Since July I’ve had a writing practice that involves simply writing — about anything at all — for 5-minutes a day. The aim is to just write for 5-minutes, no more and no less. I’ve missed a few days here and there, but mostly I’ve done it.
And going back to read through the snippets is an interesting exercise. Because the writing is fast and not especially self-conscious, it gives me a different window on my life and my thinking than I usually give myself.
So, one thing I notice is how the themes of fear and anger have been a sinister underpinning to everything else that’s happened in my days. Starting in July, they’re a thread running through those brief, 5-minute snippets. And both have loomed larger and larger as the months have passed.
The daily outrages of Donald Trump, his administration, and his enablers in the GOP have been inescapable facts of life in the United States for far too long. Anger and disbelief have been dominant themes for me, since November of 2016. It’s been exhausting.
The fear has been a more recent development. It’s fear of COVID, fear of chaos, fear of violence, fear that ‘the centre cannot hold.’
Trump is despicable, destructive, and out of control. He incites his ‘followers’ to violence, and there’s no telling what may erupt in the coming days and weeks.
And yet, there are aspects of this entire experience that have felt like an unmasking. Yes, The Donald is grotesque. But what about us? What about the myth that is the USA?
The fear and anger I feel as I witness the havoc wreaked by Trump et al is a dim echo of things that people of color in the US have experienced in their everyday life for centuries. What kind of a snowflake am I, that I can’t take 4 years?
And it’s a dim echo of what people all around the world have felt. Fear as we throw our weight around and anger at the self-importance and self-righteousness that the USA sports like a badge of honor, everywhere it goes.
The ugly, unmasked face of American exceptionalism is MAGA.
So, since I mentioned the fear that the centre cannot hold, I’ve got to include Yeats’ beautiful poem. These days it feels like some beast is slouching toward Bethlehem. I just hope that we get to have a humble and redemptive hand in deciding what gets born.
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?