I ran into an old friend at Home Depot yesterday. We haven’t seen each other for over a year. The very first thing she said, after the greetings: “I hate Trump.” Her face transformed into an astringent mask, disgust turning down the edges, fury welling in her eyes.
The very same thing happened two weeks ago at a planned reunion. This time, an acquaintance blurted out her disgust, and the room was enlivened with hatred. The shared repugnance acted like a contact high, the handshake of a sorority. Only one person was mute: my dear friend of decades, who is dying of dementia. Two years ago, before her disease progressed, we swam laps together at the indoor pool of an Episcopal church. We watched the news. Exploded with rage at Bernie and then Trump. She fretted about the election, and I assured her, promised her that Hillary would win. Now, she sits in her wheelchair and laughs at the air.
Those near spontaneous outbursts are akin to clearing your throat of overnight phlegm. It must be done before proceeding with the day – or the conversation or the gathering. We are united in hate – my peace-loving, animal-bonded, vegan, feminist, politically astute friends. We outlived Reagan and Nixon. We witnessed the ridiculous defeat of Gore from our Florida bungalows, and cheered the inauguration of Obama. We have been through a lot. A lot. And now, we have this buffoon, this cheap, cheating ass of a human installed in the Oval Office, plotting in his short-circuited, vengeful way to destroy all that is good, all that we fought for and celebrated.
This visceral intensity, this sharp hate is a disease of the spirit. It both excites and enervates us. It pervades every cell, waiting to be expelled in some form. It cannot reside within us. That level of hate would destroy us. So we share it. The forms of sharing are evolving..
First, we utter it out loud, yelling at the TV or live stream or tweet. We share it with friends, family, neighbors. We deepen the expression in writing. We badger Congress. Sign petitions. We march. Carry our signs. Scream and chant and echo mantras. What happens when the hate needs another form of expression?
I have discovered that I am not alone in wishing for his permanent demise. We – my friends and I – see different means to that end. A chicken bone lodged in his throat, the whiff of Novachuk, a poisoned dart, a single bullet.
Often now, I ponder those totalitarian societies ruled by tyrants and I wonder: how do they do it? Are they infused with hate, do they plot schemes, dream of freedom, dread the morrow? What keeps them going? How are they united?
I have no answers for any of this. I only know that we are nearing a precipice, that the level of rage is matched with a sense of impotence.
But I keep hoping. Because we are not that dictatorship. We have only the failed pulp of a man, spinning in his demented web, his slurry of propaganda, propped up by his weak comrades-in-arms.
Our hate is not his hate. He hates absolutely. Darkly, in the pit of megalomania. We hate for what we love.