President Trump is in trick-or-treat mode, and he is scary. The irony is that the mask he wears is pretty much 24/7. A proven liar, he dissembles and changes facts to accommodate a self-serving agenda. I admit, he makes me afraid.
The earliest terror I remember was the fear of never seeing my mother again. She was 32 years old and I was 6 in 1953, and she thought getting me an education was a good idea. That September, she abandoned me at the classroom door at P.S. 156 in Queens. “Have a great day,” she said.
“Don’t leave me!” I screamed. You know the feeling: Your heart kicks against your chest. Your eyes squeeze shut against the inevitable tears, and somewhere in your brain a voice is shrieking, “Oh no, oh no!” while a higher power answers, simply, yes.
OK, so I was a kid given to melodrama. My teacher coached me to “wear a happy mask,” as if by acting happy, I might feel happy. To some degree it worked.
“Scary” changes as we age, and so do the masks we wear. In fourth grade, I pretended not to be afraid of the school bully. As a teenager, I hid my fear of being left out or being uncool.
My singular “mask” moment took place in my friend Jackie’s house in Atlantic Beach. We were seventh-graders, 12 years old, and planning to hold a Halloween séance in her creepy basement for a few weird friends. As the night of the séance approached, we would hang out in the basement for hours on end. And it did have an atmosphere, a certain clammy, dead-body-in-the-corner ambience that suited our macabre mood.
The day before the séance I was standing at a washtub, facing the cement wall, my back to the big, empty room. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and, thinking it was Jackie, I turned — and looked into the face of a hideous creature with milky eye sockets and bloody teeth. I went berserk, screaming and tearing at the face, crying and shrieking long after I had ripped off the mask and revealed the truly horrified face of my friend, who began screaming, too. It was a toss-up which of us got the worst jolt that day.
Fifty-nine years later, rubber masks don’t scare me anymore. Fear wears a different face these days, and recently it has looked like Donald J. Trump.
We boomers don’t scare easy. Many of us lived through polio epidemics, the Cuban missile crisis and 9/11. What scares us silly, however, is the possibility of leaving behind a scorched earth and a hobbled democracy.
We find ourselves pondering some high-minded notions like leaving the earth in better shape than we found it, like preserving the greatest democracy on earth, like ridding our government of the morally bankrupt crew that moved into the White House with Trump.
The definition of scary is Trump’s fast and loose governing style. Last week the American presidency seemed to be hemorrhaging its last reserves of pride and dignity. The Trump foreign policy operates like a Crazy 8 ball, and we never know what message will pop up. Throw the Kurds to Turkey? Why not? Then ignore the slaughter of our former Kurdish allies and call it all a triumph of diplomacy? We know the drill. First they say they didn’t do it, then, they say they really didn’t do it, and then they say they did it, but everybody does it and it’s OK.
Many people I know, myself included, wake up every single morning with a feeling of dread: What will the president do today that will hurt those most in need of his help? Which lines will he cross that will further alienate our allies abroad? What lies will he tell so that millions of voters lose the ability to discern a fact from a falsehood? You know the feeling: Your heart kicks against your chest. Your eyes squeeze shut against the inevitable tears . . .
This is the real stuff of nightmares.
We need to push back against the vain, profane, mean-spirited and dangerous people who have set up shop in and around the Oval Office. And we need to unmask the president.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.