Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Finding Solace in the Topsy-Turvy, Trump World


“Sylvester, are you still in despair, too?”
The question from my Facebook friend, Ellen, actually increased my anguish. Ellen reached out almost a week after the election where billionaire Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States.
Damn! It’s still hard for me to put those words in a sentence. Like millions across the globe, I was slapped into a state of mental paralysis by the stark reality that this man is our president. I am among the masses still scratching our collective heads asking, “How in Holy Hell did this happen?”
Right away, I was pissed off-not at Trump-but myself. That’s what I get for negating my own motto: “Never underestimate the power of racism.” 
I allowed myself to ignore the most telling indicator of the election’s outcome; the number of whites who believe they are the primary victims of discrimination.  Yes, per polling data from 2011 onward, more whites than not feel that “anti-white racism” is now a bigger problem than racism aimed at blacks or other minorities.

I forgot the most telling indicator of the election’s outcome; the number of whites who believe they are the primary victims of discrimination.
  
Yes, I know there were other factors involved with Trump’s victory, i.e.: negative views about the economy, frustration with government, a well-known but unpopular Democratic presidential candidate, etc., etc. Still, I stubbornly maintain that “race” was the major determinant in Trump’s victory.
When announcing his campaign, he struck a chord with disgruntled white voters by defining Mexican immigrants as people with “lots of problems,” who bring drugs, crime and rape to America. His promise to “build a wall,” round up and deport Mexicans and Muslims was an out-of-the-park hit for the those fearing their diminishing population numbers or the loss of unearned privilege. 
By equating blacks with the “inner-city,” and “poverty,” by defining their neighborhoods as unfit “crime zones” with sub-par schools and rampant unemployment, Trump reinforced stubborn stereotypes that validate white superiority. His vow to avoid “political correctness” was a subtle nudge to the Klu Klux Klan and the white, “loud and proud” crowd that Trump was going to turn back the clock and truly “Make America Great Again”... for them.

His vow to avoid “political correctness” was a subtle nudge to the Klu Klux Klan and the white, “loud and proud” crowd that Trump was going to turn back the clock and truly “Make America Great Again.”

I kick myself for falling for the hype, the arrogant media predictions and the woefully wrong polls that proclaimed Clinton would defeat Trump and topple the Republican Party.  How did I allow myself to believe the pundits and pollsters over a man who spent his entire career pandering to a reality TV audience where being rude, crude, sexist and appalling are bedrocks of success?
What was completely surprising to me, however, was the roughly 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump. How could this demographic ignore their own eyes and ears? Surely they watched the video of Trump bragging about dating a 10-year old girl “in ten years.” We heard him boast of peeking at near-naked teen beauty pageant contestants, gloat over kissing and groping women without their permission and grabbing some by “the pussy” simply because he’s a “star.”

We heard him boast of peeking at near-naked teen beauty pageant contestants, gloat over kissing and groping women without their permission and grabbing some by “the p***y” simply because he’s a “star.”

The media’s immediate attempt to normalize Trump after the election increased my anxiety level. The same news outlets that continuously spoon-fed us salacious news about an immoral candidate’s character are now encouraging us to “give him a chance.” They give us tidbits about his back peddling on his most extreme campaign claims and suggest that maybe, just maybe, Trump’s on-the-stump rhetoric was a political ploy to secure the White House. I sense a wistful pretense by the media to paint Trump as some sort of genius who will drop the mask of division and become a wonderful, unifying presidential force.

The same news outlets that continuously spoon-fed us salacious news about an immoral candidate’s character are now encouraging us to “give him a chance.” 

Anythings possible, I guess but I’m Old School. If it slithers like a snake, hisses like a snake well, it’s probably a snake. I judge Trump by his words and actions...period. There is no comfort in the fact that a man whose temperament is as small as his hands will represent the US on the world stage. We’ve already gone through the political phase of white, male bravado and US exceptionalism that foolishly led to the invasion of Iraq, two unfunded wars and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. How will world leaders deal with a president who’s already stated his plans to “bomb the shit” out of Isis, take Middle Eastern oil and turn it over to mega-rich corporations like ExxonMobile?
Can we just please dispense with the characterizations of Trump as a master media manipulator? Just as Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint seized on America’s craving for porn; just as drug kingpin, El Chapo, capitalized off our dependency on heroin and cocaine, Trump simply exploited our darker desires. He took advantage of an uneducated, social media-dependent electorate seeking simple solutions to complex problems. For the media to ask that we now “give Trump a chance,” to me, is akin to hiring a pedophile as an elementary school principal and declaring “well, let’s just see what he does.”

******************************************************************

For the media to ask that we now “give Trump a chance,” to me, is akin to hiring a pedophile as an elementary school principal and declaring “well, let’s just see what he does.”

So, yeah, my despair level has been high following the election. I must admit, though, by Saturday night light seemed to crack my dark mood and a do-able course under a Trump Presidency seemed a bit more evident.
A dear Muslim friend of mine reached out to me Saturday afternoon. She had been brought to tears by the bodacious outpouring of hate aimed at people like her since the election. Indeed, across this nation, the ignorant and emboldened “deplorables” are acting out. Reportedly, they are accosting and harassing, Muslims, Latinos and blacks, spray-painting ugly racial epithets on walls, buildings and barns and are virally gloating “it’s our time!”
I struggled for something of comfort to share with my friend. All I could muster was this weak response: “No matter what happens, I’ll have your back.”
Later that evening, I ran into another pal of mine. She’s a spoken word artist, with a beautiful, eclectic presence who just happens to be a member of the LGBTQ community. This lovely, creative soul was broken that night. We embraced as usual but this time the hug lingered with her sobbing uncontrollably on my shoulder. Again, I struggled for the proper response:
“Now more than ever,” I whispered, “we need you. We need your creativity and your voice to articulate what so many of us feel but can’t articulate.”

**********************************************************************

“Now more than ever,” I whispered, “we need you. We need your creativity and your voice to articulate what so many of us feel but can’t articulate.”

I can’t say if my words helped my friends or not but, in later reflection, they illuminated what my spirit needed.  Vent, yes, but we must not get stuck in victimization mode. Tears will not topple tyranny. Our words and collective actions will always be our most powerful weapons. Our Black, White, Muslim, LGBTQ and other disenfranchised communities need the strong amongst us to be their voice, to cover their backs, to show up, speak up and be there when their lives and livelihoods are threatened.
In these past few horrible days, I’ve fallen back on life-lessons. There were many times in my life when, what I perceived as tragedy, turned out to be triumph. Don’t get this twisted; I’m not applying this to Donald Trump's presidency. I use this maxim to highlight that sometimes “bad stuff” happens for good reasons. Sometimes it’s a wake-up call to do better, be better, act better.

Sometimes “bad stuff” happens for good reasons. Sometimes it’s a wake-up call to do better, be better, act better. 

If we are honest, we will have to admit that the extreme factors that fueled Trump’s victory have been brewing for quite some time. It simmered as President Obama was disrespected, demeaned, de-legitimized and derailed by Congress because of his race. It percolated as America excused, rationalized and normalized the police shootings and killings of unarmed black men, women and children. It's evident in our attempt to blame every Muslim-American for the fanatical acts of Muslims here or abroad. Dismantling the rights of the LGBTQ crowd, demeaning and denying women’s reproductive rights, stereotyping and disparaging the poor are the hateful hashtags of Evangelicals and far right political opportunists.

This homegrown beast of human oppression, racial superiority, unmitigated corporate greed, exceptionalism, homophobia, xenophobia and ugly rampant racism still lives and breathes in our society. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." For too long, many of us have tolerated injustices and it is manifest in the seemingly uncontrollable, empowered monster that is America. This homegrown beast of human oppression, racial superiority, unmitigated corporate greed, exceptionalism, homophobia, xenophobia and ugly rampant racism still lives and breathes in our society.  We’ve faced and caged it many times before and, sadly, we must do it again. But, as soul-depleting and frustrating as it is, we have historic, courageous examples and the innate power to defeat it...again.
Trump is not the disease; he is but a symptom of an enduring American malady. There is solace in solidarity, peace of mind in using our minds, words, bodies and actions to stand up and protect the vulnerable, the sacred and what should be valuable in our country and in our world.

Trump is not the disease; he is but a symptom of an enduring American malady. 

So, yeah, Ellen, my despair has lessened. My venting is over (for now). We are all here for a reason and we must do our own little thing, in our own little way to address the deficiencies of government and consciousness. No one wants to fight forever but if we must suit up and battle the monster for another four years or more, so be it.  This, for me, is much-needed consolation and a way forward in a world crazily turned upside down. 


Sylvester Brown Jr. is a writer, community activist and executive director of the Sweet Potato Project, a program that seeks to empower low-income youth and adults through land-ownership and urban agriculture.

No comments: