend the rest of the evening thinking about Trump anyway.
What if El Cheeto Bandito could make you think about him for hours every day, and every evening before you go to bed, without ever saying that’s what he wants? No demands or commands or pleas, just continuous, unflinching, attention. How much and how often do you think about Trump? You’re thinking about him right now, and you think about him a lot. So do I.
“But wait, no,” you say, “we have to keep watching him, we have to keep an eye on him because he’s fucking up the whole country and pounding democracy flatter than hammered shit and he must be vigilant or he’ll get away with it.”
Prove it. Prove that our constant vigilance is making an actual difference. There are 340-some-odd million Americans. How many have to be learning about the latest Babyhands Atrocities at any given moment?
“But I don’t worry about him because I like him or support or agree,” you insist. “I think about him because I hate him! I haaaaaate him soooo muuuch! And I haaate every treasonous sumbitch who voted for him and I hope they pop like a big bag of Orville Redenbachers on the stoves of hell foreeeeever.” Cool. I’m with you on that. But all that hatred hurts Vile Lord Damput exactly how?
Here’s the ironic part. Our obsession with Trump, our addiction to the continuous effluvium of his stupidities, and our hatred of him and his supporters and everything they represent really does do a lot of damage. To us.
Der Hair Fuhrer is not worthy of a passing thought, let alone our constant contemplation. But we are giving Darth Donald vast tracts of our time, our sense of peace and contentment, our full attention, and ultimately our lives. And we’re giving all that up for free. He is sucking the happiness out of our homes and families, the focus out of our work, and the light out of our days, and we’re letting him do it. The stress is shredding our nervous systems and robbing us of sleep.
Enough. I say enough. It’s time to evict The Landlord from the vacation rentals between our ears for non payment, commission of waste, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Let’s cut back, way back. Let’s learn to pace ourselves because impeachment is going to be a long and muddy road. Maybe check the news every few days to see if the Republic still stands, OK. But otherwise find our way back to the things we love and Beings who love us and get on with our lives. There is no better way to beat the Trumps of the world than to show them they don’t matter, they don’t dominate, and we will not follow them into the darkness.
Oh God, let me be this kind, this loving, and I will ask for nothing else.
I will close my eyes in this darkened room
and remember faces, so dear and far away
and death will be nothing anymore.
I can’t tell the story of my life,
not all of it or even part
of the wonderful truth.
I have these fragments,
shards of glass or a few gulls
on a long wire.
A freight train rose up
from the southern horizon.
I looked away and a dog
ran to me through tall grass.
The surf, just beyond vision,
was a drum with a living voice.
Everyone gathered to pray
but I didn’t join the celebration
or raise my eyes towards Heaven.
I was small and tired so
the engine broke past us
in a gust of time and car after
clattering car until I was alone
with the swirling dust and the cold
tracks running on the mounded ground.
I should have listened to the sea
but I believed that dogs and love
and such days of joy would never end.
J. Kyle Kimberlin
“The Internet can be a hard place to find kindness, maybe especially right now, but I believe it’s worth fighting for because I believe it makes the world bigger and that it eases the hard but inevitable changes that define life.”
– John Green
It so happens that I am tired of the things that I’m against, and that are against me. This being-against has come to circumscribe my days and define my existence, ever since the putative election of the Idiot Toddler King five months ago.
The writer John Green refers to a “strange brew of outrage and worry and exhaustion and not being able to look away …” and says, “I feel some vague but nagging obligation to be informed about the events of the day.” I can relate. It feels like I’ve been sucking information from a firehose and that it’s my social obligation as a citizen to go on doing it, perhaps forever. I can’t look away.
I don’t want this misery; this feeling of being subjected to hypnosis or mind control. The failing landlord has had rent free use of the space between my ears for far too long. I have given him and his minions power over my thinking. That’s the most precious thing I have and worst thing I can carelessly give away. Enough!
I no longer accept the moral obligation to be constantly informed about the minutia of the highest and most profoundly innervating horrors of insensate Power. It’s not my job as a citizen, or yours. If a few of the tens of millions of us who are chronically outraged remember that we still have finite lives and look away for a moment, Trump will not get away with all of his cunning and evil plans.
I want my field of vision back, and the spectrum of my hearing, and the depth of my understanding too. There are still beautiful books to read, and music to hear. There are more important things to think about than what steaming pile of crap The Clown Prince has stepped in today.
I’m not saying I want to stop being well-informed and caring about what’s going on. But being informed doesn’t mean staying lock-step with the nation every day. It’s easy to go way beyond being informed and become obsessed. The traditional news media and countless content sources on the Internet are in the business of obsession. They make a living, one way or another, by getting our attention and keeping it. They manufacture outrage.
I’ve heard there’s no truth in the news, no news in the truth. But even if what they’re feeding us is True, they don’t want us to be merely well informed and say that’s enough thanks, and glance away. The information machine is an all-you-can-eat buffet, an eternal flame raging in a dumpster. Nobody cares if you sit there, in rapt attention, until your background level of stress pegs off the meter.
The problem with living on a daily diet of outrage against the things that we’re against is not just that it ruins your health and happiness. It doesn’t do any good. It never has. No good change in the world has ever come about just because people – no matter how many – were against something and outraged about it. Every time people have succeeded in creating positive change, it’s been because they found something that were for and felt passionate about. They then stood up and fought for that thing and against whatever was trying to destroy it. There’s no use being against something without being for something, is my point.
Anne Lamott has famously written, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Being outraged against The Other Side always results in overblown, inaccurate stereotypes. If everybody over there is evil and stupid and incapable of rational discourse, there’s no hope at all of ever making progress toward solving common problems. We become part of the problem. Believe it or not, cooperation is never optional, and those stereotypes, at some level, are always wrong.
“Now, if you ask me, what’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at one another. Otherwise we’d all just be barking away like Pekingese: ‘Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this …’ Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein. But you can’t do that if you’re not respectful. If you look at people and just see sloppy clothes or rich clothes, you’re going to get them wrong.”
I want kindness to prevail between us, I really do, but it’s going to take time. If you voted Nazi Stupid in the 2016 election, don’t tell me. I still think you’re a raging fool who should not be trusted with scissors or the care of pets or houseplants. Even if you’ve repented and wish there had been an actual Conservative to vote for, just shut up and keep it to yourself for a while. You are the stereotype, the poster child for bad judgment. Sorry. Let’s find something else to talk about. Not NASCAR or Rodeo. …Movies?
Of course, I still despise Donald Trump. He’s batshit crazy and evil, corrupt, and probably a traitor. But our job as citizens is not just to consume and react, consume and react. It’s to thoughtfully receive information, decide what values we are willing to stand for, and then find a way to stand up for them.
It’s time to cut back on the news. So how often is often enough to check in? Every 10 minutes, every hour, day, or week? Well for me it’s going to be a quick daily dose online. Then I have a couple of nice weekly magazines, TIME and The Nation. I’ll still be outraged but less viscerally so, I hope. If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been listening.
Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.– Ben Okri
Rain washes out all of the colors
except for red, which stands
for pain and blue which stands
for music and tears; yellow
for arguments and laughter
that keep our hearts beating
like clocks in separate rooms.
Green is the color of every tree
that will still stand and shiver
in love with the wind and cold
rain, after we are dead.
J. Kyle Kimberlin