Photo by Michael Vadon / Composite by Chuck Haupt
Another Gathering Storm?
The Trump Era in American Politics
The following are comments, poems, images and essays from Ragazine staff members and readers in reaction to the election of Donald Trump to be America’s next president. Comments from staff members were in response to an invitation to voice their thoughts and/or concerns, while the comments from readers were unsolicited and happened to coincide with the idea to do a Themed Post.
— Mike Foldes, Founder/Managing Editor
“TRUMP” IS A WAY OF THINKING
TRUMP IS A WAY OF THINKING
by Chloé Cela
my face needs make up right now
I have so little punch in me. There are the dishes, the trash
down the stairs stiff in the morning cold stirred up by the bully
and back into the warmth with the rest of the mess.
unruly is my rule
as Jimbo won’t let me forget: “you believe chaos keeps you safe.”
(- chaos or endless distraction was my response
as a child to the bullies outside, anticipating threat endlessly
distracting myself from the sensations in my body.)
Q: what is Trump?
A: a way of thinking
the bully mind
trashing every yes
with a loud no
– and it lives in me,
the perfume of unwillingness (a cold, sweet sweat)
– rather than to wake up and smell the air
the peaches, the trees.
Trump is resistance
to what is.
we are never safe!
bring out your anti-vote now!
the establishment wrongly believes it’s the rule!
we need someone to save us from this mess!
Jimbo says: “every victim is also a bully.”
– but I don’t see myself as a bully…
“the one in your head,” he says. “The one that keeps you safe.”
(keeps you in line, hits you with a ruler when you take up too much space)
often I dream of those hot days in Mumbai when life wasn’t such a mess,
I was a cat crawling onto the couch, I should get a couch right now
to raise me an island, to rest this body collecting trash
while outside the streets fill with hunchbacks’ eyes on their shoes let anger rule.
Q: what are characteristics of this Trump mentality?
A: grandiosity and entitlement
at yoga, people are queuing outside, I cut
the line to read a notice saying Door opens
at 10.30, now standing
between a girl wrapped in winter jacket shawl, and
a man, people like statues eyes blinking, then a woman
in jogging outfit marches in front and rings
the bell rings with force and the door opens
the teacher’s tense face, “we don’t
have anyone at reception today, okay?”
…the great struggle we are called to!
we are not meant to live in shame
and weakness and disgrace!
we were not meant to beg for moral validation!
open the door for us!
America was a country designed for us
and it belongs to us!
Jimbo asked one of his friends: “why do you support Trump to rule?”
his friend responded: “my whole life I felt overlooked,” – and now the bully
will blow it all up. Will tear it all down. “My friend is trailer trash,”
Jimbo tells me, he robbed a bank without a gun and waited outside for the cops to keep him safe;
– white trash feel they’ve always been pushed aside (the victim is the bully is the victim),
(they hear something else than ‘the elite’ when they listen to Trump;)
give your allegiance right now
and I’ll bloody the noses of the people who hurt you
is the bully’s response to the mess.
Q: what’s the heart of this cultural disease uhm, I mean mentality, called Trump?
– the inability to connect.
basement. Keep her locked up.
“you have survived by avoiding,” Jimbo says.
the belief I don’t deserve,
until I’m so starved
I eat the whole cake.
watching my own entitlements is waking up to
the water I swim in;
the water of a 35-year old fish bloated with beliefs.
wake up to the water I’m swimming in
stupid stupid stupid
is the bully’s chorus in my head.
is the trash chorus calling out for more, for bigger.
I am hiding from the internal bully yet
I want the bully
to keep me in place make me do my homework.
Merriam Webster Dictionary: trump (verb)
: to play a trump card to beat (another card)
: to do better than (someone or something) in a contest, competition, etc.
: to be more important than (something)
cycling to the Bakery I cross
a woman; we both have to hit
the brakes not to bang
into each other, uhhg, she says.
not even looking into my eyes, her mouth
strangled in anger, ready to spit. Then finally
looks at me with disgust. All her
all my entitlements are right
there: get out
of my fucking way, now!
but she has her headphones on
it’s not worth my pain.
on social media:
Go get em!
