“What are the limits of the executive order?” and other questions I ask for no reason this morning, after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, a thing I have to just keep typing and typing until I believe it.

For the past three months, I have had a painful tightness in my left leg. Nothing has helped. (Or, at any rate, nothing I’ve had time to do has helped. I am not in a position to get a massage.) It’s made everyday tasks, such as bending at the waist to wash my daughter in the bathtub, or sitting on floor to play with her, excruciating. It is probably partially the result of getting older, of not being able to properly stretch or cool down on the few instances I make it to the gym, or on the days that I take bike rides. But the rest of it, the deep, un-fixable burning of it, is a different kind of pain. It’s one I know well. It comes from carrying around anxiety in my body, because as the mother of an extremely high-need child, I simply do not have the luxury of walking around feeling my feelings fully in the day-to-day. In most ways I am grateful for this. Not just my daughter’s inimitable, angelic presence, but her constant and insatiable demands and needs that mean that I do not have time to care about myself on most days.

But still. My coping mechanisms have been poor. For the past few months, I’ve been eating my feelings to a greater extent than I ever have: Chocolate croissants and breakfast burritos in the same meal; multiple daily visits to the cookie section of the store; pizza; crackers; chips; and bread, bread, bread. (And that’s just for breakfast last Monday!) But through it all I thought: On Nov. 9, this will all be over. You have already wasted so much anxiety. But soon it will be over.

Last night, as it became clear to me things were going to take the darkest possible turn, my husband and I turned off our devices, and huddled in our bed next to our sleeping daughter. I cycled between crying, mitigating my shocked rage (or enraged shock? I don’t yet know which it is), my terror, my fear at what is going to happen to many people I love and care for, what might even happen to me, my at-times all-consuming attempt not to regurgitate the special election-night pizza delivery I orchestrated. We tried to talk through our shock a bit. We tried our god damnedest to get some sleep, since high-need 21-month-olds are not generally known for letting you take the day off to mope in your pajamas. We largely failed.

I have, of course, so many questions. Some of them have answers, some don’t. Here are a few in no particular order.

What, if any, are the limits of the executive order? (Asking for no reason.)

Is this an instance where for once, it’s now liberals who become the great champions of states’s rights? Will states’ rights soon cease to be a dog whistle for “I want segregation” (since now we have no need for such dog whistles; such things can and will be said plainly and from the authority of the highest office in the land), and instead mean “please, miniature country-within-a-country in which I am fortunate to reside, do not instate the death penalty for insulting President Trump in a Tweet”? (Of course, I live in Missouri, so.)

Speaking of Missouri: Should we abort our plans to buy a nice new apartment down the street, a loft with 16-foot ceilings and beautiful light whose impending purchase has been the beacon of our lives for months, and the life inside which we have already charted out for ourselves and our daughter?

The thinking is: General fear about global markets cratering and possibly having to move somewhere else in a big hurry make us think: maybe we should keep our investments as liquid as possible. Specific thinking: We suspect the boom in our neighborhood due to the expansion of the hospital complex was thanks in large part to the ACA, and since the ACA is doomed, given that President Trump will gleefully orchestrate his two-chambered house of cowering toadies to repeal it, and then watch as millions of Americans lose their health insurance, get sick and die while he apparently re-invents the 19th-century manufacturing economy he promised them, even though he has literally owned hundreds of companies that manufacture shit for literal decades and has chosen not to manufacture that shit here—all right, Schuman, no. Step back.

I can’t get too deep into the questions because then it’s too much. My survival plan right now is minute to minute. Minute to minute. By tomorrow, perhaps I will have my shit together enough to live hour to hour. Day to day would be nice, someday. Month to month, maybe sometime in 2018. The best part about having a small child is that the days are endless Sisyphean monoliths but the years go by like fuck.

More questions: Will this be the beginning of the end of hyperbole politics, now that an actual living sentient hyperbole has become President of the United States? As an avowed hyperbolist, I claim my sordid part in this debacle. I had this blog already when W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 and I look back on that melodrama now and I want to laugh, but then I will just start to cry again, and then I will just start to rage at my Aunt and cousins in Wisconsin who voted for that motherfucker, and at anyone who did, and then I will chide myself for raging at them because it was their rage that did this, and you can’t separate the content from the rage itself and think you’re on the side of right, and that brings me back to my original query: Will this be the beginning of the end of saying, We have just elected the worst U.S. president in human history? I said that about W. Then the Republicans said that about President Obama. (Sweet, wonderful Barack Obama. My heart aches so badly for him today I cannot even begin to let myself feel it completely, or I will be swallowed in despair.) These words now mean nothing. We have the actual real thing, and the words mean nothing. So we have to come up with new words to describe what is happening and explain it to each other and our kids, and they can’t be apocalyptic or catastrophic anymore, because, to paraphrase Nietzsche, we used that currency so much we wore the faces off the coins, and now they don’t stand for anything.

