The Grief of a Nation
It is hard to describe to someone who is not a US citizen what it feels like to watch your birth nation fall apart at the seams. The endemic issues that have percolated to the surface are not new, but the manner with which they have been addressed – or ignored – is.
We have suffered four years of verbal abuse combined with willful ignorance and a pandemic in the penultimate hours of a failed US administration that has preferred to stare at its own reflection like Oscar Wilde’s fictional character Dorian Grey whose portrait should age instead of him. Dorian’s utter act of cruelty at rejecting his fiancée Sibyl when she performed badly on stage shifted the image of the portrait toward a slight sneer.
We have been living that for too long. In fact, I feel like I’ve been living alongside that portrait – albeit at a distance in Freiburg, Germany – as the portrait of a nation turns wretched and riddled with frailty.
It has permeated our lives. Our belief system. Even our dreams.
Last night I had the worst nightmare of my life. I sat on a picnic table on the Washington Mall. Suddenly, a balding sweating man in an apricot-colored short-sleeved shirt sat next to me.
It was Donald Trump.
He appeared to want to connect, looking for a friend in a pedophile-desperate-kind-of-way, and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was waiting for some friends. Quickly realizing he was still contagious with Covid-19, I leapt from my seat, saying I had to go. I could feel his sweaty desperation enshroud the space between us. He followed me to an apartment that I broke into as I sought a basin to wash my hands. It felt close and wrong, like an airplane bathroom. I walked up a ladder to get to the apartment. Before I arrived, he asked me, bald head glistening, why I had run away.
“I-I-I…” Why was I hesitating? Why didn’t I tell him to fuck off? To get away from me? To take responsibility for endangering so many lives? But I, like some many others beyond my nightmare, chose a more placating response:
“My friends, well, they were waiting for me. They get angry when I’m late. I like to be punctual. You know?” I half-smiled, lifting the ladder from its place so he couldn’t follow me.
Placate the monster so you are safe. I horrified myself, paralyzed with the fear so many others have felt throughout Trump’s presidency.
I awoke with a realization.
I have lived my entire life placating men, making sure they never felt threatened, them fearful of my power, me fearful of their disdain.
In that moment, I woke up and said, “Never again.”
Grief means we mourn the loss of something – or someone – familiar. We recognize the abrupt change. The lasting memory and the altered reality in the wake of their passing.
Something has shifted to a place within that is more powerful than the fear that imprisons us. We cannot take this shit any longer. It is time to awaken from the nightmare that has kept us up, sweating at night with a rage and terror no longer sustainable.
Whatever you do, vote. In whichever country you are in. May the grief of my nation be a lesson for us all.
There is a better way.
And it starts the moment we awaken.