With his absence from the 24-hour news cycle, we've returned to the existential anxiety of living.
AFTER JOE BIDEN’S INAUGURATION I found myself clicking in and out of Google News every hour on the hour—like a trained gerbil waiting for treats. Only to discover that there was no ‘there’ there.
Trump was gone. He’d moved to Florida, the nation’s designated nut house and retirement mecca. The news was focused on the Converse tennis shoes Kamala Harris wore for her Vogue cover shoot.
Later I discovered that my unconscious and repetitive Google News checking had a name: ‘rage scrolling’. And, yes, that.
My hourly fix of Trump rage had been usurped by genuinely harrowing news about COVID (its new mutations and variants) and the endless snafus with the vaccine’s distribution. Turns out that Harris’ shoes had been a distractive blip amidst the carnage.
A week later Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that it was a good idea to wear two masks at the same time (one atop the other—[not one to cover my eyes]) while I was at the grocery store.
Outside the rain was back and temperatures were dropping.
Right. It was January and the holidays that didn’t really exist were over and I still needed to get through February and March and April and May and June, and then finally towards the 4th of July spring would arrive in Washington. Maybe.
Where was the Donald to energize me? Enrage and provoke me. To shore up my righteousness.
Letting it all hang out
Remember in George Orwell’s 1984 there were those big cultural get-togethers called the Two Minute Hates?
These were daily, public gatherings where citizens were forced to watch a film depicting various atrocities committed by enemies of the state. The Two Minutes Hate allowed everyone to vent their existential anguish and personal hatred. To bond and get their groove on.
Without my daily hate fix, I had to stop and finally consider the implications of two recent phone calls. Both with longtime friends who explained that COVID, “wasn’t that big of a deal.”
One of them did not plan to be vaccinated. The other explained that “three of my friends have already had COVID and they were over it in a day or two. The media is distorting everything again.”
Ordinarily, I’d have Trump to blame for this. He’d told us back in 2020 that “the China virus” will “miraculously” go away when temperatures rise in the spring. But these calls with my friends happened last week. Who could I blame for their imbecility?
Two versions of reality—both kookoo
Trump generated a lot of hate. Or from the other side of the looking glass, a lot of hope.
Hate and hope. Two worthless emotions.
Yeah, I know, hope is what keeps the human race spinning. But is that necessarily a good thing?
Apparently not when nature and her arsenal of checks and balances (i.e., things like viruses) are trying to lighten some of the load on the planet with another global pandemic.
Sure, the science is in place to apparently counter nature’s efforts, but I’m still not so sure. Are you?
A lot of my clients have mentioned a low-grade, free-floating depression that’s swelled in the aftermath of the Capitol coup in early January and the thrill of Trump’s second impeachment.
Finally, the moment so many of us waited for—Trump’s expulsion to the dregs of history. A brief respite—but then their depression deepened.
And now what?
Yawning while heading into the next paragraph
Biden is boring. I’m glad he’s there and blah blah.
But I miss expressing my zigzaggy collection of sharp insights related to Trump. The disbelief and disgust. The shock and awe. My certainty of the fucked-up-ness.
But more specifically it was the energy that drove my emotions through the endless conversation with friends—in-person, on the phone, on social media. And then back around again. “Hi, OMG, did you hear what he said about Ilhan Omar!?”
Such a comforting sense of feral togetherness. Bonded in outrage and—even more importantly (and here’s the catch)—the notion that I knew what was best for the country, the community, the culture.
That’s. Gone. Now.
And the same is true for the Trumpers. Their hope that finally, someone from their tribe was occupying the most powerful seat in the free world. A rogue daddy figure who could own the libtards and Marxists and…
Imagine the MAGA-ites free-floating depression on this winter day in February 2021.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
So yeah, we’ve all been forced back into our senses. Our quotidian lives.
No one has any definitive explanations or solutions to COVID (well, except for people on Twitter). Theories, yes. But at least with Trump, we knew definitively what the virus was not.
Nor are there any quick fixes or answers to the myriad of other troubles that plague the planet. No need to list them, you’ll be seeing them more frequently on your newsfeed now that Trump’s not gobbling up your bandwidth.
In other words, we’re back to the baseline condition that confronts each of us from the moment we exit the womb, learn to survive in our families, adopt our parents’ questionable notions about what life is about, go to school and absorb more ideas about this and that. All the while affirming the facade of someone who knows what he or she is doing, where he or she is going—when really we don’t.
Trump taught me in a visceral way the emotional power of mobs.
Although my mob was more sophisticated and learned and on the side of science and social causes than, say, the mob who attacked the Capitol in January.
But the same psychological equations were at work; the same existential questioning related to the ultimate unknowability about life—still in abeyance. A condition that’s quelled by the power of groupthink and the intensity of hating the same person, place, or thing.
For that insight, for seeing it and fleshing it out more—I suppose I’m thankful for Trump.
I wonder if he’ll run again in 2024.
One can hope.
Trump mask illustration © 2021 by Jeff Dionise and used by permission. You can visit Jeff’s portfolio here.