I want to be clear. I grew up with a narcissist–my father–who drilled two things into my head. The first was that my brown eyes were actually blue. He told me this every day. Sometimes he would stand behind me while I looked in the mirror and point to my eyes and say, “see, Fruitcake? Your eyes are as blue as mine.” Or, he would walk past me in the kitchen, just out of earshot of my sisters or my mom and say, “those blue eyes get prettier every day.” It was the ultimate gaslighting, which is used as a matter of course as psychological torture for prisoners, so that they no longer know what is real and have no other choice but to accept the reality their captors feed them.
I saw Trump do that as a reality star, when he was still relatively harmless, except to the people who were around him every day. Now he and his team are doing it to the whole country. He cut out the middleman and tweeted out (on his private, unsecured phone) that the media is the opposition party. I know there are millions of people who now believe that is true, even as they ignore a small tightening in their bellies, or they hold their breath a little too long before they exhale. Somewhere in their bodies, the truth is still alive. That’s how I climbed out of the twisted reality my father fed me. I started paying attention to those little tugs and pulls in my muscles that still knew the truth.
The second thing my father told me was that when I was grown up and didn’t need him anymore, he would send someone to kill me. And that person wouldn’t be just anyone. It would be somebody I loved. For years, I struggled with loving people. I used air quotes every time I said the word love. It took me decades to relearn love, to feel safe in love, to love my family. Love is not a revolutionary act for everyone, but it is for me.
I read that Steve Bannon now has the power, as part of the NSC, to give orders to assassinate American civilians, with no trial, no public record. Just someone dead under suspicious circumstances, and only people who know what it feels like to be threatened with death will understand what really happened in the last few moments of that person’s life. That they died because somebody else could not bear to lose control. Mostly, that somebody with power could not bear to lose control of a lie they told and that would cause them to lose their power.
When I see picture of Steve Bannon’s face, I see a reflection of my father. There is so much misery and shadow on his face. I remember how uncomfortable and perturbed my father always looked, his forehead permanently creased with two deep, vertical lines right above his nose, where his glasses sat. It was as though pulling his eyebrows together and holding that crease in his forehead was the only thing keeping him from exploding. If you try pulling your eyebrows together right now, maybe you can see how immediately your mood can change from neutral to annoyed, or rageful. Imagine feeling that every day of your life. As Richard Strozzi-Heckler wrote, “the body we are *is* the life we live.”
Of course I thought of my father when I read that Bannon now has the power to authorize assassinations. My stomach did a flip, I stopped breathing and got away from the windows, as a function of body memory. As I stood in the pitch black between the double doors that lead to my office, I let myself shake and cry until the fear washed through and out of me. I spent so much of my life waiting to be killed. But, I reminded myself, I probably won’t be killed today. Steve Bannon doesn’t know who I am. (unless of course, he’s reading this right now!)
Then I got angry.
I’ve noticed over the past few months, ever since Trump was elected, that I’ve been struggling between speaking out about what I see happening in this country and just putting my head down and not causing any trouble. Today I thought, “I didn’t cause any trouble when I was a kid. I never spoke up about any of the abuse I was going through because I was terrified that my father was right. That I was crazy for thinking my eyes were brown. Or blue. Or however he tried to fuck with my head on any particular day. And I was terrified of being killed. Because holy shit, who wouldn’t be?!
Those of you who know me may find it surprising that I am afraid to speak out. I am. But here’s the weirdly good news. I have been so afraid for so much of my life that I’ve gotten good at functioning while terrified. Some of you may recognize that as “trauma skills.”
I have been terrified since Trump and Bannon took office. (Impeach President Bannon! That dude with the evil Master plan and the puppet with the silly puppet hair.) All of this reality-twisting, threats-based “governing” feels like living with my father all over again. Except it’s not. And we need to get those fuckers far away from the White House as soon as possible.
I guess part of the point in giving you my history is to explain why I don’t underestimate how far and how fast these men will go to keep us overwhelmed, afraid, and powerless. If you don’t have enough “wait and see” under your belt by now, I’m not sure what to tell you. Logic and rational thought are like gummy bears to narcissists and sociopaths. They will take every rational, logical thing you say, chew it up, and twist it around until it’s unrecognizable.
And while you are still smoothing the wrinkles out of your khakis as you pause to collect your rational arguments, they will have already sent the National Guard into Chicago and declared martial law. ‘Wait and see,’ and ‘maybe he’s just…,’ and ‘you’re overreacting, and over-dramatic.’ Well, those are things I’ve heard my whole life, and you know what? It’s not overreacting or over-dramatic when crazy, fascist shit is actually happening.
So, be scared and #resist anyway. Shitting your pants out of fear while you resist…well, shit happens, and that would make the protest that much more powerful. Like, “Protest, now with Smell-o-vision!” And I would still protest next to you. Or give you new pants from a safe distance.
I’m not going to live one more minute of my life frozen with fear because a bunch of White Dudes with hate in their hearts decide they want to see how many people they can control so they can feel potent.
Who’s with me?
Meredith Broome is a Master Somatic Coach, writer and cartoonist-on-hiatus. You can read her blog i am undergrounded and her cartoon Relevant Elephants which aims to poke fun at the things that take themselves too seriously. Her latest venture is the Alternative Fact of the Day Calendar, because we all need to keep abreast of the propaganda of the day. She lives in Northern CA with her husband, daughter, two cats and a whole lot of dust bunnies.