For lots of people like me, the world has been turned on its head over the last few years. In fact, the whole damn century thus far has been pretty puzzling.
We started out by electing the village idiot as our leader, a rich man's kid who had demonstrated little in the way of intelligence or competence in anything he'd ever done up to that point. Then we re-elected him despite the fact that he had, in his first term, invaded the wrong country in response to a big terror attack he'd neglected to prevent, having been on vacation the entire month preceding those assaults on New York and the Pentagon.
He bungled another more natural disaster in New Orleans and nearly oversaw the tanking of the global economy before he was sent on his way to retirement.
Then we elected a black guy, telling ourselves that we were, by so doing, turning ourselves into a "post-racial" society, at last. What happened instead, however, was that the ugly racist underbelly of the nation rolled over exposing that obscene white belly to the light of day.
We saw eight years of a dignified and intelligent man exercising stewardship, cleaning up the mess left by the idiot (and his evil VP henchman). For eight years we then had responsible adult leadership, and in gratitude, the man in charge was treated to an unending stream of racist hate from such inferior specimens as Ted Nugent, the Tea Party, and the Republican Party (which had vowed that its first, second, and third priorities were all dedicated to ensuring Barack Obama's administration was an abject failure.
Even a country as prone to bad judgments as we had become could never be stupid enough, perverse enough, addled enough, self-destructive enough to put a man like Donald Trump in its highest office. No way.
But as bad as it was, as bad as Dubya and company had been, most Americas still couldn't believe that it would have been possible for a man like Donald J. Trump to become President of the United States. Even a country as prone to bad judgments as we had become could never be stupid enough, perverse enough, addled enough, self-destructive enough to put a man like Donald Trump in its highest office. No way.
Once that inconceivable thing happened, however, we began to wonder what other unquestioned articles of faith should be questioned, what other eternal verities might no longer be true. If we could be so wrong in such a fundamental way, what else had we misunderstood?
Perhaps, at this point, I should switch to using the first person singular pronoun. Speaking for myself, was it possible that my entire world view had been constructed on sand that had begun to shift? Could it be that damn near everything I'd thought for so many decades was just plain wrong?
Were the things I'd been taught in school—even Sunday school—all just a boatload of bullshit? Was it possible that the things I'd learned at my mother's knee were nothing more than a compendium of old wives' tales, even though mom wasn't yet an old wife when she was teaching me stuff?
Did I draw all the wrong conclusions from all those books I'd read and all that thinking and feeling I'd done with such determination to sort out what was true from what wasn't?
For example, had my liberal tendencies made it impossible for me to see the wisdom of the trickle-down theory? Had I failed to see how right Reagan and Laffer and those other well-connected economists had been when they tried to teach me and everyone else how bountifully we'd all be rewarded if we just let the very rich have all the money they could ever want, so much gold, cash, municipal bonds, art treasures, yachts and mansions that the surfeit of wealth would, eventually, be so entirely excessive that it would overflow their coffers and then trickle down on us lesser people?
Was I just too impatient to wait for that to happen, too set in my ways, too inclined to want to hang on to enough to live on that I forfeited the trickle that might have turned into a flood of money if only I'd been willing to wait until the rich were glutted, swollen with wealth to the point of pain, and thus ready for their cups to runneth over and shower down their superfluous goodies on me, and on us?
And maybe I'd just been a dreamer (though not the only one) who had been foolish to believe in equal justice under the law, equal rights for all, and equal opportunity as a basic inalienable right. Had I just been a silly boy grown to become a silly young man, then a silly old man, believing that skin color or ethnicity were foolish ways to form judgments of people.
Maybe all those bad things I'd grown up hearing about black people, brown people, Jews, and women were true. Was it possible, in fact, that the Ku Klux Klan was not, as I'd thought for so long, a group of cowardly bullies and thugs, but were, instead, a gallant and misunderstood vanguard of stalwart men standing in defense of a beleaguered and disadvantaged white race victimized by blacks, immigrants, and Jews who would, "if given an inch, always take a mile"?
