Avoid drama, keep your mind clear and stable. These were a couple of my mantras over the past few months. One result was that I became prematurely hopeful of putting Trump behind us.
I was sure Joe Biden would have a big victory on Election Day, not because he was a great candidate but because this country was poised to reject Donald Trump big-time. When over 70 million Americans voted for Trump, I was shocked.
After the election, I still thought Trump would go away. Of course, he would bellow and scream, do everything needed to remain in the spotlight, but after all, I reasoned, what can he do? Even as the noises and litigation started around a fraudulent election, local governments and the courts, bless their democratic hearts, weren’t having any of them. After all the posturing and yelling, what could he do?
Last Wednesday I found out. And I believe now, as the days go by, that Wednesday was the tip of the iceberg.
“The genie has been let out of the bottle and we can’t put it back in,” a friend said yesterday.
State Capitols being put under lock and key is now a frequent phenomenon. We hear of extra protection for governors and other political leaders, and an inauguration guarded by an army even in this time of covid, when there can’t be a crowd.
We hear of police and army veterans who supported the rioters, even rumors of some form of quiet collaboration by members of Congress. If they didn’t collaborate, they spoke alongside a few rioters in past rallies. The President isn’t the only one who has to watch his words. Certain members of Congress fear for their lives and I don’t blame them. They know that even as January 20 is the focal date, the violence won’t end on that day, not in Washington and not anywhere else.
I believe it’s only a matter of time till a well-planned and organized operation finally succeeds and a political leader is killed. The odds point in that direction. The FBI can’t penetrate every single small, armed group. And while many of the rioters in the Capitol acted like buffoons, some were prepared. Others will be better prepared, even if Joe Biden is not their immediate target.
Some say that democracy has still won the day. Yes—and at what cost? What will it rack up to ultimately?
Democracy isn’t the only thing that’s endangered, the entire social contract is imperiled, and that’s not just because of Donald Trump. That contract began fraying long ago, when millionaires became billionaires and even super-billionaires while wages for the lower and middle classes stagnated and even dipped. When we forgot that the basis for coming together as a society is that all lives should improve by that act, not just a few. When we accepted the label of consumers as the dominant adjective about ourselves, replacing humans.
For me, the question always comes down to this: What do I do? Isn’t that the most important question? We read the newspapers and listen to the radio, we may draw different conclusions, but regardless, isn’t the final question: What do I do?
In times of uncertainty, in times of pandemics, fear rules the day. And when fear rules the day, so do blaming and scapegoating, that’s the history of the Western world. The greater the success of people fighting racism, misogyny, and corporate dominance, the more threatened others feel. Who would have thought that socialism, Communism and Red will return as this country’s great bugaboos? Trump may go to Mar-a-Lago, but panic, rage and delusion ain’t going nowhere. They’ve come out of the bottle and will have their say.
I hope next week’s Inauguration helps, but I believe the fire will burn for a while. It’s too early for us to talk of making a turn, we’ll be sitting in the middle of that fire until something else happens, the next bend in the road that no one can predict right now.
So, what do I do?
Late this afternoon I’ll go over to Jimena’s house to give out food cards, our first time since Christmas. We were prevented last week because of her need to quarantine after the possibility of infection by covid. That didn’t happen, so today we go back again, and next week and next week. I have no illusions, this winter will be horrific for immigrants, but we’re doing the best we can with food and utilities, and sometimes health emergencies. I’m showing up.
I reach deep inside for a sense of purpose. I remind myself of my vows, and one of those is exactly what I wrote above: Just show up. Follow what’s going on, change direction and steer differently when needed, listen, show up. Don’t ever get too stunned by the news and the upending of assumptions you made about this country that you don’t show up.
How does it measure up to the messianic quality of the rioters? Make American Great Again points to nothing but grandeur and some vague glorious horizon . The rioters and others like them speak little of concrete measures or actions, and more of some sublime vision of greatness we once had and lost. When I see photos of their adoring faces at Trump rallies, they look and talk of him as though he’s a messiah and that we live in messianic times. Somewhere out there is the dream, the fantasy that this man will singlehandedly, without Congress or even a Vice President, bring it all back. His actual record has nothing to do with it; his actual deeds have nothing to do with it—that’s why remonstrances and reminders of his miserable performance with the pandemic go nowhere. You don’t sweat the small stuff in messianic times.
What great messianic vision have I to counter that one? Personally, I’m highly suspicious of big-scale dreams even as I recognize that there are worlds and infinities out there I know nothing about. I won’t go up to the roof and wait to spread my wings and fly to the Holy Land as East European Jews did back in the 17th century, when a false messiah told them to do just that.
I’ll do small, practical things. Food cards to immigrants. Ask someone in quarantine what they need, support peacemakers around the world, give Zoom talks when I’m asked, help others make their vows in the middle of these dark times, meditate in the mornings, fill birdfeeders along with dog bowls, feed families, bring a small measure of comfort, ease, and understanding where I go. Basic humanness.
Not interested in messiahs. Just want to show up.
You can also send a check either to support my blog or to buy food cards for immigrant families to me, Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line what you are donating to. Thank you.