I expected to feel overjoyed, or at least relieved. I thought I’d cry at the inauguration, I thought I’d feel like the world was lighter. But all I feel is empty, and I can’t really figure out why.
The booting of Donald Trump from office was one of the few things this country has gotten right lately, and by God, it was so necessary. He was toxic, a metastasizing cancer in the body politic, and I just don’t understand anyone who pretended it was any other way. America is better with him out of power and off social media.
But I can’t really start to process the past four years, not yet. Now that he’s gone and we have a “normal” administration in power, it’s starting to become clear just how much changed, how much was lost and how much we just let slide in order to get through our days.
It’s like I was rescued from a desert island, starved and parched, but now that I’m on that plane back to the land of plenty all I can think about is the island, its rocky shores and its trees, its contours and its creatures. I can feel the sand beneath my toes as the thirst claws at my throat, and still I wonder if it was just a mirage.
What just happened to us? Was it even real? Do I actually have a right to feel the way I feel?
The gaslighting is already starting. The usual suspects on the right are crying that the press is being too nice to President Joe Biden, that if we’d actually wanted to work across the aisle we shouldn’t have been so mean to their president, and that their deranged attacks on the new administration are exactly the same thing as our opposition to Trump.
Was that all it was? Partisanship? Did I march and write and feel sick and despair just because I didn’t like the man’s policies? Did I look at Trump and see the downfall of American democracy because I was bitter that my side lost an election?
It was so much more than that.
I know it was. But if you ask me, I’ll have trouble pointing to just one thing. Charlottesville, maybe, or the Capitol insurrection. The 400,000 dead from the pandemic. The warm embrace of dictators, the Mussolini-like posturing, the shattering of norms and the upending of fragile democratic systems.
But the reality was that every single day, there was something. Maybe it was a small thing, like a series of demented late-night tweets, or a big thing like a rally full of hate and lies. It wasn’t just him, either, but all the cynical enablers in Congress, all the vicious liars who spun his words on TV, radio or online, and all the people who swallowed the lies and used them as a club against anyone they didn’t like.
Four years of that.
We survived it. So many others didn’t. But both the living and the dead must have their say now. We can’t go back to normal; we can’t be the way we were before because that country and those people are gone. We can’t just pretend it was nothing.
We need truth like we need sunlight and air. We need to keep telling our stories and remembering how we felt. We need to listen and to lift each other up.
I feel empty and hollow because there hasn’t been justice yet. Until that’s done, until the truth is fully told and everyone who abused the law and broke this country is made to pay for it, I don’t think I’ll ever feel quite whole.
So hold the hearings. Hold the impeachment trial! Kick every insurrectionist out of Congress, shame and cast down everyone in power who let it all happen, and let it be written that no rich and selfish man, no venal political party, no privileged race is sovereign in America, only the people are.
If we fail at this we will never heal, and our descendants will pay a price for it. There is always another Trump; the world is full of his kind. The next one might be much, much harder to remove.
So yes, I’m glad he’s not in power anymore. But until and unless we acknowledge, understand and demand justice for the past four years, he’ll never truly be gone.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.