Perhaps I'd been a gullible libtard all those years I'd spent choosing to take the opinion of the world's climate scientists seriously when they agreed, virtually unanimously, that the planet was heating up in alarming and dangerous ways, mostly caused by the large numbers of human beings using so much carbon-based fuel. And maybe other scientists had just been engaged in a conspiracy of some kind when they agreed that Darwin had been right about his theory of evolution. Maybe, in fact, the earth was a mere 6,000 years old, and humans had once shared it with dinosaurs.
Might it have been true that white people had always been a benign, benevolent outfit, the best force in the world, bringing "civilization" and Christianity to lesser peoples around the globe who had been living in darkness until we showed up?
Was it possible that Republicans of the latter part of the 20th century were the true friends of the common man, the real advocates for workers, the best allies labor ever had?
Had it been better back when I was a boy, in those "happy days" when women seemed to know they were better off at home, better off not taking jobs away from men, better off accepting much less pay when they did those jobs set aside for them in the want ads? Maybe things made more sense when women couldn't get loans without their husbands' signatures, when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were a matter of shame, all of which went to the knocked-up women, none to the men who had impregnated them.
Had I missed the memo that explained to me that grabbing women I didn't know by the pussy was pretty cool, and that bragging about it was just harmless "locker room" talk, the kind of thing people of my gender were supposed to do when we were out of earshot of our moms, our daughters, or our spouses?
Maybe it was better when women without resources had their lives destroyed, driven to back alley abortions or self-administered attempts to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Maybe it taught them something about the "wages of sin," or about how cruel the world can be. Maybe they were better for being scorned, or forced into marriages that were doomed from the start, or if not doomed, then destined in all too many cases to be a life-long misery marathon for wife, husband, and child. So maybe the evangelicals, the Catholics, and the Mormons who wanted to make abortion illegal again had been right all along.
And maybe all this celebrating of diversity liberals wanted everyone to do is just more of the la-de-da foolishness the left comes up with so predictably. Because isn't it clear that human beings can barely get along with one another when they're homogenous and all of a kind? Why would anyone think that forcing wildly different religions, skin colors, cultures and customs to live together in close proximity is a good idea?
Could it be, too, that I had my head up my ass all those years I thought profiting from other people's desperate illnesses was an ugly and immoral aspect of capitalism? Was I wrong to think it was criminal price gouging when pharma companies charged $800 for a plastic bag of saline that cost them $8.00 to make? Had I been misguided to think single-payer universal health care that provided better health coverage far more cheaply was just a better way to go, morally and economically?
Could it have been that the right wing was right in believing that a heavily-armed populace was a safer populace? Was I just duped when I believed that open carry laws were just nuts, and that the idea of armed teachers in schools was a sign of a failed or failing society? Was I wrong to think the unrestricted 2nd Amendment freedom to own guns was never intended to produce the madness we live with in schools, churches, movie theaters, and on our streets?
Had I misunderstood all that stuff about being my brother's keeper, about kindness and mercy, about not taking unfair advantage of other people? Was I not supposed to buy it when I was told to play nice with others, to share what I had with people who were less fortunate?
Had all the people I'd admired, from Dr. Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, from Honest Abe Lincoln to Dr. Benjamin Spock all been peddling a line of crap, along with Jesus Christ, for Christ sake, when he was nattering on about loving one another, not to mention other precepts about how we might get along with one another slightly less murderously?
Should I, in fact, have climbed aboard the Republican band wagon decades ago, dedicated my energies toward protecting the interests of the plutocrats in hopes that it might, in due time, pan out for all?
In the context of Donald Trump and where we are now, had my whole adult life been based on foolish attitudes and values, and utterly misguided political views? Had I, in short, been wrong about everything?
I thought long and hard about it, and finally reached an unassailable conclusion. If the Trump phenomenon proved anything it was that I--and we---had been right all along.