Trump that bitch
fuck your feelings
your life doesn’t matter
Q: what is the price of a 2016 Fuck Your Feelings V-Neck T-Shirt?
my mind can trash
the day into a mess
enforcing the idea I am not safe
and letting an old authority rule.
but those shouts that turn me into a bully
are no longer hiding in the dark right now.
punch them in the face!
knock the crap out of them!
we need to build a wall!
and the greatest builder is me and I will build the greatest wall you have ever seen!
I have something that others don’t have!
I will be the only one to be able to it!
Q: scapegoat the victim and you get?
A: a bully
our culture coming out of denial Jimbo says
of social anxiety that expresses as anger, tension.
social fear is exposing, everywhere
– am I a useless piece of trash?
someone wonders on Yahoo.
Jimbo says it’s the same ego that makes me too loud
and too small
both move from shame.
Trump is a strong leader!
Trump Will Protect You. He Is the Only One Who Can.
Trump will make America great again.
the people elected a real man, a true man, a man who loves this country to the very bottom of his heart.
bigger better and stronger than ever before.
Q: how to break free?
not too big,
not too small,
when I become willing
a new possibility is established.
I don’t need to trash
my mind, control or bully
let’s make a playful mess,
About the poet:
Chloé Cela is a facilitator, translator and dialysis patient.
About the cartoonist:
Tom Deisboeck is a scientist turned entrepreneur who attended Technical University Medical School in Munich, Germany, and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a self-taught cartoon artist. His cartoons deal with political, financial, medical and (other) every day topics. He lives with his wife, son and dog in Wellesley, Massachusetts. For more info, visit: http://tom-deisboeck.squarespace.com/
by Brad Evans
Every mirror has been shattered
Within a kaleidoscope of liberated hate
This world of ours is dying
Of a broken heart and lost friends
Landscapes of intellectual devastation
Covered by shards of sorrowful dreams
Wounded by promises of hope
For a time, the future, never that was
We’re dying a pitiful death
Tragedy becomes us all
Casualties of organized forgetting
Mere captives, waiting to fall
New Tyrants with old messages
Occupy palaces in the skies
The seduction of the masses
No longer deceived, born of the lies
Sold into a solitary condition
Together, we seem alone
Cruel optimism, they called it
Chained to a suffocating embrace
Prophets of greatness now guide us
Leading into the polluted abyss
To witness the slaughter of Virgil
Weaponised ignorance sealing his fate
With hindsight it all seemed inevitable
Scripted by producers of despair
Another road to serfdom
Laughed at in a humorless tone
Collectivized by trauma
Fear consumes us all
Another whitewashing of history
Burning books takes many forms
Still yet we find reasons to dance
Despite the cold darkness of the caves
Shadows, now tender with fury
Cast alight with a poetic flame
Scientific Consensus: What’s that?
by John Smelcer, Ph.D
While I have much trepidation about a Trump presidency, my biggest concern is his total disregard for scientific consensus. Despite having no science education whatsoever, Trump derides Climate Change as a hoax and talks of pulling out of The Paris Agreement. Such an act could have dire ramifications, creating a domino effect of other nations pulling out as well. The world is at a tipping point. The emerging world wants what America has had since the 1950s. They want bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger televisions and malls and Cineplex’s—all of which require energy and materials to construct them.
In India, 700 million people—more than double the population of America—are without electricity…and they want it. But it takes energy to create electricity and carbon-emitting coal is their primary source. China is in a similar boat (although China embraces solar energy while America actively resists it, passing state legislation to stop its use in favor of the oil and gas industry). To me, the most dangerous thing about Trump is his willful ignorance. History may judge him as the single individual most responsible for bringing about the destruction of the planet and the deaths of billions of people.
OFF THE CUFF II
by Jim Palombo
Politics Editor, Ragazine
Well, I was wrong. Donald Trump made it to center stage. The people have spoken. But in receiving phone calls and emails as to reactions to what transpired I decided I needed to clarify a few things. As my previous article “Off the Cuff” indicated I did think Hillary would win, but by default more than anything else. In other words, I was not in favor of either candidate. My disfavor was primarily tied to the fact that neither candidate offered any legitimate support in terms of the public becoming better informed as to the ideological realities of our American experiment. In short I have not been wrong in saying that the U.S. is a capitalist system, nor in arguing that we have an ill-equipped public in terms of civic education considerations that will help us understand what being capitalist might mean, nor in suggesting that the presidential candidates offered little in terms of addressing this significant shortcoming. (For more on these points please visit the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry.)
