Earlier this morning, I started my 48th orbit around the sun. The older I get, the more I realize what the generations before me (the people I used to refer to as “old farts,” and a group which I am fast approaching) always said was true. “Age is just a number.”
Much like time, age is a construct by which we try to compartmentalize something that just shouldn’t be put into a compartment. Lets face it, life has nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with our own personal experiences. In fact, I don’t feel any different than last week, back when I was a ripe old 46; but even if I did, what is 46 supposed to feel like? I’ll tell you what it felt like to me—it felt exactly like 45. That’s not to say I don’t “feel” it anywhere. I feel it in my aging body, I feel it in my hip (where I once broke my pelvis), I feel it in my old, injured foot (which now has a case of arthritis); but barring the aches and pains that come with a body I did not always take the best care of, I feel good. As I told my friend Lou, “I’m holding it together pretty well for 47.”
Ever since I can remember, my birthday has always gotten lost in the shuffle of the July 4th holiday. As a kid, having a birthday during the summer was pretty shitty—no school cupcakes, no class parties—but having one close to a holiday when most of my friends were either out of town or at summer camp particularly sucked. Sharing a birthday week with America for the most part meant my own “special day” was often eclipsed by celebrations and firework shows. My mom, whose birthday was on December 26th, would often try to soften the blow by saying things like “the fireworks are in anticipation of your arrival.” Even though I never believed her, I always appreciated the effort; however, once I became a teen all bets were off. I was way “too cool” for silly things like birthdays, and that was a good thing, because growing up poor in an upper-middle-class town meant there was no money left over for things like Sweet 16’s. Instead, I marked the momentous occasion by getting drunk on cheap, pink champagne, which would actually become a yearly ritual.
As an adult, birthdays still don’t really mean that much to me, but this year I decided to embrace the 4th (a holiday I rarely mark by doing anything other than enjoying the day off) by going to Washington DC to support Code Pink’s counter protest to Trump’s self-serving military parade and epic “speech” (which days later the Twitterverse is still mocking). Typically on these road trips I have with me my partner in crime and one of my all time favorite people, my friend Lou. Lou and I met several years ago through some fellow Long Island activists and became friends pretty much right away. He’s one of those people I really don’t want to imagine my life without, and even back when we were merely Facebook “friends” there was something about him that I was attracted to. When I say “attracted,” I don’t mean it in the context that most people would associate with the word. I mean that I am attracted to his intellect and his ability to see things in a way that I don’t always necessarily see them. Friendships like that are few and far between, especially these days when nobody seems to be able to “respectfully disagree” on anything.
Lou and I have been to many rallies, marches, and protests, and even what the District of Columbia categorized as a “riot” on Trump’s Inauguration Day. We travel well together, rarely running out of topics to talk about; but more importantly, we look out for one another, like the time he got arrested at the previously mentioned “riot.” Lou is a gifted photographer, and I am a (sometimes good with words) writer, so we compliment each other well.
I picked him up at 6am on the 4th and we headed south. It was a quick, one-day trip and neither of us expected anything nearly as dramatic or traumatic as the J20 excursion. On the surface, the trip itself, aside from excellent conversation, great food and a lot of walking (in the brutal heat), was relatively uneventful. That being said, what I had not prepared myself for was the MAGA-loving sea of red, white and blue there to greet us. I am sure that some of those people only came out to enjoy the parade, but a whole lot of them, MAGA hats donned, were obviously there in support of Trump. I still have a really hard time referring to that man as “President.”
Being that my circle is pretty much anti-war, anti-government, anti-Republican (but also anti- Democrat) folks, I am very rarely exposed to large numbers of Trump supporters. While I do come across the occasional acquaintance who claims “even though they do not like him as a person, they believe he is doing a good job of shaking things up,” I don’t really know any rabid fans, and when we had come down to DC for the inauguration, there were a whole lot more of “us” than “them.”
As we made our way down to the Code Pink event which was set up at the entrance to the final checkpoint of what would be Trump’s “airport” speech—or more precisely, his over-the-top, dripping of nationalism, huge pile of shit words—I was blown away by the number of people proudly displaying their love of this man who I cannot even find one single nice thing to say about. If you really think about that, it’s a tough mantel to hold. I mean, even Bush, who at the time we thought of as the absolute worst, was at moments, on the surface, a likable character. As a New Yorker, I have never liked Trump. I have always despised him and found the man to be repulsive, from his campaign against the Central Park Five, to his obnoxiously tacky displays of wealth, and his crass, piggish behavior towards women.
I suppose one of my character flaws, if I have to admit to having one, would be that I am not very skilled in the art of diplomacy when it comes to communicating with people I do not agree with. Granted, in life there are some things that I have learned to overlook, like someone choosing to hang the toilet paper using the under method, but some things are just off the table—like if you continue to support this clown after all of the horrible things he’s said, the policies he has put forth, and the deaths of innocent children. As a friend said later that evening, “I am sure there were some nice people in that crowd.” For as much as I know, she is right, but I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I just can’t.
As Lou and I continued to navigate through the colorful crowd in our black clothes, I felt a certain level of sadness. I really don’t see how there will ever be an end to America’s divide. The idea that a Democrat can come in and unite us is equally as ridiculous to me as Trump being able to do it. Do “We, The People” have more in common than we believe? Of course; but for the most part, both sides (myself included), have our feet firmly planted in the ground, unwilling to budge even an inch. As many have said before me, this is not a difference in politics but a difference in our very morality, and I don’t see mine changing, as I am quite sure they don’t see theirs changing, either.
Once Lou and I reached the event, we were greeted by a large likeness of Trump tweeting from a toilet, complete with audio which consisted of various gems like “I am a stable genius,” sprinkled in with an occasional long, loud farting noise. The beloved “Baby Trump Blimp” was there, too (which had to be tied to the ground because, well, “freedom”). The atmosphere for the most part was light. Of course, you had the random assholes walking over to start their ignorant “build the wall” chants and display some other general buffoonery, but eventually they moved on. Several people spoke: Madea from Code Pink, a John Bolton impersonator—who I have to say pretty much nailed it— and one of my favorites, Lee Camp. If you are not familiar, Lee is a comedian who came up with the Occupy movement and now has a John-Stewart-like show for us lefty radicals on RT.
Lee has an excellent way of presenting the horrible reality that is American politics, with a very intelligent and witty delivery. Imagine if Bill Hicks and George Carlin were to have off-spring—undoubtedly, their spawn would end up something like Lee Camp. He’s one of those principled activists who not only sees through Trump now, but also saw through Obama then. Democrats seem to have an uncanny ability to overlook atrocities when those atrocities are committed by a member of “their team.” It’s why I despise the Democratic party as equally as I do the Republicans, maybe even a little more. In my opinion, they are traitors. Unlike the Republicans who embrace colonization, oppression, nationalism, and empire, the Democrats pretend (for the most part) to be against those things, all while sneakily continuing on with the same eerily similar policies and agendas. Let us not forget, Obama built the cages. Trump is just putting them to use.
Prior to our arrival, Lou brought up a good point, as he often does. People are enraged by the ridiculous things that Trump says (as well they should be), but rarely will you hear them complain or criticize the numbers of bombs he has dropped, the way US foreign policy (which by no means was started by him) has created horrendous living situations in places like Honduras, or the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Yemin. People rarely seem to care about the catastrophic effects our foreign policy has all over the world. A person in the Middle East who lives in fear of being on the opposite end of a drone strike does not care whether that strike comes from a sexist pig or a smooth-talking, seemingly-respectable man. Neither should we.
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography Credit: Lou Mazzei