My wife phoned me while I was out walking the dogs. CNN had just called it.
Here's where I was a few minutes after the news came in, halfway up Bray Head, having just come out of the woods (felicitous phrase): a beautiful bright evening, mild for the season, grey-blue dusk, the sunset lingering with a last, lipsticky trace on the Wicklow Mountains. As good a place as any to feel that weight being lifted and a measure of sanity restored.
I have never been so obsessed with American politics, never felt so crestfallen by the election of a foreign president.
America doesn't feel foreign, of course, not if you're Irish. There are all kinds of tubers and roots, mycelia and hyphae, running under the Atlantic pond, to emerge as both the best and the worst of us in that enormous field, a country too big for its boots, with, at any given moment, a tornado or ice-storm in one corner and blazing sunshine and sea-level rise in another.
I've never been comfortable with the myopic idealisation of America. The Land of the Free? H'm.
But Trump, ah, Trump! He is something else entirely, largely because he is so obviously nothing, the perfect embodiment of a vacuum, a great hole, a blowhard whose tireless boasting and self-aggrandisement should (and would, I think) disgust or bore to distraction most of his supporters and enablers, if he hadn't become a glassy, glossy celebrity and household name, a 'star' in his own words (remember 'when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything...'?). I was taken aback when Reagan got in, and I marched with half a million or so in Dublin against GWB's tragically ill-advised war. Mailer called GWB 'a man who has never been embarrassed by himself.' What would he make of Trump, a creature who is not only unembarrassed but so utterly cocooned in his brass-necked bubble that he consistently 'says the quiet part out loud', to project and klaxon-whistle his cold-bloodedly autocratic ambitions, an endless, long-division sum by someone who has never learned to add.
The mystery isn't Trump, a person who clearly is what he isn't, a trump card, though he's just as flat and two-dimensional: the perfect expression of our very worst tendencies. The mystery is that all this was so spelt-out, so foretold: The Central Park 5, the 'birther' bullshit, and further back, the nakedly transparent attempts at self-promotion, all those wannabe decades... New Yorkers knew Trump for what he was: the kind of salesman who, if he knocked on your door and shook your hand, you'd count your fingers afterwards. Yet people voted for him. People adored him, and, lest we forget, still do. We look at Trump and see the picture of Dorian Gray that was hidden in the attic, the ripe corpse of the man, the living dead come down into the limelight, proclaiming himself for what he is. Others see... what? The mouthpiece of all their grievances? Their daemon, their own guardian monster? Whatever he tells 'like it is' is so clearly fake that this must be part of the attraction: the permission to lie to oneself, to wallow, to believe all the awfulness in your life can be exorcised by building a 'big, beautiful wall', because clearly it's the fault of Mexico, or Iran, or China or, for that matter, Europe... But, that over 70 million apparently buy this stuff?!
Never mind. Put that aside, for now. The monster is still out there, or in there, and far from lame. But the damage he can do is probably limited, judging form its effects so far: the demos to 'stop the vote' (or 'keep counting the vote in Arizona') were sporadic, damp squibs. There is plenty of time to cause more serious harm of course, and I don't doubt Trump and his minions will try. He will continue to whip up as much fury and pain as possible, to make American feel as aggrieved and cheated as possible, and take no more responsibility for this dangerous rhetoric than he took for his abdication during the onset of the pandemic: the buck always magically stopped elsewhere. Maybe he'll even take to pardoning himself. But from now on he's a monster in parenthesis, bracketed, a one-term POTUS, a 'sucker' who has sucked himself dry. For now, it is time to exhale. Hell, its' time to cheer, honk horns, celebrate! Americans, I feel for you!
I've already posted this little poem on FB, but here it is again, once more. Published in the Survival anthology, part of the 'Poets Speak' series edited by Jules Nyquist and John Roche. It wasn't written specifically about Trump, but part of a series on imaginary animals (as opposed to the kind of creature Trump is: a piece of badly written fiction that should never have made it past the first draft). But I think it suits the occasion as perfectly as anything I can manage.
is the animal that whistle-climbs
out of our lungs, our chest,
our shoulders, and all the rest
to stand shivering its invisible limbs
deliciously, allowing us see through
what we survived into:
our shadow’s shadow
taking one breath, then another, now –––
- Apple iPhone 7 Plus