I’ll also add that I made these points as strongly as one individual could to the Obama Administration when he took office almost a decade ago. In short, we needed then (as we do now) to get more people interested in political logic which in turn might have inspired more voter engagement/involvement and, most importantly, would have substantially mitigated the situation of our voting public relying so much on their emotions/opinions and immediate needs without understanding the larger-picture concerns. Given his own election struggles I was hoping Obama might help address the situation within his tenure. He did nothing to encourage educational leaders to look in this direction, educational leaders did nothing to encourage him (they tend to be a rather scared and incongruent herd of sheepcrats) and the Trump phenomenon is a direct result. (Interestingly Trump, who is himself a capitalist, has noted policies that speak to tinkering with that system for public good – can that be? It’s doubtful that he will give up much in terms of profit, but under his Machiavellian form of transparency – telling people what they want to hear, providing just a little in that regard, and ultimately doing what he wants to do – the ill-informed public will hardly notice.)
I should also note the “draining of the swamp” idea. This is certainly not a bad thought in terms of the mess that has developed in our nation’s capital over the past half-century. But it should be more than clear that Trump and his cronies (goodness what a cast of characters) may not be the best, most trustworthy arbiters of what and who should be flushed. And on a related note, keep your eye on the “good guy-bad guy” routine as the G brothers, Guiliani and Gingrich, can on occasion fulfill the former while Mr. President plays the later. And of course there are his own business/corporate interests, and the dealings with Putin and other foreign leaders, and….
I know that most non-Trump people are skeptical of him making any real changes to what he has already laid out. But perhaps over the next four years he might be persuaded to bend his ego, perhaps out of sense of becoming “one of the greatest leaders in U.S. history,” in the direction of really examining and then working toward public good. And in this context, perhaps, among other things, he will call for a national initiative in terms of bettering civic education so people can understand the nature of what they vote (and don’t vote) for. This notion certainly represents a long shot, but we have seen stranger things happen, no?
(It’s important to note that those who feel ill at ease with the outcome might want to turn their attention to themselves – ask themselves how much do they really know about liberal and conservative logic, how these views link to democracy, capitalism, and things like socialism and communism, and how principles like equality and freedom get actualized in the mix. I know that people generally get really angry when they are told they don’t know enough, and/or that they have to assume civic responsibility by looking in their own mirrors, but I also think that people can do this. And if so, they then can turn to the leaders in government, in education and even in the media to ask for help in providing better civic education. Clearly, we have nowhere to go but in this direction if we are to move forward with whomever might be or become president.)
by Carmen Firan
November 9, 2016. New York. An electoral map shows Manhattan almost entirely blue, meaning the overwhelming majority voted against Trump. New Yorkers were glued to their TVs until 3 in the morning, stunned by the turn of events. The city looked petrified the next day. Many did not go to work, asking for a sick day. People were walking with their heads down, in a deafening silence, avoiding eye-contact. The subway was deadly silent, filled with saddened faces, suddenly facing an uneasy present. Depression was in the air. Reminiscent of September 11, 2001. The city in agony. Therapy offices were busy, uncountable numbers of prescriptions were filled for sleeping pills, anti-anxiety and calming potions. The New Yorker published an article “An American Tragedy” accompanied by a somber photograph. A friend of mine told me he had a medical procedure done that day and witnessed all the medical personnel in a state of hysteria, couldn’t make sense of it all, couldn’t talk to anybody; doctors and nurses were schlepping around the clinic irritated and unwilling to discuss anything with anyone. That night the protests in front of Trump Tower started. And if, on September 11, Rudy Giuliani, then New York Mayor and a positive presence running around wearing a gas mask from one to another place struck by tragedy, the same Rudy Giuliani had now turned into a grotesque character raging into radical discourses. Some sort of mourning for the American spirit, always positive and welcoming, where the legendary ‘don’t worry, be happy’ sounded like a sad mockery.
