The Last Thanksgiving

And the white lion roars!

Way back on August 8, 2016 I posted an essay called “Cassandra’s Curse.” In it I talked about my fear of a Trump presidency, his love for dictators, his penchant for obsessing over revenge against anyone who dares criticize him, and on and on. I predicted Trump would hold a ceremony  in the Rose Garden in which he tears up the Constitution and declares himself President for Life. And I was treated very like Cassandra, some people telling me to calm down, that there are controls in place that would prevent that from happening. So I tried. I watched as he picked up campaign personnel who have known racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant histories which parroted his rhetoric in speeches and rallies, and some of whom have arrests in their histories for domestic abuse. He kept saying ever more incendiary things about all these groups. More and more borderline (maybe borderline) stories came out about his business dealings, more and more stories about his excessively shallow, contemptible objectification of women-even calling his wife a “fat cow” when she was pregnant with his child.

So I pretended I was being calm, as advised by people who love me. But in the last year I have been terrified for this country we all love. Terrified by the newly emboldened white racists, who have carried out nearly 1,000 acts of violence against minorities since November 8th. Terrified by the very smart people who didn’t care, though they plainly knew, that Trump lies as easily as breathing. And even more, terrified by his words and the people with whom he surrounds himself. And his cavalier dismissal, or straight up denial that he said many of the things that were plainly on video or tape. And the people, even those very smart ones, who listened to those denials and said it didn’t matter. When his disgusting behavior toward women was exposed, those people said it was just “boys being boys.” Sometimes of them even claimed they said worse things about men. I’m not sure it would have helped to mention that he was running to be president of the most powerful country in the world in the last two centuries . 

November 8, 2016 was a cool, dreary,  rainy day in North Central Texas. It was also my very ill and frail father’s 77th birthday. My husband and I had already voted during the first week of early voting, thinking that we could skip the long lines on election day, but the lines were a bit longer than usual for early voting. I had a conversation with two other women in line with me at the polling place, and I couldn’t help saying, almost jubilantly, that a large turnout usually bodes well for the left. One of the women nodded, smiling. The other one looked a little ‘stricken’ and turned away from me. But on election day I was twisted in a knot, hardly being able to focus on work. We took my parents out for dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday, then went home to watch the returns. We were both tense and worried about the results. I guess the long lines for early voting weren’t enough to convince me that it was in the bag for Hillary Clinton.

I was not a Hillary supporter from the beginning. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. I proudly sent what little money I could to his campaign, and proudly wore my Bernie t-shirt. I remember one Saturday night wearing it to get some things at the grocery store, and this very handsome young man with long dreadlocks pointed at my shirt, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up. I wore it to a doctor’s appointment  on Super Tuesday, primary voting day in Texas. The doctor asked me if I thought Bernie could win. I told him, “Probably not in Texas.” During the primary season I kept hearing about worrisome low turnout among democratic voters. There was supposedly a “movement” of Bernie Sanders supporters who were young, enthusiastic, and gearing up for a progressive (metaphorical) revolution, in which health care would be considered a right, not a commodity for profit. Workers would be honored instead of exploited for the singular benefit of their billionaire bosses. I’m not one of those “millennial” voters, but I was a true believer in that revolution, but afraid that the stereotypical low democratic turnout would abort the revolution in the womb. I was right. Secretary Clinton won the primaries handily, and became the democratic nominee. I switched my loyalty to her, though her t-shirts were too expensive, and she had enough money to beat pretty much anyone. But I always had a gnawing in my gut about Mrs. Clinton. While there hasn’t been a candidate anywhere near perfect (though he’s NOT perfect,) since Baraka Obama. She had SO much baggage. Though I can’t explain why, there is a sizzling hatred of her on the right that makes them willing to do very sinister things, and spread sinister, vicious lies about her. She was a political “player,” which is needed in Washington, unfortunately, because being able to negotiate with the other side and get things done. I don’t care about her response to her husband’s affairs, that is between husband and wife. Infidelity is too common, and people are so separate and individual that no one can tell anyone how to react when they learn of the infidelity. Some people stay together and work things out, some do not. Either is fine, and I wish anyone going through that trauma well. But there is no denying that Secretary Clinton is treated differently. No one in the media criticizes men for their voice, their clothing, hair and makeup styles. No one criticizes a man for being ambitious, career obsessed, and unyielding in seeking their dreams. But Mrs. Clinton was, and when combined with Trump’s words and actions toward women tells me that the United States has not “come a long way baby” when it comes to equality.

My husband and I got more and more nervous as we watched the returns come in. Trump was doing well in Southern states, as expected. Mrs. Clinton was winning the states everyone knew she would. We are early to bed and rise people, but we couldn’t stop watching. I had a couple of cocktails, he had several cigarettes. We got quieter and quieter. When 11:30 came around I tried to go to bed, but I immediately turned on the TV and kept watching from bed. I dozed around 1:00 A. M. or so, but when my husband came to bed I lifted my head, “Well?” “All the votes aren’t counted, but he won.” I slept fitfully until around 4:30, and went to work in a fog. I was quiet, which my coworkers noticed, but didn’t understand. Our supervisor stopped by later and asked me what was wrong. I just mouthed “the election.” She got it, but said it will be okay. By the weekend I had decided that this was the way it will be, and, like it or not (decidedly NOT!) I had to figure out a way to get through it for at least the next four years.

