I live in a working-class neighborhood in East Portland - which means that this time of year, in early summer, as I sit on my living room couch in the late afternoon, I hear children playing, crows cackling and several times a day, the chiming of ice cream trucks and sometimes the far-off whine of a non-street legal motorized bicycle – probably operated by a man in his late forties who has just has had his driver’s license revoked.
I like my neighborhood. It reminds me of growing up Montavilla, a couple blocks from Mt. Tabor park. There are a lot of families here and some poverty as well.
These are the longest days of the year – just before and after the summer solstice. I have been suffering from dehydration due to a recent heat wave, some of the roses in our yard have wilted in the heat, I have just wrapped up my west coast book tour, and yes, Donald Trump is still president.
The Republican government that now runs our country is trying to strip 23 million Americans of their health insurance. Studies estimate that over twenty thousand citizens will die because of this injustice each year. Fifty six percent of Americans want a single payer system. They oppose the repeal of Obamacare because they know we need the AHCA, as imperfect as it may be. But they also feel that the current system is insufficient and inefficient.
And on the other hand, some Republican lawmakers are opposed to the current repeal bill because they do not feel it goes far enough, it is not conservative enough. They feel fundamentally that the government should not be involved in healthcare at all.
The best analogy to our current national debate over healthcare that I can come up with, is the road system in our country. It’s hard to talk to someone about creating a massive, low or no-cost road system if they feel that we shouldn’t have one at all, that each road should be a toll road, that private entities should own each segment and charge whatever they want, that the government should have no hand in taxing its citizens to create a huge, well-connected and publicly owned highway and road system. This is what we are facing: the current Republican plan cuts taxes on the rich so that they can cut healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. They simply don’t care or value healthcare as a human right.
I don’t know if it’s a symptom of our current polarization that I feel this way, or that rather in fact our country is now being run by the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal: evil creatures bent on draining the life blood from Podlings to maintain their immortality.
Even so many months later, after the election and the inauguration, I still feel as if I am living in a dream state, a twilight zone. A mistake. A hiccup in the space/time continuum. People talk about the “Trump Ten” – a national epidemic of weight gain over the winter due to depression after the election. I don’t know what to say, other than that I myself have gained weight, mostly due to my diet woes; I have tried several different diets over the last six months trying to fix my stomach problems. Once I gave up and went back to my original diet: low carb and high-sodium, I realized that all the focus on my diet was merely a distraction from what was and is going on politically.
But here we are: Trump is no closer to being impeached; if we are white and able-bodied our lives have not changed so much, unless of course you count the constant stress and disbelief that comes with each new presidential tweet, each new disgrace and scandal. If we are brown-skinned, disabled, gay, trans, an immigrant or Muslim, our lives seem to hang in the balance. Our days are filled with dread.
When I was in California recently for my book tour, a horrific double murder occurred in Portland, on the Max train. A white supremacist threatened two teenage girls with a knife, one of whom was wearing a head scarf. When two men intervened, the white supremacist stabbed them to death. Another man was also stabbed and survived. The two young ladies were traumatized for life. The whole city was in shock.
I don’t have time to write about all the details here. I think this update will have to be a two-parter since I don’t have room today to talk about all the things that’ve happened in the last two months, let alone this year; a year ago I was writing about how Trump was a “trickster character”, musing philosophically about his appeal to the masses. I had no real fear that he would become our next president. A year later I am dazed and still in shock and writing short prose poems about reality TV, because it truly is the end of the world.
I will write more later. The “Update Project” this year has been a disappointment. Not enough writing has been produced. However, this does seem fitting given that this whole year has been a disappointment to our country. I am glad that I have been keeping a record of it, at least for myself.
The Portland Zine Symposium is happening at the end of July and I will dutifully compile these updates into a zine to sell at my table and send to stores and my subscribers. If I continue writing about all of this, at least it will stand as a historical record of what it’s been like for the average citizen.
One last thing before I go….Trump regularly refers to respected news media outlets as “fake news.” This is obviously an attempt to discredit journalists even as he courts their attention and praise. Just this morning, as I watched CNN, they reported that a journalist has discovered that in at least four of Trump’s golf clubs there are fake Times Magazine covers framed and hanging on the wall! The covers show Trump’s face with praising headlines. They’re dated for 2009 and refer to his role in the Reality TV show “The Apprentice”. Apparently, since there seems to be no other explanation, Trump or someone near to him requested fake magazine covers be made and displayed praising the then business man’s television show. This is the person we elected president – a mentally ill narcissist. Someone with no taste, tactless and tacky, a dangerous liar.