In these days before Christmas and the first days of Hanukkah, the last moments of 2019, the eve of a new year, I’ve been struggling to feel the joy. Along with many others who are lucky enough to have a decent life, I wake up each morning and enjoy a moment of peace before I remember that I am living in Trump’s America.
We’re in the middle of an impeachment, and it’s tough to pretend this is business as usual for the United States. What started out as an unconventional campaign and a mean-spirited inaugural moved on to three years of an ugly presidency. What started out as a promise to shake things up evolved into a traumatic assault on democratic values. The president has strong-armed his way through his time in office, insulting his critics, eviscerating every department in government and lying over and over again, day in and day out, about things consequential and inconsequential.
Somehow, through intimidation and threats, he has also co-opted the majority of Republicans in and around the White House. It’s hard to deck the halls when it feels as if civil order, and the earth itself, are imperiled.
My holiday spirit definitely peaked over Thanksgiving, and I need a reboot. Family gathered, and there was plenty of talk about the turkey and the dreadful weather, but no talk of politics. Not because we disagree, but because we’re exhausted by the ongoing political spectacle. The dilemma is that the overexposure to Trump’s shenanigans and malfeasance are numbing. At the same time, we need to summon energy to push back and resist.
It just wears you down to hear the facts of climate change, see for yourself the tides getting higher and higher on our shores and read that the president has dismantled yet another environmental initiative. How many decent, nonpartisan government officials have to testify to his immoral and potentially illegal behavior before people see that Donald Trump is a fake?
The rapidly shifting stories, deceits and deflections coming from the White House eventually make people dull and unresponsive when we should be addressing each and every immoral and illegal act as if the honor of America depended on it. Because, of course, it does.
A kind of selective amnesia possesses us, as if we don’t quite remember that Trump separated hundreds of children from their parents at our border. As if he didn’t betray the Kurds, who valued and trusted us as allies. As if he didn’t populate the White House with his children and other know-nothings whose only attribute is blind loyalty. As if he didn’t know on some level that Russian interference helped swing the vote to him in 2016. As if our president, the leader of America and the free world, didn’t try to bribe the president of Ukraine into finding damaging information on Joe Biden and his son.
Political amnesia can be fatal. Peace is elusive in the Middle East, and hot spots can ignite in a moment. We need to hold the thought that when things go south, we need a leader we can trust with life-and-death decisions. We cannot fix what is wrong in Trumpworld with Band-Aids. We need to see through the impeachment trial and make a record for history of what he has done to deserve this extreme remedy. If the Senate does not vote to follow through on the impeachment, then we must take the fight to the 2020 election.
So how do we live through this disturbing and perilous time and keep our sanity and our joy and even our sense of humor? I suppose it’s the way we survive any crisis of faith or family or marriage or health. We find our joy in the interstices, in the sweet spaces between the troubles that are visiting us. We cherish the good times, and hold close our loved ones, and light the candles and sing the carols.
Perhaps we forgo some of the usual materialism and free-falling avarice of holiday shopping. With soldiers still in harm’s way overseas and uncertainty at home, low-key gift-giving feels more seemly. Perhaps siphon some of the holiday budget to charities that help piece together the lives of Americans who aren’t feeling the Trump bounce.
My holiday wish is for leadership that holds us up as exemplars to the world. My toast is to America the beautiful.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.