The Grammys were Sunday night, Jan. 28. Didn’t watch it. From what I heard, Bruno Mars won everything. I think he’s good — but not that good.
The State of the Union address was Tuesday night, Jan. 30. Didn’t watch that either. Instead. my wife and I chose to watch an SNL rerun with Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump. That’s about as real as we both want to get with Trump right now.
In fact, since I’ve been back from the holidays and a two-week cruise vacation, I haven’t really watched a whole lot of things — my Facebook feed included. And it’s been refreshing to be disconnected when everyone is so interested in being connected — to their phones, to knowing other people’s life details (who ate what and with whom), as well as obsessed with posting their own details.
I tried to stay away from all things news- and social media-related for as long as I could. But today — Thursday, Feb. 1 — I learned that Donald Trump was again lying to the American people.
This time it was about how his State of the Union address had the highest ratings of all time. It was my first re-introduction into the reality that is our American life under Donald Trump — the same reality that I desperately tried to get away from when my wife and I took our long Caribbean vacation.
But when your reality is a circus, the clown show follows you everywhere. Even on a ship in the middle of the Caribbean, Trump’s shadow overpowered us once people learned we were from the United States.
I learned that Canadians hate him as much as we do (and they love talking about it); that Celebrity Cruises tends to lean a little more to the right (a fact we learned one night when an ex-Washington government security employee told us he was “glad to see us girls on this ship,” that it was “okay if we wanted to dance together,” and “Don’t let these people fool you, they’re all still Trumpers”).
In the end we just gave up and prayed that by the time we got back, Trump would be gone. Impeached. Something.
But he’s still here! As are all the problems he’s never going to fix. And I’m not ready to settle back into the reality that while ice caps are melting, Alaska is having 7.9 earthquakes, California is being issued tsunami warnings, and FEMA is cutting off Puerto Rico’s aide,Trump’s (still) doing nothing except screaming the loudest about how great he is. And that there are (still) people who listen to him, believe him and give him carte blanche to keep lying.
But the real tea is, I am one of the privileged because I can get away, even if only for a few weeks. Because there are people right this very moment who are forced to live out the real-life effects of his reality TV presidency — immigrants, DACA Dreamers, Puerto Rico residents, blacks, browns and everyone who is “othered.”
And their reality is harsher than mine. Than ours.
And that’s the thing about (voluntarily) leaving the States and seeing our country through other people’s eyes; it decenters you from the oversaturated American rhetoric of us, us, us vs. them, them, them. It detaches you from the American way of thinking that we are the center of the universe. It forces you beyond your own edges of cultural experiences, thinking and believing.
Kurt Vonnegut once said, “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
That sounds exactly where I — where we — need to be.