The Tears That Donald Trump Brought

by Paddy Johnson on November 9, 2016 Obituary


When I did sleep last night, I dreamed I was stuck in a small hovel trying to hide from an evil demon. I told my friend there was a demon outside, but he let him in anyway and then left me to defend myself. Somehow, I knew I’d be doing it for a long time—this wasn’t the first time I had the nightmare.

The symbolism in my dreams—when it exists at all—has never been anything but obvious. I woke up to the light of my phone. It was 3 am, but there was so much activity in response to the election, that the battery was drained and the screen was on.  Donald Trump’s win of the election was already taking a toll. No one I knew slept for more than three hours.

Now, a few short hours later, I sit at my desk contemplating  my role as an art blogger and critic—one I generally define as tying larger subjects back to art. Today, I don’t see the benefit in doing that. I don’t think the world needs a briefing on the art world’s reactions to this. Anyone who cares can look it up on facebook (or our links).

But past that, Donald Trump’s presidency is a problem larger than art can solve. He’s a threat to the nation state, our democracy and almost certainly, the world economy and any semblance of peace. We know this because over the course of the election we’ve heard him talk about tearing up our trade agreements, disengaging from NATO, and ending any effort to address climate change. He’s threatened the freedom of the press, the civil rights of American Citizens and the autonomy of the courts and the Federal Reserve. That’s to say nothing of what will happen to health care, or the effects of his actions towards women.

With the Senate, the House and the White House now in Republican control, the prospect of containing the damage feels like an insurmountable challenge—one even the best of us feel daunted by. Early this morning I got a text from satirical artist William Powhida informing me that he’d deleted all of his social media accounts. “There isn’t a symbolic way out,” he wrote. I started to cry.

There’s isn’t a positive way to spin this. I am afraid for our future, which is uncertain at best. But I also know that if we want to survive the next four years we need to find some hope. Three words and gestures this morning helped me inch towards that.

David Remnick at 2:40 am at the New Yorker describing the job ahead:

…despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

This morning, Slack founder Stewart Butterfield paraphrasing Winston Churchill over twitter. “Never waste a crisis.

And this afternoon, a pick-me-up from good friend, who sharing my despair, invited me to the opening of BRIC’s Biennial because “it is important to remind [ourselves] that good things exist still.”

Each gave me a different lens with which to look towards the future, but it was the art I so readily disavowed earlier in this post, that reminded me how important it is to keep going. Paintings and sculptures can’t solve our problems, but they can give us the courage to address them. On a day like today, the value of those qualities can not be overstated.

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