This morning I woke to the headline that the Trumps have Covid.
Many thoughts raced through my mind at once. This is big news. But a memory from my youth surfaced. I remembered a newspaper column that I read in 1971, when I was 15, by Art Hoppe. He wrote this:
The radio this morning said the Allied invasion of Laos had bogged down. Without thinking, I nodded and said, “Good.”
And having said it, I realized the bitter truth: Now I root against my own country.
It was strange to have an almost 50 year old memory pop up at this time, but it made sense.
From the time I could read, perusing the San Francisco Chronicle was a regular morning activity, with the rest of my family. Briefly scanning the front page, avoiding the green sports section, the paper strewn out over the round white formica kitchen table we vied for the various sections to read the comics, entertainment, and the columnists, Herb Caen and Art Hoppe. Their often amusing and heartfelt morning columns filled my head with new thoughts and ideas. They were old (over the hill in our parlance then, but younger than we are now) and more conservative than I, but they were very real, and wrote in a way that a 15 year girl could mostly understand. I saved that column for a long while, and now here it was back to haunt me.
I saw today’s headline and had to fight the urge to wish ill of the president of our country. A part of me wished that he not just be soundly trounced in the election next month, but that he slip away before that. I savored the irony that he could lose out to a disease that he has denied, and that he discouraged others from taking seriously. I wished for revenge for the many who have died through his policies, or lack thereof. And later as I read the endless internet, I found that I was not alone.
I don’t blame anyone for experiencing these feelings. But I don’t recognize this in myself, and I’m embarrassed and depressed by it. It makes me feel more like him and like all those people who think like him.
Divisiveness has permeated every corner of the country. We have grown ugly to each other, unable to have civil conversations, factions more polarized, conversations dicier. Just this week I had an interaction with a friend I only see a few times a year, who I don’t know well, but is a sweet person, and fun to be around. But when he complained that his Facebook page was too full of empty neurotic hysterical posts booming into an echo chamber, some of us took umbrage, and wrote responses about the need to stand up to white supremacy, racism, sexism, and the President’s garden variety hatred. I went so far as to tell him to check his privilege. At that he felt wounded and deleted my comment, and now I am at odds with someone I cared about.
Who’s at fault? Who’s right? It doesn’t matter. I am too quick to anger, too prone to tears, trigger happy and ready to hate, scorn, and yes, wish ill to those who ascribe to viewpoints I see as harmful to people, to our nation, and the world at large.
When did I become this person? My strong left leaning ways have always taken me far outside a central conciliatory line. But it seems that my good manners and sense of decency have taken a hit as well, and I look forward to that changing, a time which I can only hope is around the corner.
Just after the last election, four years seemed an interminable amount of time to wait. Now just a few more months feels equally drawn out and painful.
During the Vietnam War many of us did root against our country, wanting the always swinging pendulum of politics to flip the other way, and protect the lives of people across the sea and at home. We wanted to be a nation we could be proud to belong to.
Perhaps I am in fact rooting for my country – to rescue itself, to thrive, to transform itself into something better than what we’ve been, having learned painful lessons during these past four years, and lessons from our deeply flawed national history.
I would like the president to survive. I am rooting for our system to go to work and make him face the legal, financial, and moral consequences of his heinous mis-deeds, consequences that he has never faced in his life for any of his long history of reckless, selfish behavior. I am rooting for him to be voted out in a landslide, a mandate for a better world. I can root for this without a shred of shame.
Thanks again Mr. Hoppe, you live on.