Sunday, January 29, 2017

Anxiety in the time of President Trump

The first time I felt this scared about the state of the world I was 13 and President Kennedy had just spoken to the American people about the Cuban Missile crisis. I thought we were all going to die. It was the beginning of a level of anxiety over the state of the world that was palpable to me. I was terrified and I never wanted to feel that level of anxiety again.

But I did.

My high school and college years intersected with the Vietnam war and class wars in America. I remember a jumble of events, emotions and anxiety. I worried about my male friends, fearing their draft numbers would not be high enough to avoid their going to war.  I worried about all the violence I was seeing between the races, the rioting and hate and division. I never wanted to feel that level of anxiety again.

But I did.

For a while I thought it was getting better. We seemed to be learning to be kinder to each other, to listen to each other, to put ourselves in each other's shoes. I saw MLK and RFK and I had hope. I saw  walls coming down in Europe and I had hope. I saw a peace talk between a Palestinian and an Israeli and I had hope. I saw women stepping up and being heard and gaining the right to their bodies and I had hope. My anxiety was starting to subside over the fate of the world. Maybe we wouldn't get to the brink. Maybe we wouldn't kill each other here or abroad. I was thinking maybe I would never again have that sinking anxiety that the world would end.

But I did and I do.

And this time it's worse than ever before. I'm watching the world as I know it crumble. I'm watching any shred of feeling safe disintegrate. Yes, most of it is from our new POTUS and his administration. We have a puppet who has NO idea he's being used by everyone - by Putin, by Bannon, by his party. They will use him and toss him as soon as he's outlived his usefulness. His ego and narcissism is so strong, he is so pathologically sick, that all they have to do is put some shiny words of praise in front of him and he will do whatever they ask him, sign any Executive order of THEIR agenda, all for a few platitudes that stoke his ego.

All this terrifies me but what saddens me is how divided we are. How will we ever fix things if we are all yelling but no one on the other side is listening. How will we ever come to a consensus if all we ever think is that we are 100% right and they are 100% wrong.

I am liberal and proud of it. I believe in equal rights for women, for people of color, for the LGBT community. I believe in a woman's right to choose what is right for her body. I believe we should continue to let people who are desperate and dying in their countries come here. All my grandparents came here from Europe to escape persecution. I believe in being kind and taking care of those who can not care for themselves. I believe in Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid and healthcare for all.

What I don't believe in is the kind of hatred and division we are now experiencing. I get up in the morning and my stomach hurts before I even turn on the TV to watch the news. I think, "what did he/they do or say now?" I worry about whether I will have to "unfollow" or "unfriend" people because of what they put on FB.

I will continue to email and donate and write and make calls for what I believe in. I think this is a fight that demands to be fought. But I am also willing to listen to all sides if there's a reason to. If it's not just hatred and bigotry and a denial of basic human rights. If it's a real willingness to reach out and work together for what is fair and just for ALL human beings.

I am an optimist by nature so I'm always looking for signs of hope. These days I find it in all the people I see demonstrating and fighting the fight and those across the aisle, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who see people, not politics and are willing to speak up.

I was hoping that once the PEOTUS became the POTUS my anxiety would be assuaged by calmer rhetoric and more reasonable actions.

But it didn't and I'm pretty sure, based on Trump's first week in the office, that I'll be dealing with this anxiety for the next two years at a minimum, and longer than that depending on the results of midterm elections.

I am anxious. I am terrified. I am sad.