Let me tell you about a significant problem with the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. Let me tell you why he, personally, diminishes my quality of life. Let me tell you why I get up every morning feeling slightly sick. Let me tell you why, in moments of repose, I find myself ill at ease, as if guilty about something I did or failed to do. Let me tell you why I would do almost anything to turn back the clock to a year ago, two years ago, eight years ago.
It’s a personal thing, really.
Now, I don’t like Trump’s policies. I despise his “team.” I find deeply dispiriting the takeover by the Republicans of the majority of governorships, not to mention of the house and senate. I am deeply suspicious of the apparent closeness of Trump and Putin and wonder what possibly could be behind this. I fear for our environment, for our lower, working, and middle classes, and for all minorities and immigrants. I’m the son of an immigrant who did not in fact have her own “papers”; she came to the U.S. on her mother’s naturalization papers, dated 1920. Will I be deported? I wonder.
All of these Trump-engineered changes to our government, our policies, our country, are cause for great concern, particularly for someone whose political leanings tilt leftward, as mine do.
But in some ways worse than these things is the following: I have had to let Trump into my life. I’ve let him into my kitchen, where I listen to the radio during breakfast and before dinner. I’ve let him into my living room, where I can hear that radio. I’ve let him into my man-cave and exercise room, where I have TV sets that show his image, his scowling countenance, his swoosh of colored hair, his poor posture, his tiny hands. And that voice, loaded with smarm, with the self-assurance of a con man’s con man who’s pulled off the ultimate con.
I can turn off the radio and TV, or course. Yet I pick up the newspaper, and virtually every day, there in the far right hand column of the front page is a story about Mr. Trump, about Mr. Trump’s team, about Mr. Trump’s response to this, that, or the other thing—a response, I should add, that’s always and inevitably the wrong response, that’s typically about himself, that’s frequently off-center or out of focus, but, well, there it is. I can stop my newspaper subscription, I suppose, and avert my eyes when I see people with newspapers on the train. I can move into a kind of bubble. But I resent having to do this. I’d like to know what’s going on in the world.
Yes, that’s what has happened to my life. I have had to allow this anti-intellectual, coarse, low, vulgar man to invade my home and my media devices. His rubbery face peers out from my newspapers and magazines. His whiny voice crackles the air.
I tell my students, most of them college freshmen or sophomores, that in some way they should be heartened. “Look around this room,” I say. “Look at your classmates and me. Any one of us would be a better president than Mr. Trump. Any one of us would have assembled a better, more competent, team. So America really is a place where anyone can be president. You know the song, “only in America, can a kid without a cent/ go to sleep a poor boy /Wake up to be president. . . .” The only problem, of course, is that Trump never went to sleep a “poor boy.” He’s always been a rich boy, and in our country, rich boys rule. Rich girls do pretty well too, even get appointed to cabinet posts.