America cuts its throat

Lisa Locascio wakes up to the full, painful horror of the Trump ascendancy

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illustration by david mccue

This morning I had a nightmare. I was in my old city, Los Angeles, visiting the barrio studio of a famous Chicano surrealist artist whose medium was lingerie with my boyfriend and my mother. The artist was dying, and lived surrounded by sycophants in a barren space carved out of the side of a sandy hill. My boyfriend was very excited to be there so close to the moment of the artist’s death. When he was almost dead his attendants would cut his throat and through ceremony bring his soul into the body of a small boy who had been raised in the studio for this purpose. My boyfriend excitedly sent dispatches to a newspaper. At night we sat around the fire with the artist, the boy, and other men. They produced a knife. I told my boyfriend that I wanted to leave, and he said I could do so on my own. But I didn’t want to be separated from him, so I stayed, even though I felt sick to my stomach as I watched the men approach the artist. Then, in the weird logic of dreams, the ritual was taking longer than we expected, so we went with my mother to a deli and ordered sandwiches. Watching my boyfriend tease and make jokes about how good the guy behind the counter was at making the sandwiches, I thought about how much I loved him even though I knew being together was not important to him in the way it was to me, even though I knew he would leave me. I felt terrible, ripped up inside. But I decided I’d better smile and enjoy whatever time we had together, that every stolen moment with him was better than being alone.

I woke up alone and shook the dream out of my head. I don’t have a boyfriend who treats me that way, I live in Connecticut, and all of the surrealist lingerie in the dream had in fact been the ordinary contents of my underwear drawer. I was so relieved that it hadn’t been real that it seemed possible that the other terrible thing I’d been dreading had been a nightmare, too. So I checked my phone.

I want to apologise to the world, but I’m not even sure what the utility of doing so is; I don’t personally know a single Trump voter, at least not one who would cop to it, which probably evidences the deep divide this outcome apparently reflects. I do not live in the other America, and while I am empathetic to the experiences of those who do, they are not my own. I’ve lived my life in blue states and universities and have made my work reading, writing, and helping others learn how to read and write. I have believed in the American project and the promise of this country despite its great uglinesses and failures. The Obama presidency was a central tenet of this enduring faith. If a man so intelligent, thoughtful, and erudite—the child of an immigrant and a single mother who became an academic—an African-American man, on top of that—if he could be President, then despite everything something was working in the United States. The night President Obama was elected I experienced for the first time in my life the feeling of being proud of my country. And now here I sit, devastated and frightened to even be typing these words, wondering if I will end up on a registry or list, made to sit in a cage, if by writing this I am going to be one of the reporters whose death by lynching is fantasized about on a popular viral t-shirt.

Yesterday I voted early and went to a yoga class in which I meditated on how amazing it would be to experience the inauguration of the first female president. Then I came home, changed into a pantsuit, and drove to a nearby town, where a photographer was offering free portraits of members of the giant secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation in Hillary-supporting garb. I brought a broom made of cinnamon to pose with in the pictures. I am a witch, a title I proudly claimed after it was used against me in a middle school bullying campaign. From the start of this hallucinatorily awful campaign, I recognised Donald Trump’s tactics for what they are—not outlandish and disruptive challenges to the status quo but the dull aggressions of an abuser. A few weeks ago, after the tape was released that apparently didn’t matter to more than half the people who voted yesterday in my country—you know, the one on which he talks about grabbing women by the pussy, how he can do it because he’s rich and powerful—I sat at my kitchen table sobbing as many experiences I had brushed off as ordinary and happenstance came into focus as repeated incidences of sexual assault and harassment. I’ve always been a “nasty woman.” Men, and some women, have been telling me so all my life. The first time was when a classmate called me the “fuckingest bitch” he’d ever met. I reported him to the teacher but felt guilty, because it was his eleventh birthday.


I smiled and laughed as the photographer took her pictures, thinking of how I’d post the nice professional shots triumphantly on social media the next day. I knew that I would write this piece for Product, and I thought of how satisfying it would be to call out my experiences of having been brought low by those who resent me just for being in the room, how beautiful and safe and freeing it would be to live in a country that had elected a leader who championed women’s rights and those of people of colour and Muslims and LGBTQ citizens and of the undocumented immigrants who endure untold horrors in the hopes of making better lives in the United States. All of this pre-jubilation feels cruelly stupid now. I don’t know what to do with these pictures. I pray they are not evidence of the last time I felt like I belonged in my country. That’s what the dream was about, of course. Not a boyfriend but America that I’ve always loved so much, in spite of its capacity for horror and idiocy. No matter how much you love something, you can’t make it love you back.

Climbing the stairs to the photographer’s studio in my high-heeled boots, I fell and landed hard on my right hand, splayed against the banister. My right ring finger is quite swollen this morning. I wonder if I broke something. I’ve always considered my resilience to be the primary evidence of my great privilege, the way it’s possible for me to keep going and fight. I know that the fact that I am white, educated, straight, and nominally financially secure makes more possible for me, unfairly more, and I’ve always taken that grotesque reality as a call to do more, to help others, to push harder in making the unseen and heard known. But this morning my hand hurts and my mouth tastes of ashes and I’m so scared. I don’t feel that I know how to help anyone just now. Including myself.






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