My three-week break from the smoking wreckage of 2016 is working pretty well. But I can’t escape the news altogether. Reality has a habit of intruding!
I’m writing in an airport café, during an unexpected layover. Tonight we (hopefully) fly to join the other half of our family in Prague, for Christmas. Yes, we used to live there, but that’s what makes it the perfect place for us to spend what will probably be our last Christmas in Europe.
Except we don’t really know that it will be our last! That is just one of the uncertainties in our lives right now. We’re occupying the space between, but we are not alone.
Now that the electoral college has certified the results of our circus of an election, over half my country is also in this space: waiting to see what happens next. The news just keeps getting worse with each cabinet appointment. Sure looks like we are well on the way to becoming an inept kleptocracy at best. With the latest news, that Trump is keeping his own private security detail as president, we may already have entered banana republic territory. ¡Viva el caudillo!
One of best things about this interval in Italy is that I haven’t been asked about Trump even once. Of course they are less concerned about our politics than the Poles, not being right on the Russian border. But, I haven’t seen Trump’s ugly mug on even one single Italian newspaper. Looming TVs in public places aren’t a thing here. (I have only seen one TV in this entire airport terminal!) Italians have better things to do than obsess over American news. They are busy enjoying being Italian. And, as someone pointed out to my daughter, “we have <insert expressive Italian shrug> Berlusconi.”
I may have to adopt this Italian approach. While I keep my news consumption to a minimum—mostly All Things Considered and the Washington Post—I am wondering if even that may be more than I really need to know.
Constant disgust is not a good place to be, mentally speaking.
There have always been assholes like Trump, in business, in politics, and in life. Assholes happen. What’s disgusts me is that so many Americans either can’t see, or don’t care that he’s a bigoted, sexist, narcissist. They actually think he is some kind of savior. There is probably nothing to be done about that. You can’t fix stupid. But it’s hard to be disgusted with your own country.
I know, many people all over the world live with this every day. But cut me some slack, I’m still getting used to it.
I have to hand it to the Trumpies, though, at least they are unified, in a scary, mindless sort of way. Among the majority of the country that didn’t vote for Trump, circular firing squads are forming. Women are arguing about who has the right to be offended by the January 21 march on Washington. Pantsuit Nation has become a questionable money-making scheme for its founder. Sanders supporters are busy dumping on Clinton—like that does any good at this point. Clinton voters are dumping on Stein voters for siphoning away the votes that could have made the difference in several states. OK, they may actually have a point, but why fight that battle now?
Can’t we all just agree that the Trump administration is the problem we ALL have to deal with from now on?
Meanwhile, elected Democrats seem to be cowed in defeat. I know that Obama has an obligation to conduct a peaceful transition. I realize he’s got to be at least as bummed out as anyone. But where is the principled stand against Trump that we saw before the election? Trump hasn’t changed his stripes–if anything they have become clearer. We already knew who he was, and now we know who he is appointing to run the country. The time to “give him a chance,” if it ever existed, is over. The time for resistance and damage control has already begun. Obama can play a crucial role in that effort, if he is willing to do so. I sure hope that he is. Along with other leading Democrats.
Sine the Democratic party has been gutted and demoralized nationally, the best chance for minimizing the damage on a legislative level is probably for experienced politicians in the Republican party to knock some sense into Trump. In theory, they should at least have the long-term interests of their own party in mind. Some of the smart ones even consider the welfare of the country, in their own way. I was very pleased to see McCain and Graham, two politicians that I can at least respect, if not usually agree with, taking a stand on Russian interference in the election. Too bad they didn’t pipe up a few weeks earlier, but when it comes to the GOP, you take what you can get.
I think we have to hope that, at some point, the few remaining smart, reasonable, responsible Republicans will discover their moral/ethical limits. It’s not looking good, and it hasn’t for a long time. But it’s not impossible either. The Republican party is really two different parties in a coalition right now: the Grand Old Party and the reactionary, racist, monster that most recently known as the Tea Party. Political coalitions can break down, after all.
Closer to home, I know that many in the Foreign Service are debating whether it is better to try and minimize the damage from within the organization, or to get as far away from this train wreck as possible. I truly believe there are merits to both arguments. Here’s a piece on the subject written by an FSO for Foreign Policy magazine that makes some very good points in favor of staying.
Nevertheless, I am sure that leaving was the right choice for both of us. I know that we are lucky in that the decision has been made easier for us by the FSO being eligible for retirement. That FS pension may not be a gold mine, but it’s a good to know it’s there in a pinch. Ten or fifteen years ago, and especially with school-age children, it would not have been as simple. At this point, we have no idea where we’ll end up, or when. But so far, at least from my perspective, job-hunting has been no more difficult than any given bidding cycle—and it’s definitely less frustrating.
It’s not going to be an easy four years for anyone. To those of you who have decided to stay and keep the lights on, I salute you. I really do.
Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2017!
With love, from this space in between.