In the immediacy of this last election in these here United States, I was struck with this question: what is Trump doing to our intimate relationships?
This is not an unreasonable question, for, we already know that some families, friendships, and workplaces have been deeply impacted by great divides on Trump versus Clinton; conservatives versus liberals; Red states versus Blue states. It is not unlikely that even husbands and wives, spouses, partners, committed pairs of all types, have also been subject to this divide and turmoil.
I reached out to a few friends to get their opinions, and all but one came back with a resounding: “Yes!” that it does have impact and, even more specifically, they have friends who have started saying things like:
“I don’t even want to be in a relationship anymore. This election is making me feel anxious.”
“I’m not even sure who I’m sleeping next to right now.”
“I just want to find a warm body to make me feel better.”
For that last one, I recall a conversation with a friend where we exchanged this thought:
“It is at times like this that I desire the pleasures of the flesh so that I may ignore the sins of it.”
Yes, we are in perilous times, indeed.
Therefore, to follow on this thread, we must ask ourselves, what are those two paths of response to loving in the time of Trump? I would submit two: conformity versus defiance. All politics are personal and there is nothing more personal than the body politic in its essence.
Conform or be conformed
If Trump was all about “Make American Great Again“, the word again harkens back to an idea of ‘traditional values.’ What is tradition? What are those old school values? People would say it was a call a primarily white, patriarchal, and heterosexual era, but I find that too simplistic, because while the United States remains a majority white nation (for now), even back then, there were more people in it than that.
Therefore, conformity to tradition means conformity to a number of other things: racial isolation, economic isolation, standard gender roles and behaviors, limited sexuality, being just like everybody else.
For some people, I think they are looking around themselves and fear – and all of this, mind you, is driven by fear – says: “Do not be the nail that sticks up; you will be hammered down.” Are people breaking up with their non-traditional partners and isolating within friend groups that look like ‘them’, whatever it is that forms tradition and homogeneity for their fundamental in-group and identity?
You better believe it. For some, loving in the time of Trump says: love what you know, love what gives you external approval from people you want it from, love what doesn’t rock the boat because if you’re not careful, someone will throw you off of this boat.
Resist, defy, do not submit
For others, this is a call to action. America is great now because it is already multicultural, multi-plural, and meritocratic (ha! at least purports to be) and they will be damned if they are forced back into boxes, closets, hemmed in spaces, and basements, hidden away like yesterday’s garbage and forced to self-denigrate and self-deny in subservience to a fake dominant culture.
For some, it is be pushed or push back, and I am 100% sure that there are people who are letting the freak flag fly. They are resisting against traditional parents; they are protesting in the streets; they are coming out in public with their interracial, inter-class, age-divergent relationships, and owning their space in the most man-spreading, will-not-be-held-back-or-down way possible, and it’s incredible! It is legitimately incredible to see people stand up and say they will not conform.
Is it a form of fear driving them, too? Of course. Fear that if they don’t, they will have to go back to the dark places and who wants to do that? Trump is a symbol of oppression in this category and nothing makes people rally more than symbols.
Is that it? No other ways to respond?
Of course, those are extremes. Those who hide who they are because they are afraid and those who fight like mad because they are desperate and afraid. There are people who sit in the middle: those who feel they have no dogs in this fight; those too old for this to matter; those too young to understand; those who will keep one foot in the closet and one foot out; those who are frozen and unsure and will do nothing, be nothing, love nothing in this tumult.
Some just aren’t sure yet. They have not yet woken up to what the world will be come January. But, they will.
We all will, if we’re not fully there yet. It still feels like a dream. Even though we know all the authorities have spoken – this will come to pass, we will be subject to some sort of something that right now looks like a strongman, sounds like a strongman, walks like a strongman…
We will be loving, or attempting to love, in a time of tyranny. Are you ready?