My Turn

Opinion: How many Americans struggle in the Trumpian days?

By Eileen Wiard, Ranchos de Taos
Posted 1/4/19

I wonder how many Americans are struggling in these Trumpian days with memories that come, unbidden, from our childhoods?

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My Turn

Opinion: How many Americans struggle in the Trumpian days?

Posted

I wonder how many Americans are struggling in these Trumpian days with memories that come, unbidden, from our childhoods?

I know I am. Every time the President reveals his true nature in an explosive tweet storm, he reminds me of my father who has been dead since 1984. Anything could set my father off, from papers strewn over the dining room table to doors left open in the summertime. He was unpredictable, and it was always our fault.

He never said,“I’m sorry for losing my temper.” He never apologized.

Like Trump, my father never forgot a slight, never stopped nurturing a resentment for being passed over, never forgave someone who broke one of his rules. He was the boss. He was in charge. What he said was the order of the day. After many a long drive in the car, he would pull into the garage, and before any of us got out, would say, “Go to your room and turn over.”

There, all three of us would lie face down on our beds, quivering, crying, waiting for him to walk in, take off his belt, and hit each one of us with what we called ‘the strap.’ For what? Probably for quarreling over who got the window seat.

He was our Dad. Mom would not intervene. He had the authority, even if he was wrong. Even if we could explain, he didn’t want to hear it.

Dad was constantly battling his own demons, among them alcoholism that he came by honestly in his family. Today I understand the stress and unspoken pain that my father walked with. From the outside, Dad was a gentle, kind man, but he was entirely different when we were alone with him inside the house, behind closed doors. It was our job to protect his perfectly respectable identity to the outside world.

My mother told me that he loved us. She said he hit us because he wanted us to be good kids. “That’s how fathers show their love,” she said.

Once, two police officers knocked on our door on a winter night at about 8 p.m.. My dad had come home, parking his white Oldsmobile in the garage, then quickly left the house again. The police said he had left scene of an accident after hitting a parked car on Main Street. Dad had been drinking. His arrest would be in the Torrington Register, a public shaming. Thanks to the intervention of a lawyer, he was found guilty of ‘evading responsibility’ instead of driving while intoxicated, and lost his license for only three months. That was the first and only time I ever saw him pay the consequences for drinking, but it didn’t stop him; it didn’t even slow him down.

As a young girl, I puzzled over many experiences of feeling wrongly blamed, unfairly treated and misunderstood by the man whose opinion meant the most to me. I grew up, moved away, made my own mistakes and learned from many of them, especially how to behave with integrity. Admitting when I’m wrong frees me to have authentic connections in my life.

I wonder, though, how many of us had to cover up for the misdeeds of our fathers and mothers? To submit to their insane orders and punishments? How many of us could track their footsteps at night anywhere in the house from the confines of our beds? How many of us tried to change them by being people they could be proud of? How many left home as soon as we could?

So when the President of the United States behaves badly, criminally even, the little girl in me is afraid. Will no one stop him? Will fear of his angry retaliation make cowards of us all? Can he get away with this, and this, and this, just because he is the President?

I realize that it’s not just Trump. Thirty percent of the country still supports him. They believe whatever he says, however often he changes his story, and whoever he names his villain of the day.

And fear of that 30 percent turning against Republicans in elected office keeps everything in place, stifling whatever their consciences might otherwise prompt them to do.

Donald Trump is the President, not the king, not the father. We are fellow citizens, not his subjects, and not his children, thank God.

Eileen Wiard is a musician and spiritual director living in Ranchos de Taos. 

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