2020 Hindsight

I’m so exhausted, you’d think I’d been running into the mob to take photos; although I was only sitting at home watching it on television. It’s one of the expected physical responses to trauma. I’m weary, and like many, I want this insanity to end. 

The problem is that we are at the end of an abusive relationship, and that is always the most dangerous time. The abuser, knowing that it is over and they have lost, has no more limits. There is no reason to put up a pleasant facade, to try and paint a picture that everything is ok, really. 

Everything is not okay. Really, really not okay. 

It’s one thing to acknowledge that the president is an abuser, and that we have all been hurt, and many killed, by the actions (and inactions) of this administration. But it is another thing to understand that our whole government, our culture is abusive, and that we are at the moment of breaking free. 

When I was up much too late on Tuesday night, waiting for the contests to be called in the Georgia runoff, I was thinking about my late father-in- law. He was a case history in what makes a slave. While his flagrant use of the n-word didn’t even raise an eyebrow in Dalton, Georgia, I let him know I thought it was revolting. Every time he tried to call me a Yankee, I reminded him that I lived farther south than he did. What was remarkable about the man is that even though the Bush Administration had ruined him by taking over, and then closing down, a bank he legitimately owned (remember the old Saving and Loan scandal of George Bush the First?) he would never vote for a Democrat. He was a proud Republican, loyal to his masters, grateful to be humiliated and left bankrupt, and still voting his abusers into office on every ballot. 

That solid red map of the north Georgia precincts? Towns where people don’t have municipal sewage or trash pick-up?  All you have to do is say “socialism,” and they sink into the floor. 

It’s going to be trying. It’s going to challenge all the norms, push back on assumptions and make us wonder what we are doing. It takes time to recover from an abusive relationship. Many end up going back, because it’s hard to be independent when you have been brainwashed to feel you are incompetent. It’s hard to take care of yourself, take care of others, when your self esteem has been totally debased. Look at Alabama, look at West Virginia. 

On the other hand, many do make it. Even decades of abuse can be overcome. Look at Germany, look at Spain. Sometimes just looking back over your shoulder you can allow you the distance and the space to see how bad it was. Sometimes that hindsight is clarity. 

But hindsight is not always 20/20. There are still – I imagine there always will be-  folks who seem to see the past through a filter of fantasy. Neither the 1950s or the 1850s were a golden age. Anyone who claims they were is embracing ‘alternative’ facts. 

The attack on the Capitol should not have surprised anyone. That treasonous mob was on the way since the beginning of November.

November of 2016. 

It’s kind of relief when reality breaks through – when what is ugly is seen as ugly, instead of being painted over with a layer of pretense. Then we can get into the real work of repair – perhaps even renaissance.

The thing that will make this time different is not (although I hope for the best) the shift in government. Once Biden and Harris are inaugurated, we will have some more space to move. What will make this time different is the number of people who have become politically involved, who have committed to change on the ground, who are looking at the things in their own lives that have made this four year long nightmare possible. 

So, just a few more days, and there is a chance to break free, a chance to really recover. 

When we get enough distance to look back at 2020, we might see some things in a while new light – a light that will show us what real democracy looks like. 

