Hope vs Nope
Recently, I received a message from a reader chastising me for making negative remarks about Donald Trump. “Now you know,” he wrote, “how the rest of us felt under eight years of Obama.”
I don’t generally discuss politics. It’s a tiresome undertaking at the best of times, and a thoroughly exhausting one at the worst. Particularly in our currently widely-divided country. However, this “now you know how the rest of us felt” response is one I see and hear a lot, and I think it’s worth addressing.
To put it as simply as possible: No, I do not know how people who disliked living in an America where Barack Obama was president felt. I know plenty of people who did not like Barack Obama, or who disagreed with some, most, or even all of his policies. I myself had numerous issues with his decisions. Don’t even get me started on that Nobel.
What I did not have, however, was fear. I did not fear that my president had a total and utter disregard for the people he had been elected to serve. I did not fear that his decisions were based on personal whims and capricious, childish responses to criticism. I did not fear that he was spending more time tweeting insults at his detractors than he was listening to the voices of people who desperately needed their government to listen to them.
I’m sure there were people who hated living in an America represented by Barack Obama. In fact, I know there were because I live in a part of the country where their fear manifested itself (and continues to manifest itself) in bumper stickers that say things like WORST PRESIDENT EVER and A VILLAGE IN KENYA IS MISSING ITS IDIOT. During the 2016 election, my county was a sea of Trump signs. So, yes, I get it. A lot of people didn’t like Obama.
The thing is, and I am absolutely certain of this, they disliked him for far different reasons than the ones that make me dislike Trump. They disliked living in Obama’s America because he threatened their perceived position at the top of the food chain (even if they didn’t recognize or acknowledge that position). He represented people who did not look like them achieving positions of power. Suddenly, the people they were okay with when they weren’t a threat were a threat. Their fear wasn’t that Obama was going to ruin the country. Not really. Their fear was that the country was going to change in ways that made them have to share power and resources with people who did not look like them or think like they did.
That is not why I dislike Donald Trump. I dislike Donald Trump because he normalizes sociopathy. He has a very clear disdain and disregard for anyone who is not like him, and probably even for people who are like him but are not literally him. He is concerned with one person and one person only. Himself. He has made responding to social criticism with taunts and threats not only acceptable, but laudable. He has made dismissing the very valid concerns of people who see their government doing nothing to help them the default response, rather than the exception. He has made an art out of getting his supporters to keep moving the line of what is too far farther and farther out.
Under Barack Obama, despite disagreements with some of his policies, there was the feeling that we were moving forward. We were addressing things like healthcare with steps that, while flawed, at least attempted to make things better for a lot of us. We had a leader who was widely-respected by the rest of the world. We had a leader who gave people who had never seen someone who looked like them the belief that America truly was a place where you could achieve your dreams.
Under Donald Trump, we have a leader who does not lead. We have a leader who represents a very small minority of the population while somehow managing to convince a larger percentage that he cares about them when in reality he is using them to maintain the position of wealth and power he and a handful of other people who look like him enjoy at our expense. We have a leader whose greatest accomplishment is leading a daily parade in celebration of incompetence, greed, and egoism. Donald Trump is not just a failure as a leader, he is a failure as a human being.
So, no, dear reader. I do not know how you felt living under Obama for eight years. Because if you truly feared that he was going to lead the country to ruin, you were absolutely not paying attention. And if you think that Trump is our best chance of continuing, or regaining, an upward trajectory, of moving forward one tiny step at a time to become a country where “greatness” is a reality and not an election year buzzword, then you are still not paying attention. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford’s most recent novel, Lily, is a Tiptree Award long list title and is a finalist for the Lambda Literary award and the Shirley Jackson Award. More Michael Thomas Ford