Political PTSD: Can We Recover from Trump, Pandemic, Wrecked Kids, and Roe?

I was in Jonah’s orthodontist’s office in 2015, when I first realized that Donald Trump should be taken seriously. 

While waiting at the receptionist’s desk, a college kid looked up the television mounted on the wall as Trump’s face appeared on the screen. The kid said, “Hey! There he is!” and then explained that he had a summer job in the garage in a Trump hotel in New York City. He said that the garage was getting tons of calls from random people, who made a wrong turn in the phone tree and ended up on the garage’s phone line. These callers were asking to speak directly with Trump, so they could express their support. 

That story both tells you something about Trump’s massive popularity, as well as the IQ of some of his supporters.

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23 thoughts on “Political PTSD: Can We Recover from Trump, Pandemic, Wrecked Kids, and Roe?

  1. I totally agree with you. I am exhausted. I don’t know how people who work in government do it. I feel like we have a new major catastrophe nearly every week. I once said to my father something about how shitty everything is back in like 2016 and he said “it was worse if 1968” when they had a major war with dying American kids, assassinations, major civil rights issues and in general, it was a very crazy time. However, I don’t think my father thinks that anymore: I think he thinks its worse now (with the exception of the Vietnam war). I think he never worried democracy was at risk then. I am struggling to stay engaged (working on caring about local topics and working on helping on one or two topics I really care about when I can) and aware but not overwhelmed. It doesn’t help for me to go nuts. Also, I’m staying off twitter as much as I can. Not helpful anymore.

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  2. I am also overwhelmed and exhausted. And, the undermining of democracy itself is what worries me the most. Not just for the US, but also for the world. There’s a certain level of functioning of democracy in the US (even with all its failures, like the laws that prevented Blacks from voting) that I think the world always relied on as a foundation and taken for granted. Trump’s denial of his election loss, the lack of any vocal opposition to those claims by the Republican party, and the sheer horror of the January 6th invasion of Congress while they were counting the votes for President significantly undermined that foundation and emboldened anti-democracy governments everywhere.

    I am also trying to cope by acknowledging that paragraph above, but trying to concentrate on a very local space of what I might actually be able to do. Fighting the big battles is not me — I am a thinker and a helper, and not a warrior. I have friends who are warriors and I’ll try to support them as best as I can.

    I am also off twitter (I appreciate that you post your links on the blog so I can get your education links). I signed off because I realized that twitter was contributing my exhaustion (I didn’t delete my account, but I logged out). My world does feel different now, and I think right now, I’m OK with what I’m missing.

    I still use Facebook and Instagram, because though I hear the horror stories, those accounts, for me, are still full of friend’s posts and flowers. Through FB, I got to hear friends share two kids whose college teams are going to national championships (after all the disruption of the pandemic), a kid who delivered a baby! (he’s an EMT while in college), and a kid playing AA ball who hit two home runs on the anniversary of his first home run in little league, 10 years ago! That’s worth staying on FB on and celebrating. Right now those places do still give me joy.

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  3. Where does this go for the focused world where you’re trying to make a difference:

    An anecdote of a friend who is running a class on creative poetry: he had a student who wasn’t showing up, hadn’t turned in any poems. The basic requirement of the class was to turn in poems and revise them based on critique, and she hadn’t met that requirement, but asked him in desperation if she could turn in the work (10 poems) in order to pass the class. He agreed, saying if she turned in 10 poems, he’d critique them, and she could revise for a pass. On the very last day, she turned in 10 poems.

    As he was reading to critique, he found himself humming along and realized they were 10 Joni MItchell lyrics.

    Very sad, the desperation that product have entailed. He couldn’t give her a pass, of course, but did decide not to report her.

    So, an anecdote, to lead to the New York Times opinion piece on college student disengagement .

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  4. “Very sad, the desperation that product have entailed. He couldn’t give her a pass, of course, but did decide not to report her.” I’m going to object here. Yes, some students work very hard for a while and then panic and plagiarize. But a student who does nothing and then plagiarizes should be reported. Some of them plagiarize over and over, just because faculty don’t look closely or can’t be bothered to do the paperwork (or they are able to effectively play the sympathy card).

    Some students are genuinely stressed out, and some are just trying to get away with whatever they can, as they have since I caught my first plagiarist in 2005 when I was adjuncting at a very swanky SLAC. Reporting plagiarism to the dean was mandatory, and the paper had massive plagiarism (with a bit of clever rewriting to make it not appear so), but I felt bad, because the student said it was all a misunderstanding somehow. The dept chair, a priest and a wonderful guy, sat me down and said, “af, students lie. Good students, bad students. You just have to get used to it.” After our meeting with the dean, she told me the student deserved to be expelled, but she decided not to expel him because it would make *me* feel too bad.

