I was sitting in the kitchen of my Professor’s home, at a gathering to welcome a visiting examiner for a peer’s PhD. It’s the type of event that only happens in academia, students and professors crowded around over pot luck dinner from around the world, swapping stories and jokes while throwing out theories as punchlines. The only looming cloud over the night wasn’t rain as most would expect from Scottish weather, it was anxiety over midterm elections. It was in that kitchen that I realized something. Just under two years ago I was asked whether I thought there was a clinical possibility for people experiencing heightened fear, anxiety, and stress related to Trump’s election to the presidency. They nicknamed it then “Post Trump Syndrome” or “PTS.” At the time, I gave a tempered reply, believing perhaps too strongly that the systems of checks and balances that have kept the US in relative safety for so long would continue onward. I hadn’t realized until now that things had deteriorated so badly.
There’s an old saying that if you put a frog in boiling water it’ll jump out. If you place it in and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll allow itself to be boiled alive. That’s exactly what’s happening in America right now, and I fear, will boil over to other countries if it continues. The only reason why I can believe that as strongly as I do, is suddenly I found myself in cool water once more. When I moved for my PhD a lot changed. And, I had expected it to be stressful, filled with moments of intense anxiety, perhaps even depression. After all, I left my country, my family, friends, loved ones. My dog! Then why have I felt so calm? And what about that night made things so different?
I realized sitting around that table the reason wasn’t because all those things aren’t factoring into my life, nor was it that this is an easy PhD as there is no such thing. The truth is, I no longer wake up every day wondering what tragedy might unfold by his doings, and those of his followers. Instead I’m stricken with bystander’s guilt, watching my home, my loved ones live in a place that becomes more and more foreign to me. And though it’s still happening, terrible things are happening every day still, I watch from the sidelines. I haven’t become uninterested. I still voted, I still advocate, write letters to my congressman, urge others to do the same. I still teach. All this I do as I wake up in a country where I feel completely safe.
Funny thing is, I’ve never felt unsafe because of immigration or gangs in New York, I’ve worried about having healthcare and not going bankrupt because of it, the cost of living, my education costs. I’ve fretted about my aging parents and the ability I might have to care for them should everything collapse, and the safety net of the country has been stripped away. I walked into classrooms knowing that guns were more of a threat to me than any mental health issue I taught about. I second guessed a guy if he was walking behind me because my right’s as a woman came in second from the office of the president to the policies his party passed right down to the justice system should anything occur. I didn’t worry about the person of color, or terrorism. I worried that in my lifetime I’d see my home town disappear from climate change. The feeling came from the hatred boiling over, let loose by the administration.
Scotland has its problems, every country does. But instead of daily dread that was so slowly introduced, and so subtly cemented in I didn’t realize the insidious nature of what’s happening in my home until I left it. My worry was restored that night because I feared for the future and for those I love who are still there. I sat listening to a lecture, angry because a Synagogue, now a bar was once again the target, not of terrorism, not of “caravans” but of the same hate filled prejudicial ordinary Americans that would bring shame to those who fought against this very oppressor some seventy years ago. The irony of writing this on Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day. I sit and watch not representative of people, but those who have sold themselves to the highest bidder prop up sales for guns on a network of free speech that they try to curtail for questioning their very tyranny.
And I’m so very tired of this dread. Yes, it’s great that the Democrats took back the House, but it is a long road back to normal. Hell, I’d take next to normal at this point, but it’s still a steep uphill climb. And there’s no cure, because we now have proof of just how much divide this country has. It takes special leaders to pull us together at times like this. But there is one thing I’m also so very tired of, and that is tip-toeing around the fair and correct term for what is occurring in my America; and that’s the rise of tyranny. So to Trump, and all those who wish for the world he wants, I have some very bad news for you… you are not the first to try it, but take a look at the history books, the only fake news is the one that shows you on the correct side of history. Like all tyrannies, you too shall find that you can check that hatred or be sent back to whatever hole you willed yourself into until this point and hope you realize there’s no room in this world for more hate. I’ll be the first to lend you a hand to come to peace, knowing that I’ve found it from under his thumb. And when I come back home, I’d like for it to be the home it’s supposed to be, the nation of hope and freedom. The cure for Post Trump Syndrome feels great and finding myself here means I know we will get past it at home too.
Forever yours, from the land of Unicorns,