Note: This is the sixth installment of The Toilet Zone, a commentary series on the Trump presidency.
“You can’t move forward until you look back.” — Cornel West
First, let me go on record. I resisted writing another opinion piece about the Trump presidency. This past week marked the year anniversary of the election — and for many of us — Trump’s startling, shock-wave inducing, tear-filled, head-shaking victory, followed by intermittent denial, and expressions of WTF! Every day since the election, I’ve consumed more than my fair share of news and commentary on Trump’s presidency and the state of the world. I’m more awake than I care to be most days.
Next, I’m reminded as I resist, that one of the tenets of my life is — in fact — to pay attention to what I resist. I learn from understanding my resistance and look back at its root causes. Most often I discover it’s caused by fear, a sense of isolation, denial, and often not knowing what is, or how to take, the next step. Another tenet in my personal philosophy, which I’ve gratefully gained from recovery, is to act in the face of fear.
Lastly, at the heart of my writing and my recovery is to look back, seek an understanding of the past to help me chart a course forward, to determine the first, then the next steps, and finally, to act. Unlike previous Toilet Zone essays, this installment will focus less on the facts of the who, what, where, when and why, and more on the how it makes me feel. For myself, and many others, this year has been an emotional roller coaster and has struck at the core of our well-being and challenged our belief that the world is a safe and just place.
This is the sixth installment in The Toilet Zone commentary series. Let’s take a quick look back, beginning with the first, then ending with the most recent. Each installment is listed at the bottom of this essay with a link to the full content.
The Toilet Zone: First Flush
“You will find it necessary to let things go; simply because they are heavy.” — Anonymous
This essay, written in December 2016 at the close of the year, focused on the theme of letting go, an example of the intersection of politics and the personal, when the tools of my recovery helped me respond. The Serenity Prayer became my mantra and the toilet my metaphor, reinforced by the fact that I had developed an intimate relationship with flushing toilets as I prepared for my colonoscopy following the election. The series found its name, inspired by years of watching Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. This video clip, F*ck 2016, was a visual wrap of the year.
A friend, Pat Calchina [thank you], came to the rescue with an optimistic reminder on how to move forward, a glass half-full quote from Howard Zinn:
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history, is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness… If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction… The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
The Toilet Zone: Truth & Lies
“Lies are usually attempts to make everything simpler — for the liar — than it really is, or ought to be.” — Adrienne Rich
This opinion piece, written in March of 2017, addressed the lies, distractions, distortions, diversions, Tweets and gaslighting that inspired Time magazine’s cover Is Truth Dead? For me, it inspired me to take another look at literary references and metaphors from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwocky, to Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. It returned me to my childhood, to playing with decoder rings and Mattel’s, Lie Detector Game, to find the truth.
An excerpt from the essay, “Now that the Senate is beginning its hearings, and the FBI is investigating Trump, his family, advisers, and cabinet members for “cooperation” with the Russians (quotes are intentional, yes, in this case a euphemism for collusion and maybe in the end, treason), each day we learn more about how our election may have been hijacked by thousands of Russian operatives and hackers and our national security, and privacy of both our government and individuals, have been compromised.”
The Toilet Zone: A Government of Men
“The Tweet speaks for itself.” — Sean Spicer
The irony of the timing of this essay, similar to the first one, was it’s associated with a medical procedure for me, this time carpal tunnel release surgery on May 4th. In fact, with my sister Tami at my side, we scanned channels on the TV while we waited in my pre-op room. We were looking for distractions. My surgery occurred on the same day the House of Representatives voted to forward their first proposed bill to the Senate, H.R. 1628, The American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare).
We switched channels between a show featuring men pulling pranks on the unexpecting public, adult cartoons, and the House of Representatives vote live on the AHCA. There wasn’t much thematically separating the three narratives. All three shows could alternatively be entitled, “Men Behaving Badly.”
The iconic image that preceded this vote was a room full of predominantly older, wealthy, Christian, white men, not a single woman, and an indisputable lack of ethnic diversity, as the House of Representatives drafted their legislation which proposed to defund Planned Parenthood, eliminated coverage for most pre-existing conditions, and was designed to provide tax relief for those who needed it the least, health insurance companies and big Pharma.
The Toilet Zone: Duck & Cover
“Your silence will not protect you.” ― Audre Lorde
As we approached the six-month anniversary of Trump’s presidency in July, Trump met for the first time with Russian President, Vladimir Putin during the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. After a brief public press event, they convened for over two hours behind closed doors. It’s been reported that Trump opened the meeting by confronting Putin on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. As was to be expected, Putin denied it. Representatives for each leader who were in the room, told different stories describing the tenor and tone of the meeting. No surprise.
This weekend Trump met with Putin again, at least three times on the sidelines during the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam. On Air Force One flying from Danang to Hanoi, Trump was quoted describing his conversation with Putin as follows,” “He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.” He added, “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’’’ Trump said. “And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
This is the environment we find ourselves living in again, long-range missile tests by North Korea and the potential of a nuclear war in the not-too-distant future, cyberattacks by Russia and other hackers threatening our elections, infrastructure, and privacy. Our nation and its people are being led by someone unsuited to protect and serve, who some believe is mentally ill and/or unstable, and in the very least unpredictable, insecure, and surrounded by advisers and cabinet members with hidden agendas for personal profit and power. In my opinion, Trump is constitutionally incapable of leading our country.
While in Vietnam this weekend, Trump again could not resist responding to Kim Jung-un’s recent comments:
The Toilet Zone: The Tipping Point
“There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.” — Unknown
From my post in October: I reached my limit, the tipping point. I momentarily went off the rails, posting on Facebook, using social media as my primal screen therapy, echo chamber of sorts. It was in response to the mass shooting on Sunday, October 1, when a crazed white male gunman, domestic terrorist, lone wolf (you choose the descriptor) massacred innocent people attending an outdoor country music festival, 58 dead, almost 500 wounded or injured. My nephew and his family live and work in Las Vegas. My nephew John is a Metropolitan Las Vegas Police Officer, one of hundreds of first responders and heroes, including concert-goers, who stepped up to help save lives.”
Trump responded shamefully to the devastated hurricane victims and U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, pitching rolls of paper towels, like free t-shirts at a sporting event or concert, promising aid to restore infrastructure, then reneging, while harassing an outspoken, articulate Mayor of San Juan who was seeking help for the people she represented, and who were dying. His rants and tweets reflected his misogyny and racism.
“If Not Now, When?” The quote, attributed to the Jewish religious leader, Hillel the Elder, became a leitmotif of sorts for me this week as I began reviewing all the issues and concerns unfolding these past few months since Trump was elected president, almost as if an earwig had entered my brain and kept repeating dire warnings.
Now, the Good News…
This past year has been a series of Trump’s efforts to undo President Barak Obama’s legacy by Executive Order. He dismantled agencies, stripped their budgets, or in the very least, ability to do their jobs. Trump appointed a conservative Supreme Court Judge, plus handpicked with assistance by the alt-right influence of Steve Bannon and others, a series of Cabinet appointments and agency leadership roles of unqualified, or ethically-compromised Wall Street bankers, corporate cronies, and campaign contributors.
Fortunately for the American public, Trump and Congress have failed so far to pass an affordable healthcare bill, or a tax reform proposal, despite a Republican majority in Congress. Robert Mueller and his Justice Department’s investigation have announced their first arrests as they continue to depose advisers and family members close to Trump’s circle of influence and White House access.
Pick your metaphor: The tide has turned. The loser now will be later to win. Or lastly, the worm has turned. Whatever one you choose, the results of the special elections in Virginia and New Jersey, the mayoral race in New York, plus increasing defections by Republican members of Congress and appointees indicate that a change is coming.
During the past month, the #MeToo movement responded via social media to the allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault, followed by other high-profile actors, directors, and comedians, as women and men began sharing their personal stories of abuse by people in power, not limited to Hollywood, but also in the workplace, in families, at school by teachers, in sports by coaches, by clergy, and politicians.
The most recent is Roy Moore, running in a special Senate election in Alabama to replace the seat vacated by the U. S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. He’s accused by four young women, one a 14-year-old girl at the time of the abuse. At his press briefing earlier today he was greeted with signs by protesters which read, “No Moore!”
The result has been a tide of wins by Democratic candidates, women, POC, and a total of eight transgender candidates in recent local and state elections. The Republicans and the President may be losing the culture war they’ve raged against the American people. Trump’s support and the public’s trust is eroding.
It’s been a year since Trump was elected and in the end, he may be his biggest enemy as his lies, narcissism, and broken promises become his own undoing. It may be an unhappy anniversary today, yet there are glimmers of hope for the future.
To read the full content of The Toilet Zone commentary series: