When Donald Trump was elected, I decided it was time to be the political commentator I’d wanted to be when I was sixteen. I’ll get a spot on Medium, I thought, and just tear the bastard up with my laser analysis and searing prose.
But within weeks, the guy became too disgusting for words. Every day, there was some horrible, gross, ignorant assault on our customs, values, law, civility, what we used to agree constituted basic decency, a man basically relieving himself on the country’s fine china.
So I turned my attention to people and things that knew how to act in polite company like me, for instance, and my dogs. But walking today, it came to me that Donald Trump, the sloppy, rude jerk that he is, had actually made me a better person and a better American. Here’s how.
First, I pay attention like I never have before. I read the news, I watch the news. I can tell you what happened five minutes ago in the Mueller Investigation. I’m not obsessed as much as I am on it, God damn it, because this reprobate is messing up my country. So I don’t miss a trick, as my Dad would say. All day, every day. So there is no chance, zero, none, zilch, that I will ever be an uninformed voter.
Second, I am not afraid to act up and act out. Who is this chick? I am so rule-compliant, it’s sick. If there’s a No Trespassing sign, I don’t. If the sidewalk has a barricade, I walk on the other side of the street. I always whisper in movie theaters and I always turn my phone completely off. Nope, no more. I go to demonstrations and I yell. I chant. I carry my sign up and down the street and shout at passing cars. My job now that I’m 70? It’s to yell, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Third, everything in America is more valuable to me. I’ve always been more patriotic than has been stylish among my friends and colleagues. But now, I’m wrapped in the flag. This land is my land. And yes, it’s yours, too. But I am worried about my land right now and I’m digging in my heels and pulling on that big rope and I am determined to win the tug of war with people who, though they are still Americans, have lost their minds and their sense of justice and fair play. So I will fight for everything – health care, immigration rights, reproductive freedom, voting rights, the environment, equal opportunity – call me, I’ll show up.
Fourth, I understand so much more about power and human nature. That power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely was a mainstay in my political science classes but the phrase was an abstraction. The Trump Administration’s behavior and the complicity of the Republican Congress has explained to me after fifty years of questioning how the Holocaust occurred in a country with an educated and cultured population. How did it happen? Here’s how. Power corrupts and the juice of corrupted power attracts the worst among us. They flock to the poison. We can’t be dumb about that. Or surprised.
Fifth, I am in league with others. There is joy and courage in linking arms with others. I remember this from doing abortion clinic defense years ago. When you link arms with others, physically put your arms in the arms of comrades, you become invincible. I never thought I would have that feeling again, the overwhelming sense of solidarity and determination but I have it now. There wasn’t a group that spoke to us as progressive older adults so we created one. Look us up at League of Progressive Seniors.
Would I have rather had a different outcome in the 2016 election? Absolutely. I could have learned these lessons another way or not learned them at all. But Donald Trump is what we have – dangerous, shallow, arrogant, crude, and stupid Donald Trump. We are all elevated by contrast. We are all on a higher road by default. Time we got to marching on it, crowding it with traffic, and claiming our wonderful country.