From now until at least the midterm elections in November, we’ll be featuring essays from powerful cultural voices alongside one simple thing, chosen by the author, that you can do to take action against the paralyzing apoplexy of the daily news. Maybe it’ll be an organization that deserves your donation; maybe it’ll be an issue that deserves greater awareness. Whatever it is, our aim is to remind you, and ourselves, of the big and small things we can do to work toward justice and change.
by Sloane Crosley
I commit to take action because we cannot sit back and wait for the current government to expel Donald Trump.
Lately, I have found myself thinking about Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things, the famous radio and television show that ran for decades. The cutoff to be a guest on Kids Say the Darndest Things was eight years old. Which means that, not long ago, our culture agreed that eight years old is the point at which ignorance stops being cute. Before eight, unqualified authority, circuitous logic, and denial of science are downright adorable.
I have firsthand proof of this in the form of Gwyneth Rogers, the meanest ten-year-old in my fifth-grade class. Even at the tender age of ten, we knew that Gwyneth was a blatant fabulist, an espouser of boneheaded ideas which she imbued with authority. We were big kids now and we had all silently agreed she was ridiculous. Gwyneth posited that Miss America could never get married because she was married to the country, much the way a nun is married to God. She insisted toothpaste made better hand lotion than hand lotion. She said her dad was a Russian spy, which is not the kind of thing the daughter of a Russian spy goes around saying. In history class, she didn’t know that the prince was the king’s son. Rather, she had her own theory that these were unrelated and appointed positions, and that was that. She had it on good authority.
One day, she approached me in class as we were settling in. She had a two-dollar bill folded in her hand.
“Do you have any idea how much this is worth?” she asked, a mischievous glint in her eye.
Part of her tone was rhetorical, minted with the suggestion that she had something of obvious value. And part of it was straightforward — like, do I know the answer or what? I told her I had no idea how much it was worth and encouraged her to ask someone else. I didn’t like her. I wanted to expose her as an idiot and a liar. But to let someone else do it.
I watched as Gwyneth sauntered from desk to desk, asking other children if they knew how much the bill was worth. I was amazed by what I saw. With her particular brand of ignorance and confidence, she gaslit everyone. Each person overheard her asking the person before her, saw the shrug of a classmate. By the end of class, a new truth had emerged. Gwyneth had us all believing that a two-dollar bill was worth at least one hundred dollars, probably more. People fawned over her in the hall, listening to her stories about how she had obtained the bill by cracking the combination to the secret safe her dad kept in their family’s library. I had been to a birthday party at her house. She didn’t have a library. It didn’t matter.
Of course, you see where I’m going with this. Trump is Gwyneth. He lacks humility, wisdom, and intelligence. In place of those attributes, he is manipulative, impulsive, petty, and insecure. He is seventy-two, sixty-four years too old to be denying science and spouting fictions, according to the Kids Say the Darndest Things model. He is often called unpresidential, but this is a comical understatement. I am unpresidential. Chances are, you are unpresidential. Trump is unfit to hold any level of public office in any democratic nation on this planet.
I could have stopped Gwyneth and said, “Two dollars, and I think you know that,” but I figured someone else would take care of it. I figured the system would naturally reject Gwyneth Rogers. Let the kid at the next desk handle it. Now, would my speaking up that day have stopped her from going to an Ivy League school and securing a high-paying job? Probably not. But this isn’t just about the Gwyneth Rogerses of the world. It’s also about the rest of us.
We cannot wait for the system to naturally expel Donald Trump. Every time we think we have seen the worst, the most egregious language, the hastiest and most bigoted piece of legislation, we think surely this will be it. It’s un-American! The powers that be will not tolerate it this time! But what I did not understand in fifth grade, and what I understand now, is that I am the powers that be. We all are. And so I write the letters and make the calls, I support my friends running for office, I march and volunteer and raise money. This is not always gratifying. Frankly, it feels futile most of the time. It’s hard to know if I’m making any difference at all. But it’s far better than knowing for certain that I’m not. We are a young country, that’s true, but we were born too old for this.
Take action today:
Sign the petition to impeach Donald Trump.
Sloane Crosley is the author of four books including, most recently, the essay collection Look Alive Out There.