Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Trump Moment

The fall of 1946 would be my last term in elementary school. I had spent nine years at P.S. 99. There was no middle school. We thirteen-year-olds were in the same building as those five-year-olds. I can still smell wood shavings from pencil sharpeners and chalk dust, metal stairs with saw dust where someone got sick and the tiny chairs where kindergarten kids wet their pants. I can see the ink wells and white paste and those long hooks which opened the high windows.

I look upon it now with affection but in Sept. of that year I was somewhere between a street urchin and man-child. It was my time to rebel. A moment of iconoclasm. A group of us decided to overthrow the order. Too many rules, like bricks upon bricks. The march to assembly. The words to be delivered. The ceremony. There was a sense of expectation to follow tradition which must have felt oppressive. Graduation was at hand and we were to elect our class president to preside and speechify.

My group of rebels nominated Robert Haimowitz in defiance. Something had gone awry with Robert’s double helix. There were no words for it then. He was a smiley young man, probably three or four years older than the rest of us. I say this because he was the only one among us who shaved. His was a benign retardation, unlike today’s elected winner. It was a cruel act on our part. I can’t recall if Robert was elected but our mischief was resoundingly denounced and nullified by Henrietta Oliver, the principal. Where are you now, Ms. Oliver?

That was my Donald Trump moment. I was part of the mindless mob; maybe even a ring-leader with a need to topple the establishment, to bring down Dick and Jane. I was mad as hell and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Mad? At what? There was a big world out there and I was lost, ill-equipped. Robert Haimowitz was a short-hand for, anything but business as usual. He was our message of repudiation to the adult world.

Much has been written about Donald’s constituency from scathing condescension to puzzlement. Are they misogynists? Gullible? Legitimately aggrieved?  Can their grievances be addressed and remedied? It has been suggested by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of Atlantic, that their loathing of the opposition renders them impervious to any of Trumps malice. We are dealing with a far more dangerous version of Robert Haimowitz. The divide is so great it may not be bridgeable by rational thought.

And yet……….put us and them in a room and we can agree on more than Mom and apple pie. I, too, enjoy church choirs…as long as I don’t understand the words. I even had a water pistol once. Shucks, we might both like Kentucky Fried chicken and listen to John Prine songs. Maybe student debt is what they deserve and it’s good losing healthcare. I’m willing to hear the argument. I’m even open to knowing how voter-suppression and gerrymandering is good for democracy. I could learn to love Friday night football if they could learn to handle wind farms and build solar panels. We may even have smelled the same smells in P.S. 99 and been party to the attempted coup of 1946.  Some of us got over it.

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