A Passage from Kiese Laymon

How not to obscure what happened this week

In the wide range of responses to the events that unfolded in D.C. this past week, I’ve been struck by the obscuring, distancing, and ultimately excusing language that’s failed to name things as they are.

A big one that has bothered me is the desire to call Donald Trump deranged and unhinged (though I will agree that he is dangerous). While Nancy Pelosi isn’t necessarily a good barometer for doing and saying thoughtful things, what she says here is a popular sentiment that’s frequently and casually tossed around.

Rather than “insane” or “crazy”, I believe that Donald Trump and his ilk are incredibly clear-minded and sane about the destruction they are sowing. This is the manifestation of white supremacy gone unchallenged and run amok. This is what he was promising during every moment of his two campaigns, and also in each and every one of his actions, choices, and words in office.

I find the diagnoses of armchair psychologists frustrating as it obscures what is really at work here (and is also stigmatizing of those struggling with mental illness).

So, I returned to a striking passage from Kiese Laymon where he describes the dynamics of abuse and power at play in our current moment in a way that is profoundly more true, interesting, and useful.

Here’s what I know to be true:

Tate Reeves and most of these white Mississippians are no more regionalists, or lovers of Mississippi and the deep south, than Donald Trump is a patriot and lover of the United States of America. They are not haunted by phantoms. They are dedicated ghouls, spirit-repellent patriarchs who use each other and a muddled understanding of Jesus Christ to ensure the suffering of the most vulnerable. Abusive power tastes, touches, smells, sounds, and feels really good to gobblers of grace. They are not 19-year-old boys trying to decide between right and wrong; they are grown men who have chosen to model meanness for their posterity. They will torture and humiliate everyone close to them to maintain the power to abuse. They will never ever say or mean, I am sorry for making living harder than it needs to be. I am sorry for feeding off your humiliation. I am sorry for never confessing my actual sins to the world. I am sorry that your life means less to me than my ego. They will never say, I am sorry. They will only remind Americans and southerners foolish enough to listen that it all could be so much worse.

For the full piece: Mississippi: A Poem, in Days

and to add some levity to my thoughts this week, and speaking of armchair psychologists, here’s an armchair I built for my teeny craft model home (a work in progress, more on this later):

P.S. Kiese Laymon published a new book of essays this past fall, if you’re interested in reclaiming your time and mind from white supremacists: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America