DEATH BY EXHAUSTION
The last lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men read: “This is the way the world will end, not with a bang but a whimper.”
I would like to expand on that and suggest that our collective whimper might be from exhaustion. Since November, when Donald Trump unexpectedly won the electoral college, and therefore the presidency, the feeling among the majority of Americans was shock, fear, and a gnawing sense of foreboding. How could this possibly turn out okay? Several people said to me, “What’s going to happen to us?” It actually felt like dozens of people were saying that to me, because the echo of those words in my own head played on a loop and wouldn’t let up.
Since then, we have been barraged with one crisis after another. Airports turned into mob scenes as travelers with perfectly legal visas were held for hours or worse — sent away. Sean Spicer’s first press conference which could have been a scene out of Mommy Dearest; all he was missing were the wire coat hangers. A Saturday morning tweet storm by Trump accusing President Obama of wiretapping his phones. The on-going emergence of evidence that there may indeed be a cozy relationship between the Trump camp and Russia, whether it’s Paul Manafort, or the grinning court jester Carter Page, or Jared Kushner, or Trump himself. Trump’s bellicose and inflammatory language toward the press. Of course, the crises escalated lately with the firing of James Comey, and now they’ve reached a crescendo with news that the acting president didn’t know what he should and shouldn’t say to the Russians, and so divulged top secret information.
I speak for most, if not all, Americans when I say, WE ARE EXHAUSTED! We can barely make it through a week, or even a few days, without more chaos or another crisis coming out of the White House. We have, at the top level of government, a president who is addicted to crisis. If there isn’t one handy, he will create one. And we have a majority of Republicans in Congress who are behaving like eunuchs on opioids.
It’s like being locked in a movie theater where an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is playing endlessly and we can’t get out. At some point, all the gunfire and explosions will start to look normal. And that’s the real danger — if we get so worn down by the man-child who can’t exist in a crisis-free zone, we might no longer have the energy to resist and all those T-shirts and signs that say RESIST will just be reminders of what we once thought we’d do.
When James Comey was fired, Jeffrey Toobin repeated many times that what is going with this administration is not normal. It’s not normal to be addicted to conflict and crisis. It’s not normal to lie, another thing this president is addicted to. Remember in The Wizard of Oz, how Dorothy kept repeating, There’s no place like home? We need, as Americans, to tell ourselves that. Home is not supposed to be a constant state of crisis and a swamp of dishonesty and subterfuge. Home is where we’re supposed to feel safe from storms. Refugees have wanted to come to America because they saw it as the home they longed for. We need to remember that when we feel too tired to speak up. We need to remember that the Statue of Liberty says on it, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Sometimes those words apply to those of us who are already here.