However, I found myself staying in the November 9th fog as Trump made speeches that terrify me, and advisory picks who matched his campaign rhetoric. Racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, only one religion should be free in America, anti-Medicare and Social Security advisers and potential cabinet picks were constantly in the news. Now and again, in quiet moments I found that tears would run down my face as the newly empowered republican congress immediately began talking about reducing overtime pay, the Affordable Care Act and all the LGBT protections that were enacted in the last two years. When Thanksgiving came I was alone a great deal, cooking and getting ready for the holiday. I found myself crying as I baked, and even sometimes when I walked the dogs, despite those few days in which I tried to resign myself to a Trump administration, with republican control of both houses of congress. Oh, and one already empty Supreme Court seat. Sometimes my eyes filled with tears as I worked at the office, and I was grateful that my cubicle is not visible to the others who sit in the office with me. This was not a case of being a “bad loser.” I know how to be a good loser, and a gracious winner. But this was not an election like any other, and my belief that the consequences of it are unimaginable cannot be shaken. 

Thanksgiving turned out to be a good day. My youngest sister, with whom I am very close, was in town with her entire family; hubby, three grown sons, one daughter in law, two precious toddler granddaughters that the family had not yet met. There is nothing like the laughter of children that can lighten the spirits of two elderly parents and their middle aged children. My sister also brought her two dogs, who are very nervous and not very social with either other people or other dogs. As people arrived the dogs would just bark, and not come near anyone. After lunch I, fancying myself a “dog whisperer” of sorts, went to the backyard and sat, ignoring the dogs ( a trick I learned on some dog oriented TV show years ago.) According to that show, if you are nonthreatening, and ignore the dog long enough, it will eventually give in to curiosity and come check you out. In this case, I don’t know how much time was needed for these guys, but eventually my sister came out to join me for a chat. I told her that I was having a happier Thanksgiving than I expected. She and I had talked about what is to come in the United States a few times since the election, so she knew I was speeding toward despair; she was too, and for the same reasons, which were not all about the president, but congress and the cabinet as well. I told her we needed a good Thanksgiving because it was probably our last one as a free people. She responded with a bit of annoyance, saying that I really needed to calm down and not be so dramatic. But I couldn’t be talked down this time. And in the nearly three weeks since, my despair has only deepened. As revelations about just how deeply, not only Trump, but many of his cabinet picks, are in cahoots with the Russian government of Vladimir Putin, and the number of generals who have Russian ties are filling his cabinet, nothing at all in the last month has happened that gives me any reason to “calm down,” or trust that the way “the system” will protect the country from real danger. Some of the particular generals he has chosen have committed acts of treason, and not been prosecuted. Many, as I said, have ties with Putin, and have been very vocal in their anti-Islamic rhetoric. It has been revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew that the Russian government had hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee, and dumped those emails to the public, but did nothing. Apparently so did some of the republican leadership, but they did not want Hillary Clinton to be elected, so they did nothing. The Russians also hacked the emails of the Republican National Committee, but did not dump them, though the republican emails allegedly contained just as much ugly stuff as the democrats. Now the Russians have all that information to use as leverage and get their way in the republican controlled government of the United States. Let me be clear, the newly elected government has been colluding with a hostile foreign power to the detriment of our existence as a nation. If a strong man (Trump) is surrounds himself with generals who agree with his positions, all the arguments that the military would never go along with the president tearing up the constitution and and installing himself as a dictator are a little less convincing in December than they were in August. Just as much of a concern is the choice of FOUR Goldman-Sachs officials as cabinet members. It hasn’t been so long since the Great Recession of 2008, which was the result of bad behavior by banks and investment houses all over the world.

I love this country. I love having the freedom to express my views, and the right of anyone who wishes to express their disagreement with my view (and the occasional contempt.) I love that we have the ability to vote for president and some of congress every four years, and the freedom to worship or not in any way we choose. I love that the press is free to, though this year they most certainly did not, expose the dangers our democracy faces from dangerous men. As an aside, I truly hope that the press has learned a lesson from their dereliction of duty in the thrall of “good stories that entertain.” They made an entertainer president, with no regard for the truth of his ties to dictatorial governments, or his rhetoric regarding the Bill of Rights.

So, I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving. I hope whatever holidays are celebrated this winter are happy. The irony is that the winter holidays are, from every part of the world, celebrations of light, from the beginning of modern humans, when the daylight stays longer, and agrarians can begin to work the land again, but the new government in the United States of America is happy to operate in darkness. I, for one, truly believe that this may be the last holiday season that working Americans, the “Middle Class” will spend as a free people. We had a good run, but it’s over.