On the morning New Year’s Eve, 2016, I sat on my bed and opened Facebook. The first post I encountered was a picture of the Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling in the Oval Office. Behind him sat Donald Trump at the President’s desk.
What a strange, outlandish idea, I thought. Frightening. I showed it to Darcie.
“I posted that picture,” she said. Sure enough, she had. “I thought it was funny.”
“That’s just too weird,” I said. She looked at me funny. I switched to the Times front page, and there was an article about “President-elect Trump.”
I looked up at Darcie. “Is this a joke? What’s going on? That’s a crazy idea…Trump is a lunatic…”
“Uh, Mark, who won the election?”
I thought hard. “Obama, but that was a few years ago.” Trump hadn’t won an election. That wasn’t possible.
Darcie looked scared now. “Do you remember who lost the election?”
I remembered that Hillary Clinton was running…then…”Oh my god, she lost? She lost! Trump won the election? Oh damn, we’re screwed!” I was shouting now.
This is a true story.
I was recovering from a weeks-long fight with bronchitis, and I had been having trouble breathing. On New Year’s Eve, I decided to exercise. I needed it. And then I was sitting on my bed.
There’s a medical condition called Transient Global Amnesia. (Look it up.) It can happen after intense exercise, especially if the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. You forget everything that’s happened for the previous months – in my case, a whole year.
“Where do you work?” asked Darcie.
I told her I worked at the company I left a year ago. Now she was really freaked out.
I wasn’t. Because this happened to me once before, years ago. Then, it was terrifying. But I knew the feeling. And I knew that it was transient – I was certain it was the same thing and that it would all come back. I explained this to Darcie, and she looked it up on Wikipedia. “Yikes, that’s it! That’s just what you’re…doing.” She said “doing” as if I was standing on my head and singing in Hungarian.
I went back to the Facebook picture. “This Twilight Zone picture, it’s real?” I felt very much like I had entered The Twilight Zone.
Darcie looked a little flummoxed. “It’s not real…but…it’s a thing. It’s kind of real…sort of. I guess this whole election could have been on the Twilight Zone.”
I was hearing this for the first time, it seemed. All of it. Darcie explained, almost apologetically, about the election, Hillary’s electoral college collapse, about the tweets, the cabinet appointments, the Russian hacks. I learned it all at once. I looked at the Times again, which confirmed it all. I still didn’t remember any of it.
I went through denial, anger, pleading, depression and acceptance in a few minutes. Actually, the acceptance took a while, and I only accepted that it was all true, not OK.
That was the most remarkable feeling: Hearing all this at once for the first time…how can this be OK? How can anybody be OK with this? It’s preposterous!
And gradually my memory returned. All of it. Nothing is missing, so far as I know. But the feeling of rediscovering the events of the last few months haven’t left me. It’s raw. It’s very, very upsetting.
As one friend told me, “You, of all people! I don’t know anyone who would be more tortured by having to go through all this again, all at once. This is cruel!”
But I challenge him, and you, dear reader, what if this happened to you? Would you see the madness of the campaign, of Brexit, of the FBI director’s intervention (I really had trouble believing that happened), of the cabinet of right wing billionaires and generals…what would you think if you found your world transformed like this?
Remember the boiling frog? Put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat, and the frog will stay there as the water gradually boils. I had become the frog who is tossed into the pot of boiling water, and felt the heat. I wanted to jump out.
If you can’t arrange an attack of Transient Global Amnesia for yourself, begin the new year with an imagination attack. Force yourself to consider what your year-ago self would have thought about what’s happening to us. We’re slowly boiling, my friends.
It’s not OK.
During the Nixon years, young people struggled to find creative ways to stop an out-of-control president. Read about it in Some Way Outa Here.