Tom Roston
Extra Newsfeed
Published in
5 min readNov 9, 2016

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The Monster Under the Bed

To My Fellow Commanders-in-Chief:

Pinch me.

So many of us must have thought that in some iteration when we woke up this morning. This can’t be happening. Wake me up so that this nightmare is over. But it is not. It is really happening. And it’s just beginning. For those of us who are parents, we are now living with those unthinkable threats that we normally keep at bay. That the roof may cave in. That lightning might strike. That there is a monster under the bed.

We woke up this morning knowing that it’s actually there. He’s really there. He’ll be moving in to the White House. He is the embodiment of our very real fear that bad things can actually happen to our children. Very bad things. An incurable disease. A drunk driver. A freak accident. These are the reasons we hold our children’s hands while crossing the street. Why we put them in car seats built by NASA. Why we tell them to come in before dark.

But for the fortunate among us, those fears are more theoretical. The worst doesn’t actually happen. So what happens now?

“We have to be strong.”

Those are the first words I said to my wife when she woke up after me this morning and asked what happened. I didn’t plan to say it but I guess it was inevitable in a moment like this. Those are the same words my mother said to me when she told me my father died when I was ten-years-old. I don’t remember anything else that was said that early morning after the accident but that stuck because, I guess, it made the most sense. It’s all that you can say. It’s what you say when you don’t know what else to say or if there’s nothing that could be said to explain what has happened.

It’s what you say when you need to just stand up and face the storm that is approaching and you just hope that you can make it through it — not because you think you will but because it’s your intuitive duty as a parent.

“That which doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.”

I’ve said that to myself but not to my children because it seems a bit bleak. And I don’t know if it really holds up. But it’s what got me through this morning’s routine. What other options did we have, other than to make their lunches this morning, to put on their shirts, to comb down their hair? And to send them to school where they will learn to be better people than our nation, collectively, clearly is.

This is our failure. The Boomers. Generation X. The Millennials. We all screwed this up. But I don’t want to write about who’s to blame even though it is tempting to lash out. I am angry at the Obama victory lap that we all were reveling in these last few months. But then I think about how no one will shoulder this burden more than Obama. No one knows so intimately how incapable Trump is to be president.

The only good thing I saw during 7 hours of television watching last night was Van Jones barely keeping it together, his voice quivering with emotion, as he talked about how imperative it is for Trump to be an inclusive president. Jones’s words gave me some sense of solidarity and if not hope, then at least consolation that we will have strong allies in the years to come.

“Who won?”

That was the first thing my older daughter asked when she awoke. Her next question: “How?”

I tried to explain about anger and alienation toward our government. And I didn’t say what my mother had said to me when my father died. I couldn’t. I didn’t want her to think it was that bad. And as upset as she was, I was heartened by her pointed request to have tacos for dinner tonight. Maybe her generation will do better.

But I couldn’t explain this to her. I am, even now, pushing away the fear of the specifics. I am trying to not think what may actually come of this, partly because I know that the unknown is such a powerful force; it is able to capture our worst anxieties. It feeds on our fears, which is what swept Trump to this ludicrous victory.

Would it be exaggerating to now say now that the worst is possible? That mass deportations or radical supply side economics or an unchecked Putin or a repeal of abortion rights or nuclear war or the mass unbridled unleashing of bullies everywhere will also come to pass?

Now that this has happened, is it more rationale to assert that our country has checks and balances that will prevent the worst from happening? Honestly, that’s what I will tell my daughters, but I don’t really know that that is true. The Republicans have control of congress. Trump does what he wants. And he is a genuine, actual imbecile. A oversized child. There is no low that he is not capable of. I am terrified. But I won’t let them know that.

As a writer, I am writing my way through this.

And as parents, we’ll have to parent our way through this as well. I had to take my younger daughter to a doctor’s appointment early this morning. I was mystified at how so many people — they are New Yorkers, after all — seemed to be going about their business in the train station. It felt like there must be a mystical spell cast on them. Or that they were somehow possessed, although one woman was quietly weeping. I was so thankful to see her raw emotion.

When we got on the train, a man slipped into the last available seat right in front of my daughter. I wanted to punch him. Instead, I asked him to give her the seat. He did, reluctantly.

It felt good. I was doing what I had to do.

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Tom Roston
Extra Newsfeed

Culture writer; Author of THE WRITER’S CRUSADE: KURT VONNEGUT AND THE MANY LIVES OF SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE [https://amzn.to/2YSavt0].