I’m sticking my head out of my rabbit hole…or, to be more regionally themed, let’s call it a Groundhog Hole, in honor of my neighbor to the north, the venerable Punxsy Phil? I didn’t go into the hole to hibernate, rodent-style, but to focus on the oh so slowly progressing final draft of the part-time novel. My slothlike pace notwithstanding, the novel is going well enough, though somewhat hindered by age: I fall asleep more easily and more often, rendering the old caffeine-fueled process of long-hour writing binges impossible. I’ll be fifty years old in a few weeks, and I seem to be fucking immune to caffeine, which is grim. Many of you who stop by here are writers of some sort or another; you must understand?
The Groundhog Hole. If you’ve never been to Gobbler’s Knob, where Phil makes his annual prognostication, here’s the scene. The Hole is not a hole at all, but a sort of hutch that Phil is taken to from his nice warm full time home at the local library. It is usually bitterly cold and dark, and the hutch is surrounded by thousands of mostly drunk and/or stoned revelers and fanatics and the proverbial shit-tonne of media. Phil is shoved in the back door of the hutch and prodded in the ass until he lurches into the glare of dozens of film crews and hundreds of flash bulbs. Sometimes he freezes in place–like that groundhog you hit with your Buick last spring–or tries to lunge to one side or another. That means an early spring. A late and bitter winter is predicted when he recoils back into the hutch, horrified by the spectacle outside.
That’s pretty much what I’m facing, poking my head out of my own Groundhog Hole–horror. And not like any old horror; we’re talking Heart of Darkness horror.
I maintained a pretty good attitude about the USA’s political mess for the longest time, and resolved to double down on the novel specifically because I didn’t want to get caught up in the whole thing. It took me a while to get over Bernie Sanders’ loss, and during that time I determined to sit back and revel at the comedy of it all, and from that perspective, Bilious Billionaire Donald Trump has not disappointed. From a primary that so many of us quickly identified as a metaphorical clown car, the 2016 election has exploded into a full-scale circus.
Well, it hasn’t been funny for a while. When my wife and I sat down to watch the third and final debate last night I did so with a distinctly queasy stomach. Trump isn’t the first politician to elicit a distinctly negative physical response. Gingrich and Cheney come to mind, but the smugly pseudo-intellectual serial philanderer and the robotic hate-bucket pale in comparison to the utterly hideous Trump. I look at him and I want to vomit. Then I want to beat him into submission.
I hate bullies and I hate dumb people who lie to my face when we both know they’re lying. I hate spoiled, entitled pricks; and I hate people whose sheer awfulness compels me to feel that feeling–hate. Growing up, my mom always took me to task for using that word–hate–loosely. “Now that’s an awfully strong word,” was her line. Did I really hate this person or that person?
Sorry mom, I hate Trump. I’d like to beat his stained, flaccid face to pulp–and not in the least because I know that I could. And I can’t help but wonder if that makes me the bully?
The impulse disturbs me. Is the violent disdain I feel for Trump what bullies feel when they’re seeking a vulnerable target, picking a victim to cut out of the herd? I imagine pummeling the man, his scrawny country-club limbs flapping like something between duck wings and tyrannosaurus arms, and I know it’s ugly, but the smug arrogance, the classification and ensuing dismissal of entire broad swaths of my fellow Americans, begs for it. Maybe the thing about Trump is that he plays so much like he’s a tough guy, when he’s really just another prissy, pasty rich guy. Who disagrees? Who wouldn’t want to knuckle-wipe that smug, entitled smirk from his face?
Fortunately, I have no access to Trump, no chance of being close enough to him that he couldn’t run away and, even if I did, I have something he could never understand: impulse control. (Take note, Secret Service) Of course, should he happen to hear about my daydream beatdown and seek to call my bluff, I’d be more than happy to oblige.
And, finally–and even more importantly–the one element of a prototypical bullying scenario is missing from the electoral dynamic. A bully seeks a weak victim, and thus far Trump has come up empty. Secretary Clinton, an imperfect candidate on her best day, has proven more than capable of standing up for not only herself but for the countless demographic groups Trump despises. Thus far she has delivered repeated metaphorical beatings of her own–reminding me of the viral video in which the snotty little kid is mercilessly hounding a big, gentle boy right up to the point where the soft kid picks the douchey little kid up and body slams him.
In case you missed it, Trump is the douchey little kid, and just like that punk, when he staggers back to his feet he’s crying like a baby.