Full disclosure: I am in one terrible mood. It is the day after Thanksgiving, and, ironically, I am feeling bereft of positivity. You see, my remaining family (father is deceased) is absolutley obsessed with vaccines. The sun rises and sets with what the State of California is or is not doing, what the Internet is abuzz about, what the crisis du jour is vis-a-vis mandated childhood vaccinations. This is horrible enough, especially in light of the fact that it reflects my childhood/family issues so hauntingly and uncannily precisely. However, it is just part of my angst. The backdrop for my family dysfunction, its anxiety, and its mental illness writ large is the fact that I fear that the ship of this Republic is steaming headlong toward an iceberg. Much of what I seem to do, think, or hope about, according to this metaphor, is akin to simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as it were.
I’m in a bit of a low point in life, in certain ways. I admit, however, that I am bouyed by the fact that at long-last my wife ended her career as a paralegal working in very challenging conditions, and we have decided to move from Summerville, South Carolina to Hendersonville, North Carolina. Do I absolutely love the South? Do I feel a deep kinship with the place? No, this is not the case. But moving to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a step in the right direction.
Beyond that hopeful but very challenging process of selling one house and buying another and moving and all that, I am quite estranged from my living family members. I have about as far back as I can remember been estranged from more distant relatives; it’s a byproduct of the dysfunction and mental illness that plagues my (former) nuclear family. My father brought his fair share of tumult and ugliness to the family he formed with my mother in 1970, but now he is dead, and that both exonerates him to some degree, and leaves me more alone (in the negative sense of the word). My mother and sister have virtually ostracized me because I do not share their view of vaccines; they think I am a self-concerned fool and I think they are dealing with a subtle case of the obsessive-compulsive personality. There are no checking doorknobs or repetitively hand-washing, but there is a rigorous and endless hyper-focus on anxiety-producing stimuli and attempts to make sense out of that dire and relentless concentration on the dark and foreboding things they see all around them. I wish they would just have the courage to pack up and head out of California to wherever will allow them to claim that my nieces and nephews must be unvaccinated against all manner of childhood disease without prosecuting them for child endangerment.
I also was abandoned by my best friend about 18 months ago. It is a sad and ignominious end to a long and mutually-treasured friendship. He just seems to have changed. This is very melancholy for me.
It has more than a little bit to do with the Trumpification of America; he is a Border Patrol big-wig, and he has chosen to follow orders. I don’t know if that is because his paycheck is important beyond all else, or he gains a necessary form of life stability from working that same absurd job under Donald Trump, Commander in Chief. But the day I saw him post on Facebook a picture shaking hands with that moral misfit, I knew he was compltely stuck in an occupational prison and was not in fact trying to escape. I would have to count on all my hands and feet how many friends I have lost over the years. It stings anew each time. I think Derek’s betrayal was the most significant loss of friendship, however.
As I said, the Trumpification of America. Now, I get that many wise commentators — and more than a few Democratic contenders for President in 2020 — note that Trump’s ability to ascend to the highest office in the land through a process of demagoguery, chicanery, cheating, mud-slinging, subterfuge, skullduggery, and dishonor is more of an effect than a cause. That is, like a virus, Trump was able to make this country a stage on which he performs his childhood dysfunction, mental illness, and unique brand of reality television only because America’s immune system was compromised, as it were. If the United States lived up to its promise, it would have honored Harriet Tubman as hero, not tried to have her enslaved or killed; if the United States lived up to its promise, it would be much more of a democracy and much less of an oligarchy; and yes, if America lived up to its promise, it would have defended itself much earlier and much more effectively against a would-be autocrat such as The Donald.
Every day is a new level of absurd now. Truth is not truth, as Guiliani said (literally, he did). The media is not just soulless and solely focused on advertiser dollars, it lies all the time in an attempt to bring a good man like Trump down. The Deep State won’t rest until Trump is cleared of wrongdoing and allowed to suck the blood of this country unimpeded. The liberals and independents are elite baby-killers who want to destroy this country by their selflishness and inane values. Every day is a new level of absurd now. George Orwell must be turning over in his grave.
I use the phrase rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to refer to the fact that both when I reflect on my family and think about this country, I see melancholy, absurdity, and dysfunction. In both spheres, the inability to solve solvable problems is one of the most salient descriptors of the illness involved. My family can’t get past blaming one another for causing the others pain or for failing to observe proper values such as love, loyalty, and tolerance. And this country can’t get past infighting, partisanship, and vitriol.
In both cases, it seems like try as we might to attempt to make desperately-needed changes — be it in my family’s blame, anger, and anxiety, or in the country’s ability to curb global warming, get big money out of politics, or prevent the wholesale subversion of proper values by the almightly dollar — the ability to turn this ship from its course headed right toward a huge iceberg is inadequate. I feel like in much of my own life, and when I reflect on my country, what I and we seem to be doing is for naught; we are not changing course toward safer waters, we are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
We steam ever-forward toward our doom if we do not make changes and find solutions to our deep problems, my family and America, both. Ω