More questions, perhaps the biggest question: Does this mean that the office of the President of the United States will necessarily need to become very, very small? (Not literally; obviously the Oval Office will be expanded to the entire West Wing and plated in gold, at our expense.) When a petty, tiny man who cares only about himself and his petty, tiny grievances occupy that office, the office itself must necessarily shrink. It is now a joke, and so all there is to do is laugh. (Except if you’re Muslim, or Mexican-American, or a woman, or—no. Minute by minute. Minute by minute.)

What are we going to do now?

How are we going to get through this?

What am I going to tell my daughter when she’s old enough to understand?

How will I ever be able to feel better again?

For now, here is what I am doing. I am sitting on the floor, with my legs out in front of me, leaning forward, rolling my ankles around, wincing at the continuing pull and burn of my tendons and muscles, leaning toward my feet, trying to reach them, trying to work out the agony myself, little by little by little.

11 thoughts on ““What are the limits of the executive order?” and other questions I ask for no reason this morning, after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, a thing I have to just keep typing and typing until I believe it.

  1. It’s time to move to a better state. We’ve now got a Trumpist governor, so there’s no limit on what idiocy can get passed. And not just big dumb stuff, like school budgets and private prisons and extra super duper gun rights. It’s going to be little dumb stuff, like eliminating transit money and bike lanes. Life is going to get awful. I’m deciding among Chicago, New York, Boston, and Portland. Which I know is just moving yet another blue vote to a state that doesn’t need it, but what can you do?


    • the problem is that my Trump-state-school-employed husband is the only person in our household who earns a steady income (my book stuff is great, but it only comes once a year, spread out over 3 years!), and now without the ACA we have no hope of getting health insurance without his job. We’re stuck here.


  2. I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. But, I’m going through my history and deleting everything I’ve said that could be insulting or defamatory or libelous to the President-Elect. Honestly, for myself, I’d be willing to leave it up and risk going down in a firestorm of litigation and criminal charges, but my wife is Jewish, and I now live in a country where that’s a real thing that I have to be concerned about.

    God help us. God forgive us.


  3. That was one of the best blogs of yours that I have read, Bekz. Really, really good. Donald Trump is one of the reasons I have strong libertarian leanings. As more and more power has been conceded to Washington, sooner or later that power will land in the hands of a man like Trump. Diffused power is the only protection. I also thought your comments about hyperbole were right on target. It *is* laughable that people characterized George W, McCain, and Romney as the second coming of Hitler himself…so when a *real* threat comes on stage, noises about facism sound like more calls of “Wolf!” that just go unheeded.


  4. “Please don’t be a dick, though.” I just re-read that admonition of yours. It reminded me of why you probably muted me on Twitter a couple of years ago! 🙂


  5. Dear Rebecca
    I feel so sorry for you. And as.I try to grasp coldly what is coming, I do not.want to lose hope. They may say whatever they want: this rage is not what we are made for – even though the skies are just as dark now as everybody says they are. And they may say whatever they want but America, the america.that holds the craziest of oppositions, the deepest of wounds, the beautiest of songs, that caleidopian world will never fit the empty, sullen frame that has emerged last night. Suerte. (I listen to Till Ungdommen)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is what Angela Merkel had to say: “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”


    Liked by 1 person

  7. You weren’t wrong about GWB II. The Iraq fiasco was the worst foreign policy blunder in many decades, cost hundreds of thousands of lives, further destabilized an already unstable part of the world, and wasted trillions of dollars.

    I don’t think you’re wrong about DJT either. We’re Germanists. We’ve seen this before. The elites who think they can control the fear-mongering populist. We know how that worked out. There will be disasters. We just don’t know what kind, or when, or how they will affect us personally.

    I and my family are dependent on the ACA. I don’t know what happens next.


  8. Thank you for articulating the absolute fear and desperation so many of us are feeling. Bush II v. Kerry was the first election I was able to vote in and I remember waking up the morning after with a sense of dread and fear that things were going to get worse which, of course, was confirmed. But this morning I woke up with a feeling of despair so profound it almost feels like nothing as we face perhaps the worst political moment I’ve ever seen in this country, but political not simply in the narrow sense of our particular political system. I think it might be like Lauren Berlant writes, that “at some crisis times like this one, politics is defined by a collectively held sense that a glitch has appeared in the reproduction of life”. I wonder if glitch is strong enough a descriptor. The worst hasn’t even happened.


  9. I feel literally sick. Somehow I have to explain this to not only my kids (who I was trying to raise to be proud of their Americanness), but to everyone around me who just doesn’t.get. Americans today. I don’t get them, either! My academic instinct is to try to explain the structural and historical factors going on, but I just can’t even muster up the mental fortitude to do that today. I try to remain hopeful, but it feels so difficult. I completely agree with you that hyperbole just isn’t doing this thing that happened any justice. Big hugs to you and your family and everyone in the US who is worried right now and everyone in the world who is worried right now.


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