    Anyway, sorry to rant, but this is not a new problem. I only fail students if the plagiarism is extensive and egregious, but I definitely get their name into the system.

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    1. “The dept chair, a priest and a wonderful guy, sat me down and said, “af, students lie. Good students, bad students. You just have to get used to it.””

      Good students are more likely to lie/plagiarize because they want to maintain their As.

      I think part of the problem is that we give writing assignments and we grade them. I’m not sure we should be doing that. Or maybe we should not be grading writing outside of class. We can require writing outside of class, but I think we’re better off without writing rubrics and number or letter grades.

      I could change my mind about this tomorrow. Or in the next 5 minutes. But I know there is something wrong with the way we teach writing.

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      1. I really don’t think not evaluating is going to work for students who are disengaged. Kiddos’ K-8 didn’t have any semblance of grading and a teacher there told us how wonderful this change was. But it worked for the highly motivated, personally creative kids there (most of them) and not the ones who were trying to pass to get a credit (probably one or two kids).

        The author of the NYtimes article discusses some of his problems completely accommodating. I do wonder Wendy, if you have the power to experiment?

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      2. “I do wonder Wendy, if you have the power to experiment?”

        Good question. I think I might, but also, I have enough other stuff going on that I am not sure now is the time to experiment. Maybe when I am closer to retirement and have let go of some of these other responsibilities.

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      3. 🙂 Yes, responding to random internet commenters about the need for an experiment is probably not the right way to prioritize responsibility

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    2. af wrote, “I only fail students if the plagiarism is extensive and egregious, but I definitely get their name into the system.”

      Yep.

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    3. Eh, this was a class in which all that was required was the product and the revision. And, she turned in Joni Mitchell songs.

      I do see your point about reporting so that there is a record so that each offense is not treated as a new aberration.

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  5. It’s going to be OK. But we have to be willing to let other parts of the country do things their way, rather than try to dictate top-down national rules for everything.

    We are a diverse country with 330 million people, 50 states, and a number of territories. It’s nearly 5,000 miles from Anchorage to Miami and 5,000 miles from Honolulu to Portland, Maine.

    We can’t all live happily under exactly the same laws, and it’s a recipe for constant strife to try to do so.

    Let’s try to give each other more space.

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    1. “It’s going to be OK. But we have to be willing to let other parts of the country do things their way, rather than try to dictate top-down national rules for everything.”

      It’s not that easy to do. At a certain point, we have to have lines in the sand, and abortion rights is one of those lines for an awful lot of people.

      I think you’re also not taking into account that a lot of states have a lot of people who do things in different ways. Upstate NY is very different from NYC, for example. At what point to people in a state say that people in different counties need to be allowed to do things their own way. At a certain point we have to have basic rights we agree upon.

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      1. The Republicans redistricted out all of the pro-life Democrats in Nebraska’s unicameral. They also forced out or made life unpleasant for every incumbent Republican who had a spine or felt that “pro-life” should mean something beyond outlawing abortion. They did better at this in some states than in Nebraska, but they’ve done it in every state as much as they could. In Pennsylvania, the leading Republican candidates have openly supported throwing out the results of the popular vote for president and replacing it with the gerrymandered state legislature’s vote. This is an open assault on democracy as it has been understood in the United States since the end of the Civil War. This is the deliberate policy choice of many people in power as a means to seek and maintain power. This is obviously horrible and ignoring it is functionally not different from supporting it.

        Things are worse because bad people have figured out how to win elections by giving people who want to behave badly a sense of persecution sufficient to do so. All this talk of giving everyone more space is bullshit. Giving space in this situations means that if Republicans will undermine elections in states they control to the point that they effectively cannot lose the presidency. We are in a coup that started November 4, 2020 and I still have no idea how it will end. It’s not PTSD because we aren’t “post” anything.

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  6. I am one of the most law-abiding, rule-following people I know, but if I lived in a no-choice state I’d be spending a lot of time thinking about when I’d be willing to break the law, and how, and for whom. Instead, I am thinking about the many, many red-state women and girls who are making and will make similar decisions. It’s not going to be okay for them. The level of surveillance and harassment possible is mindblowing. And if travel restrictions go into place, as one of our neighboring states has proposed, that’s a whole other level.

    Since I am sort of a Russianist I will probably stay focused on that research, and I still have a lot of admin and teaching stuff to do that I think is ultimately where I can make the most contributions. But sheesh, yes, it’s been a crazy time. I think we all just have to pick our issues and do what we can, the way we always have.

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    1. re: finals.

