Coping with fear in the time of Trump
Reportedly, some Americans are not concerned about President Trump’s firing of F.B.I. Director Comey. Hard-core Trump supporters even applaud the move. Not me. It scares me. Makes me fear what could come next.
One widely believed speculation about Trump’s motivation is that Comey was getting too nosey about connections between the president, his aides and Russia.
The White House initially put forth a different reason. It was because Comey mishandled Clinton’s email problem last summer. When that resulted in worldwide guffawing, Trump put out a new whopper. Comey wasn’t doing a good job.
To me, the reason that seems most telling is that this egomaniacal, insecure president was jealous of Comey. When Trump said, “The guy is more famous than I am,” Comey should have started working on his resume. Not only that, but Trump, who brags about his bigness (hands, etc.) had to look up — literally — to the 6’8″ Comey.
This touchy man should be setting off a deafening chorus of alarm bells. He rarely smiles, and when he sort of does, it looks grotesque. I can’t imagine him actually laughing. He does a bang-up job of being angry, though. And he has the nuclear codes. They and anger are with him waking and sleeping.
Another reason he should scare us is the way he uses language. It indicates a disorderly mind. The scrums of words that he speaks and tweets are evidence that he does not think clearly. Consider this doozy, a comment on Chinese President Xi Jinping and his country’s currency manipulation: “No.1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities; it’s not. They have – they’ve actually — their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.” Imagine that brain trying to figure our how to deal with something like the Cuban missile crisis.
Even so, I go back and forth on what is the proper amount of fear to have about Trump. Last month I drafted a 1200-word post for my blog, www.geezerblockhead.com, making the point that as long as Trump does not cause nuclear Armageddon, he is not going to harm us irreparably. On a scale that ranges from nuisance to disaster, he’s down toward the nuisance end. I cited ten reasons for this. The primary one was that he is no good at governing and has shown himself to be so arrogant and willful, he’s not likely to learn how.
That post languishes unpublished on my hard drive. When it was time to press “send,” I decided to think about it a little more.
Now, after continuing exposure to Trump’s confused language and with his firing of F.B.I. Director Comey, the needle on my scale of how much harm he may do has moved away from nuisance and toward disaster.
Periodically, I’m very afraid, and I consider from time to time how to live with this fear, or in the novelist James Lee Burke’s phrase, “how the keep the snakes in their basket.” Too much fear is crippling.
Doing the citizen’s duties takes some of the edge off of it. It helps to stay informed, contact elected representatives, join forces with others to seek the common good, and provide financial support to the more honorable candidates. But you can do those things and more and still feel nearly hopeless.
Religious belief helps, if you have it. Christianity, the only faith I know much about, holds that faithless fears and worldly anxieties are part of being a sinful human, but it also offers the peace which passes all understanding. I’m pretty sure that even the saints among us live with both of those realities simultaneously. Still, it can be a very present help in trouble.
I’m also finding encouragement just from walking around my house. Here’s how that works.
Family photos are all over the place. They date from my great-great-grandfather who lived through the War Between the States to the children of my children – seven generations. My grandparents are in a horse and buggy during their early married life. Many years would pass before she would be allowed to vote. A group stand in the scruffy yard of a modest little house in the country. They managed without electricity or plumbing or a healthy diet or sophisticated medical care. My maternal grandfather sits tall on his storied horse before it went to serve in France in World War I. My older brother looks at the camera — a Depression-era 2-year old, living in a time of scarcity and want. World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the counterculture, the Nixon years, Bush’s shameful attack on Iraq, all that and more, are the context for these ordinary snapshots.
The crises they call to mind help keep Donald Trump in perspective. America might have ceased to be at many points in our history. But we didn’t. We have survived every threat and gone on to become a more civilized people.
Trump is president of a country that has long been rising from the morass of nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia and environmental degradation. He can slow that process, but he can’t stop it. We have numerous serious problems, but we’re working on them, and we’re making progress.
Paul Willcott writes somewhat longer essays about once a month at www.geezerblockhead.com.