After the November 8th election results, I vowed not to write anymore, stop giving interviews, not to turn on any news channel on TV, and most importantly, not to think anymore about the events marking Black Tuesday in America. I was sick for a week, not crying over Hillary, not at all, but over the free, tolerant and generous country, the dream of millions and millions of immigrants, who loved and honored it, over freedom of expression and the protectiveness we had, knowing we belonged inside this unique country. All these now seem to be negotiable values. Are those who dream of escaping terrorist regimes, war zones or poverty, now going to face walls, fences, expulsions? Muslims will be registered, just like Jews were listed back in the day . Will diplomacy go against an iron fist? Will the national economy and military treaties be canceled out, letting us slip into isolationism? International alliances and organizations built over tens of years following the Second World War, through the common effort and tenacity of nations around the world: will they now be cynically negotiated, balancing monetary profit against their absolute value, by a billionaire business man whose only expertise is in negotiating deals for casinos, buildings and golf resorts?
During the deplorable, on both sides, electoral campaign, international opinion didn’t spare ironies and maliciousness. ‘If this is happening in America, why should we be ashamed of what’s happening in our own back-yard…’ I heard in Romania. A German friend wrote to me after the elections: ‘Congratulations, you have finally elected an intellectual president!’ Another friend, from Sweden, ended his email message with ‘Heil Trump!’ For the first time since I arrived in America, I felt afraid – as I felt during the dictatorship in my native country – and I erased the message. A French philosopher visiting Columbia University told me ‘As a writer, you will not be bored during these next years, you are ‘schooled’ in a totalitarian regime, I think you can tell its first signs…’
I am not going to analyze why and how Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won. There was enough talk on the subject, exhaustive analyses by experts and dilettantes altogether, by clear-minded essayists and passionate partisans on either side. But it doesn’t matter anymore. Just like in soccer: the final result stays, no matter how many faults and penalty shots either team had. The game is over and the die have been thrown. No point to protest in the streets, open letters, lamentations or revolts. The final score stays. Trump is President.
For a week following that Black Tuesday, I encouraged myself. Perhaps it won’t be as bad as we think, perhaps after winning through separatist speeches, offending women, Mexicans, the handicapped and press alike, inflaming extremism and xenophobia, Trump will shift toward the center and use his power in a balanced and moderate fashion. Perhaps he is not, after all, a bad person; he was a democrat back in the day , he’s a New Yorker today, and, above all, he won’t make good on the horrors he campaigned on, will somehow become rational and place the country above his personal ego. I am quite good when it comes to self-suggestion. I tried to calm myself down and come out of the post-electoral marasmus , rationalizing that the Founding Fathers must have envisioned such a derailment in history and created constitutional, self- regulating frameworks which limit the individual’s decision making power, constructing a balance and control for the presidential prerogatives. Although the Congress will be Republican for the next two years, there are enough common sense, well-balanced people , regardless of their political color, who could stop and amend presidential decisions, if need be. I have also considered the fact that Pr esident Reagan, a former actor with limited political experience, ended-up being a revered president because he smartly chose his team and advisers. Perhaps Trump too, completely lacking political and diplomatic expertise, would have the wisdom to surround himself by wise, experienced people whom he would listen to. It is not the end of the world. America is strong and will survive this challenge.
After meeting with President Obama at the White House, President-elect Trump seemed overwhelmed by the gravity and enormous responsibility of the position he is about to take over. He seemed inclined to listen, to try and understand and react responsibly. Let’s give him a chance. I trust the institutions and the functionality of the system, I thought, and after spending a week in recluse, I mustered the courage to turn the TV on again, reconnecting on Facebook and emails: my positivism was blown away. First of all, I did not have a dream. The hope that I’d wake up one day and find out it had all been only a nightmare, vanished in thin air. Trump was indeed the president-elect. And indeed, he was behaving true to his campaign promises: a megalomaniac, narcissistic, person, only concerned with his personal ego.
I had vowed not to write about the post-electoral America trying to avoid unavoidable emotions and an involuntary pathetic tone. However, it has become more evident by the day that America will not be the same after November 8th 2016, and even less so after the official inauguration on January 20th, 2017.