      Also, Jonah got an A on his final paper for his senior seminar. Woot. He has to take 15 credits to graduate. No requirements, just credits. He was planning on taking those classes over the summer, but is too burned out/miserable/unhealthy to continue. His college will let him take those credits at the local community college. So, I’ll pay him to take computer classes with Ian. Two birds, one stone.

      Ian got a B+ for his community college class, with no help from me. Yay.

      re: the world falling apart

      When my kids are in better shape, then I’ll get more involved. But I very much do have “end of the world” feelings.

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      1. Laura wrote, “He has to take 15 credits to graduate. No requirements, just credits. He was planning on taking those classes over the summer, but is too burned out/miserable/unhealthy to continue. His college will let him take those credits at the local community college. So, I’ll pay him to take computer classes with Ian. Two birds, one stone.”

        I’ve got to keep an eye out on that for our big kids. You can be meeting your requirements and still be short of credits…

        Locally, college kids like “lifetime fitness” classes when they need to squeeze in another credit or two but don’t want to take a whole 3-credit class. That’s not our oldest’s style, but I can definitely imagine her younger brother signing up for racquetball or rock climbing or something.

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      2. Another “wrecked kids” article, on how some under 35’s have given up on their financial futures The World’s a Mess. So They’ve Stopped Saving for Tomorrow.

        One can never tell whether these articles are anything more than a NY Times reporter talking to their friends on twitter (and maybe some friends of friends), but I do see this trend. And not in the same way for middle aged folks, but, there’s definitely a lot of talk of the unpredictability of the future and how that should guide decision making.

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      3. My college had a PE requirement, 3 quarters of PE over the four years. I managed to save that requirement for senior year, and took ice skating for the first two terms (got special permission the 2nd term, because I was a senior) and then took swimming the 3rd term, which required out of class swim time of 1/hour per week. I spent five hours in the pool for the last two days I could submit the hours.

        A reminder to me that I didn’t necessarily plan very well myself.

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  7. bj said “One can never tell whether these articles are anything more than a NY Times reporter talking to their friends on twitter (and maybe some friends of friends), but I do see this trend. ”

    I think this is a real issue. And it came back to bite the reporters over the various recent elections.

    Journalists are heavily concentrated in the big cities, and even more heavily on the medium-to-far left wing politically. The people they know, and even the friends, of friends, of friends – let alone the people in their social media networks are ‘just like them’.

    This kind of reporting says nothing about how people are behaving/feeling in rural, small cities or more right wing groupings.

    And, it’s really dangerous (not in this particular instance – but in general) to assume that these little cells of opinion speak for ‘America’.

    The US (it seems from the outside) is more divided in its opinions than ever – and journalists (if they want to be taken seriously) need to stop writing clickbait, and actually put in the hard yards to investigate properly.

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    1. I agree.

      I dislike articles that use a few personal interviews to buttress a larger theory. According to the St. Louis Fed, it looks like the personal savings rate through April was kind of like normal for the US: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PSAVERT

      The national savings rate in 2020 (33%!) was wildly higher than normal. For young adults, it may seem to them that they are spending madly, but it depends on your frame of reference.

      I wouldn’t recommend flying to Barcelona on a whim. Pursuing a hobby that might become a career is…normal.

      All of the interviewees seem to be childless singles. As the age of first marriage is around 28 – 30, according to the census, it would have been interesting to hear from some people who were getting married, having a child, buying a house. It is happening, but maybe not in the reporter’s social circle.

      The Fidelity study is more interesting than the article: https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/about-fidelity/FID-SORP-DataSheet.pdf

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      1. I’ll add that I’m much, much more worried by millennials owning crypto: https://news.yahoo.com/millennials-crypto-retirement-153231709.html

        That isn’t an investing portfolio. I have no idea why the SEC hasn’t cracked down on crypto. It’s not only highly speculative, it is being marketed as investment vehicles to the utterly naive.

        Millions of American mothers worry their sons might be watching salacious videos alone in their room. They’re wrong. They should be worried their sons are lining up really big financial problems.

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    2. John Podhoretz “The clearest example of the bizarrely naive quality of hermetic liberal provincialism was attributed to the New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael almost 40 years ago, and has been discussed in right-wing circles ever since. It went something like this: “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Several years ago, I went on an admittedly desultory search for the original quote and was unable to locate it.

      On Friday, on the New Yorker’s website, the magazine’s film editor Richard Brody offers what may be the first accurate version of the quote I’ve ever seen (I’m assuming it’s accurate because it comes from the New Yorker itself): “Pauline Kael famously commented, after the 1972 Presidential election, ‘I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.’””

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  8. Being on the receiving end of this firehouse is really shredding what’s left of my positive affect toward Israel and belief that entire Democratic Party would rather see a Democratic-controlled Congress than see the less love for corporations.

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