If my trauma response could speak, what would it say?
It would say , “it’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse. It’s never going to be like it was before. All your memories of friendship and arts and groups are in the past.”
It’s aching stinging burning heaviness and loss, and it doesn’t end. I can’t go back to DC, a place I was just last year, violated by the mob of liars and cheats. If my response could talk, it would tell me to stay down. To protect myself. To not subject myself to those who would hurt or dismiss me.
Ironically, forcing myself to be among those who make fun of me is exactly what the stoics did. Baiting people into mocking me is also what the stoics did. They sought to drive out their lesser instincts so that they wouldn’t fear speaking the truth.
This place, the Capitol, was one I was in the process of earning, of preparing for my children as a legacy. It was where a part of me went in my imagination, my highest goal, to serve the public as a senator or congressman, becoming a man of honor and regard for the people who count on me.
It was despoiled by violent men, who assailed it, fed by lies propagating lies. I tell myself it’s nothing, but it’s not nothing. They’ve trashed something that was mine, something that was my right to earn. This is a persistent feeling, something that I felt at my college fraternity several times, that I was cheated of something I was earning by bigger, cruder, rougher boys who didn’t have the manners or respect that I thought fitting. My brother’s true brothers.
This place, it’s not nothing. It’s never nothing. It’s what people depend on around the world as a symbol of liberty and justice. It’s what they aspire to. When you denigrate it, you denigrate us all.
It’s like watching the X-mansion explode or Hogwarts torn to pieces. It’s a violation.
It’s soothing to remind myself that democracy, the values upon which this country is built, is stronger than all of this. That it can withstand the onslaught of the unwashed. That it means something more than all of that. That there’s no reason to fear.
You could do democracy in a bunker on video chat and it would be America. That the true America was the people across the country standing up and helping law enforcement to prosecute every one of the invaders. Because if they’re not punished, then it becomes a precedent.
The parts I’m disconnected from that are so needed right now: the part of me that wore a tie and blazer and visited senators. The part of me that thrilled to the West Wing and Josiah Bartlett’s fatherly wisdom. The part of me that toured the DC monuments and saw that there were lies, but there was also great truth there. That saw Jefferson and MLK opposite one another on the tidal basin. That took a picture and highlighted the quote, “Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
The part of me that knew certainty. The part of me that believed that the elders and those in power knew what they were doing and had my best interests at heart.
It recalls to me the America I also know, the one that killed the natives and enslaved the blacks, the one that sent countless scores of people to death based on lies (e.g., Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, then Nixon prolonging the war to beat Humphreys). The one that gives police military gear and teaches them unsafe tactics and racial profiling rather than community policing. The one that sets the poor whites against the poor blacks, when they would benefit most from lobbying together for their common interests.
For years I went to work in the Bed Stuy housing projects and East New York former gang territory, without feeling threatened. I felt like a welcome part of the community, walking to the train station before and after school every day. I feel much more alien and threatened jogging a few miles away through Trump signs, and among MAGA hats, despite being nearly six-foot-tall white man.
I am not dissolving. I am constituting myself as a stronger whole. I am recreating myself. The best of America is what I represent: service, self sacrifice, multiculturalism, knowledge, education, compassion, empathy.
That love wins, no matter what.