There’s Something Happening Here

Reflections on Week Five

Let me just say it.

I think it’s going down. I think that something turned on Valentine’s Day, that the process of degradation has begun. Barring some unthinkable reversal, like a major terrorist strike, if the forces currently at work stay the course, the clown circus may be done by Labor Day, possibly sooner. It’s a house of cards.

I say this because if you step back from the daily madness even a little, this is what you see: a disorganized, undisciplined administration, headed by a narcissistic child whom over 28,000 mental health professionals have judged psychologically unstable, caught in a kind of pincer movement between two extraordinarily powerful forces. The first consists of the ad hoc alliance now existing between the press, the judiciary, the governmental agencies whose very existence the administration threatens, and the intelligence agencies — both domestic and foreign — who recognize a clear and present danger when they see one.

The second is a popular uprising — still in its infancy but growing at extraordinary speed — the likes of which we haven’t seen since the late 1960’s. In fact, when the history of these months is written, it may show that 2017 was the year when the liberating dream of the 1960’s (long ago co-opted into a fashion accessory and declared dead), woke up wiser, harder, more focused, and began its march toward fulfillment.

But let me set that thought aside for a moment and consider the first arm of the resistance. Though there was almost too much to absorb this week, a few items stood out. The first, for me, was the Kremlin’s decision to order the state-run media to stop celebrating Trump’s every hiccup, indeed, to essentially stop writing about him altogether, while at the same time making public a “psychological profile” of him that had been drawn up in advance of his upcoming meeting with Putin. Whether intended for domestic or international consumption, this could be read as an attempt by the Kremlin to simultaneously hedge its bets and take a little steam out of the Russia probe: ‘See — we’re not friends.’

The second was the fact that the administration’s paranoia now runs so deep that it’s willing to leave its own cabinet members in the dark, which makes you wonder: How long will egos like Rex Tillerson’s put up with not being allowed to pick their own staff, or not being consulted on major policy decisions?

The third — the big take-away from this week — was FBI Director Comey’s nearly three-hour long briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia mess — immediately after which the Committee issued a directive to the White House explicitly ordering that no records pertaining to the investigation be destroyed. The length of the meeting, the unusual amount of secrecy surrounding it, coupled with that directive, all suggest, at minimum, one thing: This ain’t going away — it’s too big and too public, and too many players are after it. Sooner or later, through this channel or that one, the truth will out.

Meanwhile, something’s stirring out there.

This past Sunday, my wife, Leslie, and I attended our first Indivisible meeting in Mahopac, New York — hardly a liberal bastion. The folks organizing it were expecting twenty people. We arrived to find nearly a hundred.

Now I’m not, by nature, a joiner, a marcher. I’m uncomfortable with crowds, for one thing — the way they swallow difference, the way they erase all possibility of nuance — and I dislike the way rallies tend to disintegrate all-too-often into aggrieved groups screaming vacuous slogans.

This was something very different. This was something to see. Nearly a hundred people of all ages — all of them mutually respectful, informed, focused. There was no grandstanding, no speechifying, no bullshit. A man named Nick, who’d been part of the original group, very quickly got things going by explaining that there was no formal leadership. We were there to share ideas, determine a direction, get to work. Which we did. In less than two hours we’d agreed on twelve specific areas of concern (mid-term elections, health care, outreach, the environment, etc.), broken into brainstorming groups, set up follow-up meetings.

I’d been expecting something different, something more rah-rah, more self-congratulatory, perhaps more hysterical. Instead, the overwhelming feeling in the room was one of determination: to put it bluntly, these people weren’t fucking around. Many were already deeply informed on the issues, aware of existing resistance groups we could potentially liaison with, armed with the names of helpful sites. Driving home afterward, Leslie and I both admitted, almost sheepishly, how proud we’d felt to be there.

“There’s something happening here,” Stephen Stills sang back in the day, “what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Today, with over 7,000 Indivisible groups like ours already formed, it seems clear enough. Look at the faces of the people demanding answers from McConnell and Co. These are not your usual suspects, and their blood is up. Trump has triggered something that may not stop even after he’s retired to Mar-a-Lago (or prison), in disgrace. It’s as if decades’-worth of outrage felt by sensible Americans over every self-serving injustice perpetrated by our corrupt (and, yes, overwhelmingly Republican), representatives suddenly found its focus . . . in him. There he was, the last con-man, posing and smirking and dividing, selling us his junk bonds while screaming he was being robbed. We knew who the enemy was now, and it sure as hell wasn’t the free press. Our course was suddenly very clear.

I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

I think Trump’s election inadvertently kicked a sleeping giant, and now that we’re moving, we’re not going to stop because the POTUS-child (or anybody else), tells us to.

We’re not interested in love beads. We’re after justice.