Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
Having left an unexemplary political and cultural situation back home in Egypt, it’s distressing to now be based in Donald Trump’s America. This is why, on the eve of Trump’s impeachment vote, I was heartened to see massive protests throughout the United States. Typically, the Sower-of-Chaos in the White House gloated on Twitter, alternately pretending to be oblivious to and downplaying the sentiment of mass dissent.
In an act of calculated provocation, I posted the following comment on his Facebook page, attempting to hold up a mirror to the incorrigible bully and his unfathomable followers:
“This is impressive, America and nationwide… Thank you & keep it up; ‘The power of the people is greater than the people in power.’ Hundreds of events across all 50 states (despite frigid weather) calling for Donald J. Trump’s impeachment. Over 200K in attendance and growing, chanting: ‘Nobody is above the law, Donald Trump must go.’”
I admit I seriously underestimated the level of vitriol that I would receive, which kept me up all night as poison darts streamed in. Below is a peek at the bigotry party taking place at his virtual space:
“You should stick to your own party. You have NO place in ours. Better yet go back where ever you come from with your name obviously you have family or comrades somewhere far far away.”
“Your nothing more than a demon idiot! Another demon we allowed into OUR country. Go back where u belong.”
And, for dark comic relief, this sick joker kept going on and on and on:
“I need the Red & White Checkered Tablecloth I loaned you, please take it off your head and return it.”
“I’m sure your hometown is great (if you hate porcelain toilets and you prefer squatting over a hole.)”
“the Middle East is Fantastic (if you hate Progress.)”
Throughout, I did my best not to take the bait and bit my tongue, knowing that to trade insults would be facile and futile.
Incidentally, I never said in my posts that I was either an immigrant or a Muslim; those who savaged me online simply assumed it based on my name and profile picture. Somehow that helped take the sting out of their malice. This was impersonal, I told myself. They don’t even know me.
The fear and loathing are real and ugly — anyone who still maintains that Trump does not traffic in xenophobia and Islamophobia is willfully blind and/or complicit. The protests following the murder of George Floyd reminded me of the volatile despair that sparked our Arab Spring and Egyptian Revolution. This is Trump’s America and enough is too much. If re-elected, he will continue to lead by his corrupt example, emboldened and emboldening our basest instincts.
So I posted once more, the following day, on Trump’s Facebook page, notifying his trolls of my intention to write about this unfortunate experience.
“I have saved all of your ugly responses as evidence of the fear and hate of immigrants and Muslims that Trump attracts & promotes. Yes, I am an American citizen and deeply saddened by how low this president and his blind followers are willing to go.”
Strange to say that although I felt mostly detached reading more vicious responses — inoculated by the first round, this fresh batch of nastiness seemed absurdly comic — I marveled at how quickly the discussion devolved into name-calling of the worst sort.
Meditating further on how Trump is a symptom of a deep sickness in the divided states of America and the collective state of our sad, mad, and wounded world, I realize that, for better or worse, we are profoundly interconnected — as COVID-19 has clearly underlined.
Despite Trump’s appalling response to this pandemic, “We the People” realize we cannot shirk our collective responsibility. So here I was in the US, over a decade later, still continuing to deal with a similar mess to the one that I had attempted to flee in Egypt: deep social injustice, erosion of civil liberties, and corrupt leadership.
Trump must go and not merely for political reasons. His cynicism, narcissism, and viciousness debase the national conversation, harming us spiritually, morally, and ethically. We deserve to live better than this.
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Yahia Lababidi, Arab-American, is the author of nine books of poetry and prose; most recently, the collection of essays and conversations, Revolutions of the Heart (Wipf and Stock, 2020). Lababidi’s forthcoming book of poems and aphorisms is Learning to Pray (Kelsay Books), and he is the author of Speaking American.