I've been reading excerpts from Michelle Obama's memoir, 'Becoming' and have been struck by just how painful the election of Donald Trump was to her. The feelings she describes bring back my own distressing memories of November 2016, particularly my visit to the White House just days after the election result.
Here's what I wrote back then:
There are photos around the White House of President Obama with his family, foreign leaders, and every day Americans. As we toured the West Wing, viewed the Oval Office and went outside to the Rose Garden, it struck me just how dignified Obama is, and what respect he has brought to the White House. The thought of Donald Trump and his family moving in and not only dismantling the work Obama has done, but bringing his trademark garishness and willful ignorance to a place where Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy resided was perhaps the most appalling realization I had on the tour.
Michelle Obama it seems, felt the exact same way. Here are some of the excerpts published in the Guardian from her book 'Becoming' on the election of the man that would dismantle everything her husband had built:
On the realization that Trump was going to win the election:
“There was no alarm in his [Barack's] voice, just a tiny seed of awareness, a hot ember glowing suddenly in the grass. The phone buzzed again. My heart started to tick faster … I watched my husband’s face closely, not sure I was ready to hear what he was going to say. Whatever it was, it didn’t look good. I felt something leaden take hold in my stomach just then, my anxiety hardening into dread.”
On Americans choosing a misogynist to lead them:
“I just wish more people had turned out to vote. And I will always wonder about what led so many women, in particular, to reject an exceptionally qualified female candidate and instead choose a misogynist as their president. But the result was now ours to live with.”
On Trump moving into the White House:
“The vibrant diversity of the two previous inaugurations was gone, replaced by what felt like a dispiriting uniformity, the kind of overwhelmingly white and male tableau I’d encountered so many times in my life – especially in the more privileged spaces, the various corridors of power I’d somehow found my way into since leaving my childhood home. What I knew from working in professional environments … is that sameness breeds more sameness, until you make a thoughtful effort to counteract it...
“Someone from Barack’s administration might have said that the optics there were bad – that what the public saw didn’t reflect the president’s reality or ideals. But in this case, maybe it did. Realizing it, I made my own optic adjustment: I stopped even trying to smile.”
On wondering where the "bottom might be":
“I continue to be put off by the nastiness – the tribal segregation of red and blue, this idea that we’re supposed to choose one side and stick to it, unable to listen and compromise, or sometimes even to be civil. I do believe that at its best, politics can be a means for positive change, but this arena is just not for me.
“It’s been hard to watch as carefully built, compassionate policies have been rolled back, as we’ve alienated some of our closest allies and left vulnerable members of our society exposed and dehumanized. I sometimes wonder where the bottom might be.”
There are times when I wonder why I continue covering US politics and the Trump administration. It is depressing, exhausting, and often completely devoid of hope. But when I read Michelle Obama's comments, I remember why. She and her husband spent their lives trying to build a better society, and while you may not agree with all of Obama's policies (I didn't), they battled every day to preserve the democratic institutions that make America a great country. They fought to make the lives of poor people and minorities better, and now have to watch a conman set about destroying it all.
Democracies die when no one is willing to fight, and that is the least we can do here at the Banter. The war against Trump isn't partisan bickering. It isn't about Left vs Right, Republican vs Democrat, or Hillary vs Trump. It is about fighting to preserve reality and truth. Black is not white, up is not down, and Trump did not have the biggest inauguration in American history. He does not get to make up facts, attack the news for reporting the truth, and vilify most vulnerable people on earth. He does not have "tremendous respect for women" and is not the "least racist" president ever.
As my late colleague Chez Pazienza wrote in the aftermath of Trump's inauguration, "He [Trump] lies about things big and small, important and pointless, because he's constitutionally incapable of telling the truth."
"We've seen so many examples of this for so long now that we're in serious danger of just coming to accept it. But we damn well shouldn't. We shouldn't accept even a tiny lie from him, certainly not anymore."
Michelle Obama's book appears to be, at least in part, an attempt to reassert the truth -- the truth of her and her husband's legacy, and the truth of what Trump is doing to it. The excerpts released thus far are already angering the president -- a priceless endorsement that speaks volumes about her version of events.
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