Two weeks ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was interviewing conservative culture vulture George Will about the madness of the Trump presidency when Will offered some perspective and calm amidst the blowhard circus, coming correct when he said out loud a truth that has rarely, if ever, been uttered to a mainstream media audience that has been weaned on 24-7 outrageous breaking news.
“The presidency is not all of the federal government,” Will said, deliberately, as if he’s said it a hundred times before, “the federal government is not all of American government and government is not all of American life.”
Government is not all of American life.
We’ve been led to believe otherwise, of course, especially over the last two years and two months. That is to say we’ve been duped, my fellow sucker Americans, and because they want us to believe we can’t get along without them, big media and government don’t want us to know that there’s much more to life (for starters: nature, books, music, food, inner lives, life itself, etc.) than what they’re feeding us, more than the malaise we’re being forced to navigate through every day.
Talking about soul upkeep here, and the incontrovertible truth is that there’s more to life than getting suckered by the divide-and-conquer forces who would control we the proletariat, much more if you’re truly living and participating in creating change and hope and not just spending every waking hour being outraged and working yourself to the bone while fighting the system and the Kremlin Klan in the White House.
History is watching us, of course, and we all need to speak truth to power about the hate, bigotry, lies and sexism of the times, and for sure there is so much to be mad as hell about, so much work to be done, but “to believe in this living is just a hard way to go” as John Prine sang, so I’m going another way.
I’m not alone. The great author George Saunders, for one, told a packed Parkway Theater audience March 1 that his reaction to these crass times is to “double-down on art and double-down on empathy.” Of Trump, David Letterman this week told New York magazine: “I’m tired of people being bewildered about everything he says: ‘I can’t believe he said that.’ We gotta stop that and instead figure out ways to protect ourselves from him. We know he’s crazy. We gotta take care of ourselves here now.”
Good call. I got sick with the flu a couple weeks ago and I watched and read everything I could stomach about these historically bizarre times to the point where it became like a hot HD teat that I needed to suck and nod off to, a truth serum about American capitalism and testosterone run amok I simply couldn’t turn away from.
I watched it morning, noon and night and I was/am addicted, even thought it went against every wise spiritual practice and learned way I’ve come to know. I ingested it all, all that toxic crap and all the talking heads’ bile and puss and noise and I spewed it out and I stewed in my own juices and probably made some people angry on Facebook, with me barfing and ranting about the muted state of journalism and columnists in a time of utter insanity and outrage, and I’m lucky to say I pulled out of my tailspin and broke the spell via, yes and yet again, real live contact with real live people.
One of who is the Rev. G. Travis Norvell, pastor at Judson Memorial Baptist Church on the corner of 41st & Harriet, whose progressive and inclusive agenda is a loving light in dim spiritual days and whose more-often-than-not-provocative church marquee the Sunday after the election read, “Nothing Has Changed.”
“That’s been pretty much the theme every Sunday since the election,” said Norvell. “Why are we letting Trump dictate the news cycle and what reality is? So in response one of the things we can do that no multi-national corporation can do is treat each other with great respect and compassion, love one another, practice forgiveness, and let’s not let the reality be what we see on TV all the time.
“We should [be part of the resistance], and we should be marching and protesting and involved and doing all we can, but that’s going to wear us out. We’re going to have nothing left if that’s all we do. We have to figure out where to concentrate our energies — say, focus on two things, rather than a million things, and we’ve got to trust that what we’re not doing, someone else is doing.”
BREAKING NEWS: The tragedy of the Trump presidency is that his rise to power says so much about us and exposes some ugly collective tics and histories of the tribe. As such, never in my life has the world felt less joyful … but also at the same time bursting with promise out of the current and coming chaos.
In the end I’ll be damned if I will let a greedy bunch of liars and power mad capitalist pigs take the joy out of me or make life itself feel shallow and not spiritual, and not soulful.
BREAKING NEWS: Real life is resistance!
Government is not all of American life.
“When I watch TV and listen to stuff on the radio, I just feel all it is it’s boiling me down to a … I just feel like we’re letting people divide us: ‘You either agree with us or you hate us,’” said Norvell. “And I just think that’s damaging to the soul. So we’ve got to just affirm our humanity and goodness in each other and in [practicing empathy with] people we can’t stand.
“My family is from West Virginia and they’re all Trump supporters. So am I going to let this election tear my relationships apart with people I’ve known since I was born? We can’t let elections do that to us. We can’t let politics do that to us. We’ve got to somehow transcend that and get to a deeper spot.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected]