January 3, 2024
A little of what I think of the Claudine Gay controversy. Basically, I don’t view it as an individual failure on the part of a university president, I see it as a symptom of a much larger problem with which this country is unsuccessfully grappling.
I can’t address the controversy surrounding Gay’s gender and race, and even if I could, I couldn’t speak to it in terms of higher academia. That’s not a world I’ve ever inhabited. I will say the plagiarism aspects are unfortunate, Gay should not have made those mistakes, they substantially undermine her credibility. But that was decades ago, and the right went digging deep to find those indiscretions. Justified criticism nonetheless, although I’m not sure worthy of her resignation. But again, I don’t inhabit the world of higher academia, so my opinion is not based on direct knowledge and certainly doesn’t hold any weight.
With regards to the congressional hearing, it’s quite obvious Gay and her colleagues were extensively coached. Just as I would have, I imagine them spending hours in front of a mirror practicing their responses, trying their damndest to bely their emotions, narrowly responding to questions with brief, monotone, fact-based answers in line with established university policy. Their humanity was squelched. There was nothing left of their authenticity, their personal convictions, their very spirits. They were going through the motions because that’s what was expected of them. It is part of their jobs to be mouthpieces for the institutions, but to have been boxed in so tightly must have been incredibly angering. I imagine they resented having to participate on so many levels. The distinct distaste the panel had for the whole debacle was plainly evident. In my assessment, the errors the women made in their responses were inevitable given the tenor of the event. It was a Big Gotcha perpetrated by MAGA Republicans. Of course it was a circus. The whole thing just stank.
I wondered if I had been on the receiving end of Stefanik’s questions if I could have camouflaged my disdain. No. I could not have. With me, what you see is what you get. I wear my emotions plainly, I’m easy to decipher. I often betray my true feelings because I’m not practiced on hiding them, I simply forget to neutralize my expressions. Generally, it doesn’t even occur to me that I should. And it doesn’t really matter that I don’t own a poker face, because I’m not in the public eye. It only hurts me when I exhibit contempt for others. And there’s the crux – it hurts me. Hate always damages the hater more than the hated. I know that much is true.
Seeing those women sneer, and sneer is the right term, I felt a solidarity with them. I recognized what we have in common: an out and out disgust for MAGA Republicans. They sicken me. Were I to engage in conversation with one, which I avoid whenever I can, I would be unable to hide the fact I don’t respect their beliefs, and fortunately or unfortunately, I discount what they stand for across the board. They no longer share any humanity with me. They are the Dangerous Other. Right or wrong, that’s how I feel. That’s where I’m at.
Stefanik, expectedly, has confirmed my negative opinion of her and her ilk in taking responsibility for the downfall of Gay and Magill. One major victory for the MAGAs, one huge loss for the elitist left. Stefanik’s arrogance reinforces what I believe to be true about all MAGAs: They’re megalomaniacal. They’re dangerous. They may cost me my freedom as an American. They’re worthless. They’re stupid. I despise them. Trump must be so proud. I can just imagine his congratulatory phone call to Stefanik, hinting at the possibility of a bigger collaboration. The vice presidency perhaps? The Trump mindfuck is incredibly powerful and bafflingly effective.
I often feel guilty I paint the entire MAGA movement with a brush of evil. But I do. As a committed follower of the teachings of Jesus, I wonder if he would engage in loving conversation with MAGA Republicans, or if he would rebuke them. Would he exhibit the grace he gave the Romans when he said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I try to err on the side of compassion, but I haven’t been able to summon any of that good will. The further the MAGA movement moves right, the more deliberately I entrench myself left. Every day I sit with these questions. I ponder at length and at the end of the day, I end up with more questions and no answers.
Will Trump create camps and jail those who speak out against him? Will I be interned in one of those camps? Will I feel justified if I am? Or will I recant everything I’m saying here and now to avoid such a fate? Am I catastrophizing? Is it even possible for the United States to go from a democracy to an autocracy overnight? I don’t know. I really don’t know. No one knows. God willing, we will never have to know.
I wish Trump would just cease and be no more. But even if that happened, we have a MAGA movement that has unearthed and legitimized centuries of racism with which this country must still contend. I’ve changed, I’m one person who gets it. I understood systemic racism before only anecdotally, but now I see it everywhere because it is everywhere. Even if Trump is no longer relevant, how will society steer so much of the population invested in maintaining the status quo in a more positive direction? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Do all controversies lead to Trump and the danger I perceive MAGAs to be? Probably. It feels like half the country is staunchly pitted against the other half. I’m uncomfortable and I’m frightened. I’m consuming my politics very deliberately right now, making certain to encase myself in a cocoon of confirmation bias. Maybe that’s wrong, but it sure feels right. Except I know that when I’m confident I’m right, I’m usually wrong. I do know it’s wrong to hate, it’s wrong to pit myself against the Other. It’s inaccurate to even manufacture an Other. That’s not how humanity survives. We’re all in this together…
And yet I continue to hate. I just don’t know how to fix it. I can’t seem to change. I don’t know how to be better. I don’t know how to not hate.
“Relational power takes great strength. In stark contrast to unilateral power, the radical manifestations of relational power are found in people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus. It requires the willingness to endure tremendous suffering while refusing to hate. It demands that we keep our hearts open to those who wish to slam them shut. It means offering to open up a relationship with people who hate us, despise us, and wish to destroy us.” -C. Robert Mesle
IG: @really american1