Power and Grace

I am grateful that Beloved Leader has been impeached. I’m sick and tired of watching him and the GOP decide if I’m worthy of life.

This is me, at a support group on Monday, after the mediator opened it with, “Please list three things you are grateful for.” Normally, I’m all for team spirit and playing nice, but I hate the insincerity and subtle-cruelties-disguised-as-charity that surround the holiday season (this is not a good time of the year to be single and sterile in your 30s)(if you doubt that, watch any Christmas Special from the mind-set of, “I can not biologically have children, and I’m romantically unattached” — it’s horrible). So I subvert expectations. I’m rather like Heath Ledger’s Joker in that sense — all I do is just shift things slightly, and watch everyone freak out. Everyone needs a hobby, and since chaos follows me like a shadow, I might as well lean into it.

After a brief discussion, another survivor casually mentioned that I should be a little more careful who I express that sentiment around. She’s a wonderful person, and, likely, trying to make sure I’m not the victim of some weird lynch mob. I pointed out that if people can not be kind, generous, and gracious with all the wealth, power, and advantages in the world — in short, when it costs them nothing — there is absolutely nothing I can say that’s going to make them say, “Oh, maybe he’s alright” when the chips are really down.

I’m bringing this up because it has been a really long week in Lake Wobegon. And, on the Internet, The Donald’s supporters are somewhere between “free fall” and “spontaneous human combustion” in terms of displayed emotional volatility. Fortunately, cancer survival equips one to deal with extremes (if it doesn’t, well, just wait). But it did get me thinking about that line (I apologize for not directly sourcing it; I’m tired and paraphrasing and I don’t want to spend hours on search engines) that, “The worst part about Donald Trump isn’t what he showed us about America or politics. It’s what he showed us about our friends and family.”

Right now, all of The Donald’s supporters are either slowly backing away as he pardons war criminals and makes almost-legal campaign contributions to senate reelection committees, or doubling down on the rhetoric. They’re not gracious winners. They’re not sporting losers, either, to say the least. On Planet Cancer, the weirdest aspect of existence is that you tend to see people at their very best. Or their very worst; you don’t really see people who are just having a slightly bad Wednesday and want to get home. That’s on display in politics, because we’re seeing people doubling down on pettiness, or quietly accepting that they might have made a mistake.

The commonality in both stances is fear. Fear that either you were wrong and will be held accountable, or that you were wrong and that might come back to haunt you if you stay the course. I’ve written before about how most of The Donald’s supporters seem to be entirely or somewhat bigoted, and, on some level, seem aware that they’re invoking the Golden Rule, and want to avoid it. I’ve seen weird calls for forgiveness from some folks — I say it’s weird, because these are never, ever accompanied by good-faith concessions or negotiations, just a request for a moral “get out of jail free” card. To be fair, I’m not going to claim that holding grudges is healthy, but, at the same time, as someone who has literally lived his entire adult life with the boot heel of politics and private insurance at his throat, when that same group suddenly starts saying, “Stop, you’re hurting us,” my first impulse isn’t to stop struggling.

When people see the end coming — if that’s the end of life, the party, your career, whatever — they tend to overreact in ways that you can’t really predict. There’s a reason why most hunters caution against approaching a wounded wild animal, even if it’s clearly going to bleed out in a few minutes. In this case, white, cis-heteronormative, able-bodied men sensed that their wealth, power, and status in society might decline ever-so-much, so they lashed out and invited neoNazis into the Republican Party. That’s not the part that bugs me — I mean, it’s certainly disturbing and scary, but that’s not what sticks in my mind like a bad cover of an Elvis Presley song. No; it’s that, in 10-ish years of legislative power and three years of executive power, old white men haven’t really done all that much. They have significantly enriched themselves — in the short term — and they’ve slightly increased their shelf life, but, really; they’ve spent most of that time brutalizing, lynching, and angering “minorities,” who now make up a majority of this country. And now that the legislative balance is due; instead of taking a page from DeKlerk’s book and negotiating better terms and building goodwill amongst the opposition; they seem hell-bent on wiping out the opposition with their last breath (we’ll call this “The Strangelove Gambit”).

It is, at this point, that I feel I need to address the American Lie; the flip side of the American Dream. The American Lie — and, to be fair, I bought into it at one point in my life — is the illusion that, at some point, you will be so commercially/socially/artistically successful that you will be impervious to the repercussions of interpersonal politics or social blunders. I am not going to suggest that we kill everyone who’s not nominated for “employee of the month,” but I would say that we are a pack species. There is no amount of money and power in the world that’s going to provide you the minerals required to make a plow, the smithing knowledge necessary to forge that tool, the fields to sow, the seeds, and all the hands required to harvest it. Or, if you want to go a little more low-tech; I have some serious doubts that you can make an arrowhead, fashion a spear and spear-thrower, and then hunt an Irish Elk down on your lonesome. You are, of course, free to test me on that hypothesis; I do await your results with baited breath.

To bring all of this back to my wheelhouse; all cancer survivors are horribly, crucially aware that survival of any sort is a team effort, and you do need someone, somewhere along the way, putting in hour or two of unpaid overtime on your behalf. The weird, suicidal current thinking of this administration seems to be that they can get that sort of competence and commitment if they pardon enough war criminals. No, I’m not going to let that slide until we stop pardoning war criminals. Also, until we dismantle the child concentration camps along the border, until my immigrant friends no longer have to worry about their mothers being deported on a whim, my cancer friends no longer have to lie constantly to maintain their insurance eligibility, and neither me nor the other cripples have to worry about getting married because we’d lose our disability benefits.

To all of my friends who are now crowing that this changes nothing, that you will rule the Reich for a thousand years (hey, I wasn’t the one who invited Stephen Fucking Miller to be an adviser), I really do wish you the best of luck. I pray you will never develop feelings for a black person (or, God forbid, an Hispanic one); I hope you will never find your pension fund stolen by deregulated bankers; I hope you will never get a call from your physician at nine in the evening; I hope all of your children are straight, white, and male; I hope every single gamble pays off all the time. Because that’s what will be required for you to survive The Donald.



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Patrick Koske-McBride

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”