For now, we have chaos in Trump’s transition team. Meetings with international leaders left in limbo, unsure when, where, or if they will take place. Europe is fretting. World treaties: in limbo. Frustrated generals, chosen for ideological reasons, dream big-scale revenge. Opportunists are coming to light . Trump’s former critics are now lining-up in New York hoping for a position on his team. Among them, Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz. The uncomfortable ones are pushed away, like Governor Chris Christie. Americans stayed away from voting for the Bush or Clinton dynasties, and will end-up with an entire Trump family, nicely photographed, shoulder-to-shoulder in their gilded chairs. An ice-wife, staring into space, sons fond of hunting tigers in Africa, his daughter and her husband, every single one is on the list for the transition team. This was called ‘nepotism’ in Romania, perhaps it will be called ‘trumpism’ in America. The family business ventures led by Trump will now be taken over by his children, who have already received immunity and access to secret documents : this is not only a huge conflict of interest, but also an abuse, inconceivable in the American politics we know. Everything is without precedent. Trump continues his fight against mass-media, which, in fact created him. He calls New York Times a ‘gang of communists’. If you are not with him, you are against him. Will whoever critiques him be silenced? Narcissists can not take critics. They are handsome, smart, exceptional in all ways; they must be loved, never make mistakes, and see themselves as just victims of those who don’t appreciate them enough. Narcissists are right every time, they win and defeat everyone in sight, they deserve it all with no hesitation, they don’t owe anyone anything and always need to have the last word.
Marie Le Pen celebrated the results of the American election with champagne and triumphant comments: “Europe is falling apart. Our world is being built.” It so happened, perhaps, not at all by chance, that presidents Erdogan and Orban were the first to congratulate Trump. Kremlin had a big party, with vodka, love declarations, and all, to celebrate an unforeseen collaboration with the new power in Washington. Reagan, wherever he may now be, was said to shiver in his grave. Winning the Cold War has become an irrelevant success . President Obama is taking his goodbye European tour, trying to save NATO from crumbling, and stressing the danger looming over the Eastern European countries, pointing to the right-wing, nationalist direction evident in many nations under the fascination of President Putin, who is now moving the last pawns on his chess table. Hard to believe that even in Romania the admiration for the Kremlin’s tzar is widespread in spite of the tragic, humiliating lessons from history. The world loves a winner. Will we soon call The United States “America the Great”, forcefully ‘bleached’ through the power of a reality show? What would the price be and what are the consequences?
My generation was lucky. We lived through the collapse of communism, we dreamed again, hoped and built again. I hope we won’t now pay for it all; I hope we will be shielded from major conflicts, wars or negligent acts with grave consequences for the planet and humanity.
After I came to America I relaxed and reformulated myself in this space. I even flirted with the idea that after the collapse of communism, I would witness yet another major event. It never ever occurred to me that somebody like Trump could become the leader of the free world. I thought the extraterrestrials might finally come down.
Editor’s note: The essay was published by Scrisul Romanesc magazine (Romanian Writing Magazine, www.scrisulromanesc.ro) and then republished by Literatura de Azi (Literature of Today, http://www.literaturadeazi.ro/ ) of course in Romanian.
About the author:
Carmen Firan, Romanian born, is a poet, a fiction and a play writer. She has published in her native country twenty books of poetry, novels, essays and short stories. Since 2000 she has been living in New York. Her writings appear in translation in many literary magazines and in various anthologies in France, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Canada, U K, and the USA. Her recent books and publications in the United States of America include: Rock and Dew, Sheep Meadow Press, The Second Life, (short stories) Columbia University Press, 2005, The Farce (a novel) Spuyten Duyvil, 2003, etc. She is a member of the editorial board of the international magazine Lettre Internationale, member of the PEN American Center and The Poetry Society of America. She translated from several American writers. She is the co-editor of Born in Utopia. An Anthology of Romanian Contemporary Poetry, Talisman Publishers, 2006; Naming the Nameless. An anthology of American Contemporary Poetry and Stranger at Home. Poetry with an Accent – An anthology of American Contemporary Poetry, Numina Press.
From a Canadian Friend
LETTER TO A BRAVE AMERICAN
Michael, er.. Mike
We’re sorry but we’re going to have to ask you not to come to Canada but to remain in America for the foreseeable future to fight the forces of evil.
Your country needs you!
I know that I’ve always said that, to stay alive, you must keep well away from war zones, but in this time of crisis we need smart, sinewy men and women to defend capitalism. Without you, there is no stock market. Without you, there is no Black Thursday, without you, there is no 44 billion dollar Air Force One. Without you, our emails will be in Russian.
Of course, if you are caught, we cannot, will not, acknowledge your existence, nor can we supply you with weapons to fight this immense, fright-wigged menace, but you will have our dying gratitude for saving Lady Liberty.
Be brave, hide in the cellar until you can attack, then show us what you’re made of.
Good luck, and mum’s the word.
CF Commander (name withheld)