I make a poor representative for the Women’s March on Washington, which I plan to attend this weekend going by bus with my husband and a bunch of other folks. Though I am a woman, almost 66 years old, and I understand the particular enmity Trump has aroused in women, my ire has not been adequately kindled by his boorishness. Saturday morning, as I worked at the coffee shop my husband and I own in Utica NY, I commented on the cute 2-cornered pink knitted cap a friend was wearing; she explained its a Pussy Hat, and lots of women will be wearing them at the demonstration. It sounded like fun; I began to catch a hint of the flavor of the March. Out of touch as I am, watching no mainstream news, reading mainstream media hardly at all, not participating in social media, I often feel as if I exist inside a kind of a deaf zone; a near-perfect silence that underscores my uncomfortable feeling of irrelevance. What’s more, living in Utica, far from the large enclaves of the hip, the educated and the progressive, and it being January, the silence deepens.
Even though our cafe is a regular site for whatever discussions and commentary may be happening in our local community, the “silence of the world” is rarely pierced, other than by the CounterPunch articles and Chris Hedges blogs my husband feeds me daily from his computer to mine, tuning in now and then to Democracy Now, and, since we were Jill Stein supporters in the last election, a Green party meeting now and then. I have heard this recurring reference to the “pussy comments” on that infamous tape that were in fact for a while considered to be sufficient to win Hillary the presidency. At the post-election demonstration that was held in our Oneida Square here, one young woman held a sign that said ”This pussy grabs back!” I wonder this: will using such comments on signs in demonstrations, or wearing 2-cornered pink caps, make Trump feel shamed or victorious. Everyone, millions of people, heard his, Donald’s, comments and are outraged by them! It is a perfect call and response, a perfect upholding of his celebrity and his importance in the media.
Meanwhile, I exist in this near-perfect bubble of silence. Back in the early 2000’s people were constantly emailing and forwarding witticisms and verbal attacks directed at George W Bush. Since I am on the Internet and do use email, I saw many of these. At the time, they seemed a form of silliness, like joining forces on the playground with fellow losers against the popular girls. They had nothing to do with political effectiveness, but just served to reassure individuals that others were “on the same page.” I distinctly feel myself, once again, not a part of the unified anti-Trump masses, who I presume are talking to each other about that, including on Facebook and Twitter, just as they did during the Bush years.
I do not get the sense they are talking about something interesting and energizing in a positive way, as in, what interesting things you are doing to build the alternative to not just Trump, but to the smiling, urbane polite neoliberal nightmare that nobody in Utica talks about except for my husband, myself, and a scattering of Greens and other marginalized “loonies.” Believe, me, even though I have been at the Cafe less frequently during the past 6 months when my husband was undergoing chemotherapy, I would know it if the dominant conversation had changed.
Does anyone think it is odd to focus all of that outrage on stupid locker-room comments, evidence of a distorted and de-contextualized sexuality, lacking any necessary connection to relationship, commitment or love, that has made a whole lot of people rather “creepy” in their behavior, including many women? I am thinking of the by now routine “hooking up,” and serial monogamy, the fact that pornography is the biggest selling Internet commodity, the fact that my sister-in-law is a type of sex worker called a dominatrix, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this “victimless” activity in a “free” society like ours! Which is my point; is everyone for real? Does anyone wonder about what behaviors, policies, conditions, are not getting this beautiful outrage directed at them, and which may be more pressing (and also, I maintain, related)?
For us women the field of possibilities here is quite vast. Early feminists talked about peace, social justice, caring for the planet. They talked about those values of caring and nurturing, traditionally ascribed to “the feminine” side in the division of labor, that should enjoy their deserved priority in the lives of our communities and our nation. In short, there are many urgencies to be addressed that have little-to-nothing to do with Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.
There seems to be no easy way to get people back to thinking about the world we want, and basing our politics and activism on those wants and dreams, rather than remaining focused so reverentially on the persons we want to win or we want to see lose. No wonder, I guess, with mainstream media focused on those faces, those celebrities, those personalities. These become what we talk about, think about, watch TV to learn more about, like an unfolding soap opera. Why is it we no longer understand politics to be exactly about our own wants and dreams? Have we been persuaded that we already are living the dream? Are so many of us well enough off that we just naturally are complacent, doing things – landing a career, starting a family, moving to Florida – for no greater reason than that we can, rather than giving more thought to what we deeply want?
I get it that people are afraid. I sure am, with climate change, ocean species dying off , air water land pollution, nuclear weapons, down-turning economy, militarization of police, and so on, all breathing down our necks! My thought, though, is this: the problem most people have is with wanting, in the first place, let alone wanting a world at peace and a clean environment. My suggestion would be that everyone slow down, let your soul catch up, and ask: what do I/would I love to do? What dream did I bypass in order to be realistic and get a career? What book has been calling to me to be picked up and read? Whatever the foolish idea is, for most people, it is not too late! It may be too late to be John Coltrane on that saxophone, but its not too late to be a musician. My further suggestion would be that you start committing yourself to that vision of your bliss, right away. Incremental is okay, as long as you’re serious (i.e., being brave). How can we think in terms of the world we desire when we are committed to crushing desire in ourselves? By so doing, we make the impossible truly impossible instead of just a supremely difficult challenge of soul-making and world-building.
How do I know I’m right? Because the entire focus on Trump, Obama (now spoken of as a hero) Hillary, Bernie, the charade of elections is evidence of an exaggerated belief in, or delusory need for persons and personalities, in images brought before us and propagated by means of electronic media. Its as if we cannot snap our fingers and break our mesmerized trance in relation to the media circus paraded before us. This centralized mainstream personality promotion – that Donald Trump just happens to be good at exploiting and ambitious enough to take advantage of – has drained the life out of our localities where we are limited to the ordinary and the face-to-face, just as the mass-advertised chain stores have killed our downtowns.
The media-magnified persons- celebrities – are not important. Our dreams and visions are what is important. We will continue to over value persons, the glamorous, the rich and famous, as long as we undervalue our own persons; this call is not to narcissism or grandiosity but to the imaginative faculty possessed by every human being, called the soul or the psyche. It is aimed at everyone, but especially at liberals who disparage anything hinting of “religion,” any idea not based firmly in the dogma of science-based rationalist thinking. By now, everyone can see that fundamentalist rationalism has brought us to a bad place that we will never get out of without challenging its tyranny directly. The Indian people protecting the water at Standing Rock, basing their action, their community and their marvelous agency on an irrational, spiritual basis, are now our non-heroic exemplars for resistance.
Kim C. Domenico, former minister and retired college instructor (adjunct), co-owner of Cafe Domenico in Utica, New York, administrator for The Other Side, a small not-for-profit dedicated to the arts and humanities.