Day 10 under Trump: Daily life now chaotic, weird

On day ten of Donald Trump’s presidency, what I’m missing most is normal life. I’d like my old life back, that place where I could focus on friends and family, read the news, interact predictably with the community, and get on with my work.

But as the deadline approaches for a new column, all the topics on my list look way too trivial. This may be a symptom of something wrong: The government is supposed to handle stuff—deliver the mail, maintain roads and bridges, organize flights at airports, run the national parks, explore space, keep our food safe, and do dozens of other tasks—in a predictable way so we can get on with our lives.

It’s Monday morning, January 30, and life isn’t predictable, it’s weird. The day starts with updates on Trump’s executive order, issued shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, that prohibits refugees from entering the U.S. for a time and limits immigration from some countries with large Moslem populations. Americans have been protesting at airports, about 30 court cases have been filed, judges have ordered stays, tech executives are outraged, and donations to the American Civil Liberties Union just hit $24 million.

In the confusion of a Friday-night crackdown, people were plucked off of planes, barred from getting onto planes, or put back on them for return flights. And these were people who’d done their paperwork correctly; some were permanent residents with green cards.

I wonder about a friend with a green card who’s just planned a brief vacation outside the country; will he be able to get back in? I add this to the worries from last week’s executive orders: Will a family member be able to buy health insurance? Will the government cancel the contract for another whose research deals with climate and atmospherics?

Pushing these worries away, I settle down to work, but wait—here’s more news: Trump has just issued an order to reduce business regulation. Any agency wanting to issue a new regulation will have to cancel two others. I ponder how this might work. It sounds nifty, like a great sale on shoes.

Trump has been posing for photos with a group of small-business owners, except, now he’s switched to ridiculing Sen. Chuck Schumer, who became tearful while speaking at an airport protest. First on Twitter and then in the photo-op, Trump is decrying the “fake tears.”

I should get back to work, but I check the stock market, which has swooped down nearly 200 points. Is this because one of the chief donor strategists for the Koch brothers—highly influential conservatives—has just warned that we’re on a dangerous path toward authoritarian rule? Hard to know.

I’ve been so preoccupied with turmoil and angst that I’m starting to wonder if the timing of the order on a Friday evening, and the uneven reactions by agencies carrying it out, have been done on purpose.

Who benefits from such constant and purposeful confusion? I find these events quite frightening. The immigrants affected had followed the rules, but the rules changed in mid-air and were being applied retroactively. I wonder who’s next for this kind of treatment, and which set of rules will be suddenly altered. If this this is the strategy for running the government, more people than just me are going to get tired of it before long.

My day is turning as dark as the deep gray rain outside, for fear isn’t new; it’s been a steady companion since Election Day. Many of my women friends worry, as I do, that Trump’s words and style embolden aggressive males to attack women and people of color. Indeed, hate crimes and hate speech are increasing, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups that monitor such events.

In the midst of all this, many of us try to find facts, turn to history, and ask about solutions. But Trump and his spokespeople like to provide views that are far more fake than Schumer’s tears. We’re asked to swallow “alternative facts” and disbelieve our senses. Trump says the weekend enforcement of his immigration order was very successful, that any confusion was caused by a Delta airlines scheduling glitch.

Friends reach for hints on how to cope by watching the 1944 movie “Gaslight,” in which a man tries to convince his wife she is going insane by altering her perceptions of reality. People turning to George Orwell’s novel “1984” have made it an Amazon best-seller.

I’ve found comfort in talking with friends and sharing feelings. It’s reassuring, and we end up saying, “So I’m not alone, I’m not nuts.” It becomes easier to reject a world in which we are asked not to trust our own senses—or our logic, or laws, or moral and ethical standards.

It’s time to stop for lunch, get to an appointment, and run errands—in short, return to normal life. So it’s late in the afternoon before I turn on the computer and see headlines marching across the monitor: The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, is refusing to defend Trump’s executive orders on immigration in the dozens of court cases already filed. She doesn’t believe his orders are consistent with the law.

Pausing for dinner, I think how good it is to live in this country, where the rule of law applies to all, where we’ll now see the key questions at hand argued and debated.

Oh, dear, that’s not going to happen. For dessert this evening, Trump has fired Yates and is naming someone else to act as Attorney General, someone who will do his bidding. I also learn that she’s not alone in getting sacked. Trump has also fired the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Wait—Didn’t he say earlier he was pleased with the way enforcement had gone, over the weekend?

It’s time for bed, on this tenth day of the Trump administration. We have 1,451 left to go, for his first four years. That’s a long time to live in fear and distraction, trying to find truth amid delusions and alternative realities. And it’s a long time to go without a good night’s sleep.

Yes, it’s been hard to get back to sleep in the wee hours, now that there are so many uncertainties in the lives of family and friends to worry about. And so much fear in my own life.

What to do? Counting down from 100 backwards, exhaling on each odd number, sometimes works. Maybe I should count down from 1,451. Casting about for calming thoughts, I recall an older couple in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day. They were commenting on a brass plaque they’d just found nearby. It was broken off, and it read simply, “Be still and know…”

What could this mean, they wondered out loud, drawing in several of us waiting in line. I recognized the phrase from a Psalm in the Bible; the words to complete the line are: “that I am God.”

As I was walking home, I chuckled, thinking of these missing words in relation to Donald Trump. He isn’t God, after all. Attaching meaning to a partial phrase from a broken plaque found at random in a parking lot makes about as much sense as anything else that has happened today.

At the end of day ten, “Be still and know” seems like good advice.