It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog. I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again. But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally. Not a great year to ignore. The most important reason for not blogging?
Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend. He has become one of those closest to me. In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations. Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.
The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity. I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety. I stopped writing. This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again. He was very supportive.
I am an oaf. The older I get the more clumsy I become. Some people become physically inept. I’ve become mentally less agile. Tripping over myself when I get excited. Wading through molasses when I get tired. Writing this blog every day kept me alert.
There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree. He’s not at all like a British red squirrel. He’s more like a stoat. He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging. He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him. When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch. His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.
The Little Dog is getting old. He sleeps more. His soft jowl is grey. He has fatty lumps forming on his chest. He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude. He must be 12-year-old. Maybe. I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.
I don’t have a TV. It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle. Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date. The second screen. Bloody hell. I’m addicted to that thing. I’ve tried hard to not look. Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it. Shocking. My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.
Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie. They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do. We went for long walks. Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president? He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion. My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly. Crazy Dennis Kucinich. They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him. A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right. President Trump was inevitable.
There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year. It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency. “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said. They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.
They think I am an angry white man.
Trump won the primary. The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.
I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion. How could I be so sure? “Do you have a degree in political science?” I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously. “No, I listen.” I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber. I sit with AA people. Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage. They love Trump.”
The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed. The double-digit Clinton lead. The hyperbole. In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.
On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared. Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy. They did not care about pussy grabbing. Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.” They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism. The language Trump used… they could understand. I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.
My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility. They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.
Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump. My nice white friends scoffed. “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.
“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.” I replied.
Consternation at the dinner table. “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said. “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others. The choice was obvious: It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s. Revolution was what the people craved.
Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination. They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him. Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.
The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation. Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams. They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men. Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative. A black president honoring the trans community… I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting. They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.
Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny. It was a catastrophic decision. Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber. The same hall of whispers I am privy to. They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown. I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump. Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion. I was listening to my AA friends. I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.
The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton. The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy. The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.
I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’ gay pool party. The hosts and guests were short, buff and white. In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time. The short white host saw me out. I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me. “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.” I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.
The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests. They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own. They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream. Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion. The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause. They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.
Where was the change they could believe in? Where was the change we could all believe in?
In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY. There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap. She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping. Her face wet with tears. The conductor asked if she was ok. She railed against Trump. The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her. Trump supporters. She sobbed inconsolably. The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him. They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.
Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.
In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016. My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU. Leave won the popular vote. Hate crimes became a daily occurrence. I felt sad and shocked. England shrank before my eyes. The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision. Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.
All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.
Ori posted a picture on Instagram. A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election. 10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating. ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’ He blocked me. Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem.
In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua. The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right. But what of it? Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks, they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton. Their fury is palpable. Their distress acute.
We wait for January 20th.