Too Shocked To React


I wonder how many of you find yourselves filled with a sense of impending doom. Or with a profound but diffuse anxiety, like a balloon filling up ever more tightly in your chest. I wonder how many of you walk around waiting for that balloon to burst.

I feel these things every single day.

I blame Donald Trump.

Why? What’s going on? I have some thoughts.

Maybe our reaction is simply one of stunned disbelief. Maybe its the reaction of the sane and reasonable in the face of insane and unreasonable actions.

I remember once when my kids were very young, I took them to our local mall to pick up some new shoes. There was another Mom there, with her two kids. They were acting up, and the Mom was clearly frazzled. I remember that at first I was sympathetic, but then she suddenly turned on the two little boys. She started to scream and swear at them. As the kids began to yell back, she suddenly flicked out a hand and slapped one boy across the face.

Everyone around went into immediate shock. We all made quiet protest sounds, “Jeez,” and “Oh, no!”  But nobody yelled at the woman, nobody grabbed those crying children. No one called the cops. No one spoke or took a breath. We avoided each others’ eyes.

After a few more seconds, the angry woman grabbed her boys by the arms and marched out of the mall, still cursing, but no longer violent.

I remember that I stood there in complete disbelief. This is simply NOT how people in my world behave. This is not how we respond to cranky children.

I was stunned.

My family finished our shopping, and drove home. I don’t remember what I said to my children.

But I remember the feeling of failure that stayed with me for weeks. I remember feeling enraged, helpless, frustrated with myself for my inaction. I remember the feeling of having swallowed a balloon filled with rage, and being unable to push it away or empty it.

Why had I done NOTHING?

After talking with my husband, I realized that the woman’s horrific actions had just completely stumped me.  I think that when someone behaves in a completely shocking and unexpected way, we revert to our most polite, appropriate selves. Maybe we’re trying to show the culprit that THIS is the correct behavior. Maybe we fear that we’ll sink down to the same low level, and we can’t let ourselves go there.

Or maybe the whole situation is so completely surreal that we have no idea of how to respond. We witness something so unbelievable that we can’t force our brains to accept it.

Is that what’s happening with the Trump administration?

Are we all just getting too shocked to react?

What we are hearing and seeing is so completely abnormal that we simply stand there.

First the President tells a straight out lie. It’s an obvious lie, easily disproven. He lies about crowd size, about immigration numbers, even about his own previous statements.

Lots of his lies are only aimed at making him look better to the world at large.

“A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”

No he wasn’t. And that was easy to prove, since Time keeps records.

People call him out, point out the lie.

Trump and Fox and that whole group immediately repeats the lie a hundred times. It starts to sound like it might possibly be true. I mean, come on, would an entire White Staff and a whole news station keep telling the same lie? We start to doubt ourselves.

But people in public and the media call it out again. “That’s a lie!”

Trump and Co. respond by screaming about bias, liberal dishonesty. They stay on the attack.

We are stumped. Stupified.

The next day it happens again.

And again.

Today we heard the President of the US wistfully stating that he wishes “my people” would sit up for him like they do for President Kim of North Korea.

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Because we have studied history, we know how awful a thought this is. We are astonished. We don’t know if the man is delusional, dictatorial, stupid or all three. We hardly know how to react.

The media points out how completely wrong, undemocratic and dangerous the comment is. The Trumpers immediately yell about media bias, call the critics “haters” and fall back on “It was a joke.”

Trump is winning, just like that horrible woman won when she smacked her child with no repercussions. He is winning because every time he says, “witch hunt”, “Crooked Hillary” or “fake news”, we are swept by a feeling of “why bother?”

I wake up in the morning. I check the news, look at the latest Twitter rants. I see Trump blaming the Democrats for his abuse of children at the Southern border. I see him trying to tie FBI mistakes to the Mueller probe. I read the words “witch hunt” and I want to scream about the number of witches who have been indicted or jailed already.

Then I do nothing. I don’t write. I don’t call my representatives. I am helpless. My stomach fills with that same helpless rage and I want to cry.

I hate this situation. This is the country that my grandparents embraced in immigration. It’s the country my father defended in World Word II.

Now it has been reduced to “You’re a liar!” “No, you are!” “Nuh, uh! You lie!” “You do!”

We can’t win an argument like this. There is no sense to it. There is no reason. Logic has no role, nor do facts.

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4 thoughts on “Too Shocked To React

  1. This situation with asylum seekers at the border being detained and their children being taken away has me more concerned than almost anything else this administration has pulled in the past year. I feel enraged and yet helpless too—which just adds to the rage. The worst of it is that so many Americans agree with Sessions on this cruel policy, and blame the people for bringing their children with them. I actually got into a debate with an online stranger this morning about it because he was saying that the “illegals” were crossing the border with their children on purpose—that they knew their children “would be taken good care of by our govt.” What? So ridiculous. He also tried to justify the tent cities Trump wants to set up for thousands of children, saying they were not ideal but “better than homeless tents under the freeways”. Ugh. My question is if they must detain people, why not keep the families together? Why be so cruel and traumatize children who have just fled a horrible situation in their own countries?

    Like

  2. ‘This American Life’ had a two part series about immigration in a small town in Alabama. I recently listened to the podcast. I believe the episodes were called ‘Our Town’.
    It was interesting, especially about the cost of immigrants in our country.
    We’ve got to get back to humanitarianism.

    Like

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