Judith Martin-Straw




The Actors' Gang


  1. So that’s where I left my spectacles! Been looking for them everywhere, tsk.
    Once again a terrific piece of journalism Judith, although we’re shocked to learn your father-in-law was unabashedly racist* which in the 21st century is about as backward as it gets, and reminds us of Frank Zappa who wisely observed, “Ignorance can fixed, but stupid is forever.” One need look no further for proof of that axiom than Trump and his colicky, white supremacist ‘Getcher hands off my guns!’ proto-fascist supporters, who unintentionally demonstrate the true nature of “trickle down” theory: stupidity begins at the top. Trump is clearly guilty of (at the very least) sedition, which is a deeply alarming and very serious Federal crime for a US President to commit. But more importantly, his behavior and hate speech resulted in the deaths of 5 people at the Capitol. Ergo he is now, arguably in ANY court of law, suspect of conspiracy to murder. And this psycho-social-crotch-grabbing misfit has the nuclear codes? Is anyone else doing the maths here? We’re all living now in Kubrick’s dark satire, Dr. Strangelove, yikes! And the presumption that Biden/Harris will be an improvement is, with all due respect, a pipe dream. My now deceased father (a lifelong Democrat) remained abusive to the grave…nevertheless before he passed, I said to him, “Politics have become so corrupt, there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans anymore”, which he whole heartily agreed with. Weren’t many rational moments with my old man, but that was one of few. As an aside, I don’t have nightmares (which you may recall) about the parents anymore, yet I grew up to be an excellent baby-sitter, which is about as easy as it gets. Just treat kids (and animals) with respect, none of that ‘goo-goo-gah-gah’ nonsense, and they’ll learn very quickly. One moment I’ll never forget was baby-sitting a girlfriend’s granddaughter, and being mindful of SIDS, I’d just stare at the crib all night. She woke late one evening and delighted to see me (as she always was) I picked her up and introduced her to my wall of books…and as I opened a book and introduced her to the world of literature: letters, words, pages and how books work, her eyes went WIDE as saucers at the discovery. The only time I ever saw her cry was when I had to leave her with her parents. Point being…to paraphrase author Shirley Jackson…“raising demons” isn’t so difficult as one might think…as I’m sure you’ll agree. Keep rockin’ and writin’ Jude. Stay safe and always
    wear masks, even while driving.
    Drew Cummings.
    *As a young White teenager strolling the streets of predominately Black L.A. neighborhoods,
    my only fear was arguing over which was better…Tops or Temps. When in fact, I was and
    still am a devout Isley Bros fan, they so rock! “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do…”

  2. Hiya Jude.
    A quick correction/addendum…that Frank Zappa quote should have read, “Ignorance can be fixed, but stupid is forever.” Communicating via tiny screens make errors inevitable, and one can proofread a huge paragraph only so many times before the eyes rebel. Another favorite axiom is when people ask, ‘Are you talking to yourself?’ to which
    I always reply, ‘Yes, that way I’m insured intelligent conversation’ which more often than not makes people angry,
    so I’d use that one with discretion. Makes me laugh though. This is key: I recommended wearing a mask while
    driving because a recent scientific study (yet to be peer-reviewed which can take months) demonstrated that
    COVID-19 remains suspended in the air for quite a long time and will move across a huge room…even in
    motionless air! Add to the equation this new, far more infectious variant that is sweeping the planet…
    One stares in awe at the willful, suicidal stupidity of people who refuse to wear masks during a global
    pandemic that is spreading way faster than AIDS. As if wearing a mask intrudes upon their civil liberties.
    Grow Up, for pity’s sake. There’s no use mentioning the 1918 flu pandemic that killed millions worldwide,
    they couldn’t care less anyway. Interesting to note that the Trump supporting white-supremacist-nazi-wannabe imbeciles who raided the U.S. capitol with the clear and well documented participation of Capitol police…who deliberately sat on their hands while the place was demolished…virtually none of those knuckleheads were
    wearing masks. Truly, as beloved and much missed comedian George Carlin observed, all too often there
    is no learning curve with Yanks…dumber than a sack of rocks. George’s posthumously published
    autobiography “Last Words” is an excellent read, very highly recommended. The world is a
    much poorer place for Carlin’s passing, but we’ve still got brilliant comedians like
    Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, time not wasted I promise.
    Can’t proofread this again, way too exhausting…sheesh.
    So blushes for any additional/unintentional errors.
    Gotta look after me cat,
    Regards, D.

  3. Judith this is an excellent clarification of what many of us may be experiencing and don’t have words to fit the experience. I go sort of numb and get into my left brain all too much. Then I can’t figure out why I don’t feel so productive at other goals? Allowing one to feel what is happening is a challenge. Your insights help me to breathe and feel what I may be experiencing?

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