Malice Is His Agenda. Compassion Is Mine.

image of the back of my head, looking out at New York City from the top of the Empire State Building on a foggy day
Photo: Me looking out at New York City, a city I love and the hometown of Donald Trump, from the top of the Empire State Building on a foggy day in May of 2011, taken by Iain.

Malice is the agenda. I write the words again, and again. Malice is the agenda. I write them again, on another day. Malice is the agenda. I write them over and over, so that people know it's true.

We have a president who hurts people.

All U.S. presidents have hurt people. That is the nature of being the head of state and the head of government of a country that is both global power and empire. Presidents hurt people even when they don't want to hurt people.

This president wants to hurt people. Malice is the agenda.

I hate this president. I hate him with the fiery power of ten thousand suns. I despise his reprehensible agenda of relentless abuse, and I abhor the members of his party and his deplorable base who enable him and shield him from consequences, and I find him a singularly loathsome specimen who deserves not a speck of human kindness.

I want there to be no possibility of mistaking my position on the execrable wastrel soiling the Oval Office with his odious presence and putrid ideas, so I am urgently compelled, obliged, to frequently express my undiluted hatred of him, his contemptible values, and everything for which he stands.

I express, often and bluntly, that I hate him.

When I do, this is what happens: Shambling wrecks in red caps bearing his racist brand, who loiter on social media to disgorge their undulating bigotry at anyone who dares criticize their god-king, pop up to gloat at my despair. One of the favorites among their lexicon of reflexive, unoriginal attempts to own the libs is that their dirtbag president "is living rent-free" inside my head.

Given the enormous amount of time I spend curating news about his sadistic devilry, one might assume the trolls have a point. Stopped clocks, and all that.

But, despite the time I spend writing about the rotten shitwheel who haunts the West Wing, I don't actually think about him all that much.

I neither want nor need to give much time to contemplating his many evident personal flaws, as I knew everything there was to know about this wicked, abusive, conniving, spoiled, lazy, deceitful, vindictive, resentful, grandiose, insatiable, petty, insecure, unhappy, authoritarian puppet long before he was inaugurated.

When I read and write about his presidency, and the ways he is subverting our democracy and enacting terrifyingly harmful policy, it isn't him about which I'm thinking. It is the people who he is harming.

When I lie awake at night, because something, any one of a number of things, is filling me with dread, it isn't him about which I'm thinking. It is the people who will be harmed if that thing comes to pass.

When I listen to my friends who are mothers express their fears for their children's futures, it isn't him about which I'm thinking. It's their children.

When I am watching TV or reading a book or playing a game, just trying to find some elusive stillness for my anxious mind, and invasive worries come unbidden, it isn't him about which I'm thinking. It is the people, all of us, and what our future holds.

When I get up from my desk, trying to escape, just for a moment, and I walk into the back garden with my dogs, feeling the grass under my feet and the breeze through my hair, and the scent of lilac and freshly cut grass fills my nose, and I am overcome with gratitude for this perfect moment of peace, and then that moment is shattered, interrupted by an alert on my phone about some fresh new hell, it isn't him who comes first to my mind, even when it's his name I read. It is the people who are reading the same alert I am, or will read the words I write about it, who will feel angry or scared or confused or helpless or hopeless.

It is people, always people, who occupy my thoughts.

It is all the people who didn't want this, who voted against it, against him, way more of us who are nonetheless now subjected to his sickening whims. All the people who weren't allowed to vote. All the people who couldn't. All the children who have no say over decisions that will determine their future and whether they even have one.

It is women who want and need their agency and equal pay and safety from violence. It is families being torn apart at the border. It is black and brown people who are being targeted by violent eliminationists and cannot even turn to police who may kill them just as soon as help them. It is Jewish people horrified by reemergent anti-Semitism and Muslim people tortured by "travel bans."

It is queer people fearful of losing rights they only just acquired. It is indigenous people standing on the front lines of climate change. It is scientists who are losing their funding and people with chronic illness whose relief is being pushed further out of reach. It is veterans who are in desperate need of help.

It is disabled people and poor people and people who lack insurance and people experiencing food insecurity and homeless people and people who don't have access to clean drinking water and—

These are the people in my head when I say I hate him. They are legion, and they leave no space for his occupancy.

I mean what I say when I say that I hate him, but, more importantly, I mean that I care about the people he wants to harm.

I feel a resonating empathy with the people targeted by his relentless deployment of sickening malice; a profound love for the people who take up space beside me in resistance to that malice; and a reverberating joy when I share even the briefest of moments of connection with other people, out in the world, strangers whose eyes meet and acknowledge each other's humanity in our shared survival.

My moments of joy are filled with thoughts of my people and our future. The moments I am crying are filled with thoughts of my people and our future. The moments I am optimistic and the moments I am distraught; the moments I have hope and the moments I am drowning, demoralized. I live in a mind that reverberates with a cacophonic plea for rescue from the destruction of all we value.

My own voice clangs with the rest. Thinking about the people for whose lives I advocate is an act of self-care. I don't know that I've survived worse, and I don't know that I will survive at all, but I am sure going to try.

Two days after the 2016 election, I vowed that love will be the center of my resistance. And so it is. The uglier he and his abettors get, the harder I love.

It is, deep within me, a reflexive resistance to malice. They will have to grind me to dust to extinguish that flame.

Malice is his agenda.

Compassion is mine.

But I can spare not an ounce of it for him. The only thing I want for him is obsolescence. Swift and abiding. And for the rest of us: A future where no one could even imagine that we'd be thinking about him at all.

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