Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σίβυλλα τί θέλεις; respondebat illa: ἀποθανεῖν θέλω.
I am a feminist, a patriot and a Howard Stern fan. These things might seem antithetical to one another but as a twenty-first century weirdo, cut me some slack. Allow me to flex some ex-post-factual nuance. My American ancestors shed blood to ensure this right and I consider it the Sixth Freedom implied by the First Amendment. It exists, an invisible extra finger attached to the mighty fist that forms the Five Freedoms. The current regime is now testing this fist, engaging it in an epic thumb war: (Exhibit A: Rudy Giuliani’s explanation of the travel ban. Exhibit B: President Bannon telling the press to, basically, cash him outside) and that his thumbs are so tiny (he could never hitchhike) gives me hope.
I reference Howard Stern because in these pineapple-upside-down-cake times, when north is south, blue is pink, and Putin is хорошо, Stern recently served as oracle. He somehow tolerates Trump’s friendship and about his pal’s bid for the presidency, Stern confessed, “I think it stared out as like a kinda cool, fun thing to do in order to get a couple more bucks our of NBC for The Apprentice. I actually do believe that.”
I believe it, too. Trump’s historically inefficient White House transition is partly symptomatic of this, his cadre never planned on winning, and now that they have, we must deal with the horrors of a made-for-TV autocracy.
Queer and feminist writers prophesied this turn. Lucy Corrin predicted the wall in One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses: “After the apocalypse, I see concrete. I can tell you a lot about concrete in developing countries. You add water to stretch it and that’s our downfall, a concrete downfall. I can’t say “developing” without irony. I can’t say “concrete.” Michelle Tea predicted the war on the press in Black Wave: “Don’t you ever fucking write about me! Andy hollered, and was gone.” Kate Durbin predicted the tawdriness, kleptocracy, and the there-is-no-thereishness of Trumpism in E! Entertainment: “The estate profits from a waterfall, streams, koi pond, and in-ground pool, all organically linked. There is a rock grotto and a tiered flagstone patio with a bar and a bathhouse made of natural stone. Modeled on prehistoric caves in France, the grotto’s glass ceiling is implanted with panels of prehistoric objects and insects rapt in amber. At the bottom of the pool are many bobby pins and shards of broken glass. In the pool filters are tangled balls of hair in stages of blonde. The bathhouse contains a shower that resembles a cave, ideal for a post-dip cleanse, or a native photo shoot. The sponges in the shower were once natural, living creatures.” E! largely describes interiors with nothing happening in them, focusing on minutiae. These descriptions deceive, promising to build towards something, some meaning, and eventually, the reader tires. The reader sees that the ruse is in plain sight. Only the set exists.
Now, the set has shifted. The White House is the set. The Situation Room is the set. The Kremlin is the set.
President Bannon, an ardent apocalypticist, might want to nestle these contributions to the dystopian canon on his bookshelf, between his dog-eared copy of The Fourth Turning and Sintesi di Dottrina della Razza.
As a writer, I’m obsessed with documenting how I feel. And also how you feel. And even how President Trump feels. Yes, he is president. As I write, we have three years, eleven months, seven days, three hours, and forty-eight minutes left of the Trump presidency. And in this sea of seconds, I’m confused. So many different voices, not all of them equally valid, keep telling me how I ought to feel. I have the Atlantic’s David Frum telling me to read Jonah Book 4 and heed pundits’ warnings of impending calamity. I have Masha Gessen telling me that I must remain outraged and that “[t]here will be more wars, abroad and at home.” I have Tom Nichols telling me, via his Washington Post op-ed, that I need to chill and not “overreact on…ordinary matters.” I’ve got Maxine Waters telling me that she’s going to lead Trump into impeachment. And I’ve watched as my Facebook feed devolves into a collective nervous breakdown over Betsy DeVos, whom, frankly, as an educator, I’m not losing sleep over. I’m losing sleep over political realism. I’m watching the postwar world order shift. I may be watching it crumble.
I’m also embarrassed.
I’m embarrassed by our country right now. I’m embarrassed when I hear about Trump’s disastrous phone calls with heads of state. I’m embarrassed when Kellyanne Conway urges the American people to buy Ivanka’s ugly clothes. I’m embarrased when I watch Trump assault Shinzo Abe with a handshake. I’m embarrassed by the white nationalism so many Americans seem perfectly comfortable with. I’m embarrassed and pissed at Republicans for the Faustian deal they’re making. I’m embarrassed by how my country must look to anyone or anything with intelligence.
The other day, as I was arguing with my roommate’s cat, a metaphor for my embarrassment, no, SHAME, dawned on.
America is now the hot girl with acne.
You know which girl I’m talking about. Everybody would feel super great when she’d be friends with them and she knew it and flaunted it and then, bam, she doesn’t want to pull her face out of her locker and when she does, half the school stares at her in schadenfreude. Now, losers that never had a chance are all up on her jock. The shadow of her former hotness is stil there but her blemishes, well, they demote her. Putin, however, wouldn’t mind taking her to the prom.