‘Michigan seems like a dream to me now …’

I started off yesterday writing a thoughtful, elegiac piece referencing music. But the longer the day wore on, the more it wore me out, the effort of trying to be calm.

You see, we’ve had a tough couple of days here, me and my man (see how sloppy I’ve become?). (Blame the hangover and the sleepless night.) (Yes, they’re connected.)

It may amaze my American rellies, friends and followers (you can be two, or even all three) to know this, but we here in Blighty have been paying close attention to your hellish, drawn-out and frankly rather rude election campaign.

We’ve snooped on your TV programmes and dipped into your newspapers. We’ve read the commentary in serious UK papers and watched Channel 4 news (the best).

We’ve fumed at lies on Twitter, tried hard not to lose friends on Facebook. Well I have, the Prof is far too sensible to let the devilish antics on social media grind him down.

The end result is that we are depressed, despondent, disillusioned and many other words not beginning with D.

When I awoke on Wednesday, it felt like a re-run of Brexit day. As I feared it would be, in my heart of hearts.

I knew, if I went upstairs to the kitchen, I would find a grim-faced husband making tea. So I waited, kept off the lights, pulled the eiderdown up to my chin – and wished I’d not had that last glass of wine.

Then we sat, tea taking the chill off the truth he’d brought down with him: Trump had won.

There was no time to do more than commiserate with my American-citizen, Hillary-voting husband.

He dashed off to catch a train to London. I made ready to drive to a monthly freelancers’ co-working day.

There I let off steam. We all did. In turns and together.

No-one to tell us that democracy had worked and we should just accept it.

Or that Trump would be all right, you’ll see.

Or that most of that stuff about racism and sexism was just media bias and anyway what does it matter if he’s sexist or misogynist, that’s just personal after all?

A sad text pinged in mid-morning as I comforted myself with hot chocolate. ‘I feel numb,’ he wrote.

Arriving home as the day died, the oddest cloud had formed on the horizon, over the sea in the west. Like a scary ghost, the kind that’s really a blob in a sheet, its spiky sheet-arms reaching out to grab you. But the sheet was black.

The rest of the sky was a pale, watery blue.

Trump has won, I thought. Even nature knows it.

A few minutes later the Prof returned home and saw exactly what I saw. Spook-y.

‘I wouldn’t be surprised,’ I think I said, ‘if nature threw a tantrum tonight.’ Though I may have made that up.

Nature did. She howled for hours while the sky was crying (I hear Stevie Ray Vaughan, calling from his grave in Texas) .

But that was long after the Prof had returned and ditched his usual tidy, putting-things-away-of-an-evening routine.

Instead he went straight upstairs to our old stereo in the sitting room. Pulled out a 1973 album. Selected a track and cranked up the volume.

The song’s called ‘Sold American’ and sung by self-styled Texas Jewish cowboy (and detective writer and dog saviour and would be politician) Kinky Friedman, backed by the Texas Jewboys.

I replied with Leonard Cohen.* Democracy. Because by then I was angry.

The Prof (I won’t call him Tex any more, we agreed) was just sad.

When he finally spoke this is what he said:

‘I don’t know who I am.’

Out came the wine. Out poured the sadness, the anger, the disbelief, the hurt, the bemusement, befuddlement, bewilderment.

‘What is America? Who are Americans? Am I an American? Do I want to be an American?’

Now, I am sure at this point some people – possibly relatives – might be getting annoyed.

But, bear with me – our situation is not straightforward – and there’s another country to take into account here.

When we married, his parental units weren’t exactly wild about me, but when they realised we were going to stay in the UK it became serious.

It shook me a bit when the family began urging him to return to live in America because – believe it or not – we didn’t discuss it before we married. I’d just assumed …

Pretty big assumption, right?

Fast forward. We’re still here.

Getting older.

Worrying about money – and bam! Someone tells us Prof should have been doing tax returns all this time. For more than two decades. Even though he was a UK taxpayer.

Yes, two countries in the world require their citizens to account for their tax back home even if they’re living abroad and paying tax there. The USA and Eritrea (or so I have been told).

We sorted it out at the cost of sending a few hundred dollars a year to a New Jersey wide-boy – sorry, accountant. No, seriously, funny and efficient. It was a real relief the-British-variety-of-Prof wasn’t earning enough to have to pay back tax.

But long before this threat to his income emerged (and mine – we had to split our bank accounts) he had decided to become a British citizen in order to vote. Keep his American citizenship, but take his full part in British society.

It was an interesting process and a heart-warming ceremony (wrote about it here).

But that was before Brexit.

If I felt bereaved after Brexit (I did), he felt cheated (he was).

‘This isn’t the country I joined,’ he said. He has a brief but effective way with words when he’s upset.

Well, Brexit is forever. Perhaps that’s the one, not-as-bad-as-everything-else thing about Trump – it should be a short-lived thing…

But to return to the USA and money and citizenship.

I’ll sum it up rather baldly: if I die first, we keep debating, will he want to return to the USA?

Well, the money is certainly an issue. His pension fund would be subject to US tax.

But the bigger issue is, how would he feel about moving there, alone?

Which is where the ‘who am I?’ ‘am I an American?’ dilemma came in.

Watching what has been happening in the USA has not been an edifying experience.

I’d hope there are at least as many good, as not-so-good people in any given country – the USA included. But as a nation – how did it come to this?

How could so many affluent white men with education – and women, for pity’s sake – vote for a man who said the things Trump did, who did the things Trump has done, who promised the things Trump promised?

Don’t tell me! I’ve read a heap of explanations. Yet still I wonder.

Brexit has made this country feel like a grubby place, one I really can’t say I’m proud of any more. But living here we can at least help to make it better, stop it getting worse.

We haven’t a hope in hell of making a contribution to America taking back control of its manners, its decency, its culture, its tolerance…

One of the other pieces of music I hear in my head as we ‘look for America’, now, in 2016, is America by Simon and Garfunkel, from 1968.

While checking the date of that song I found, to my amazement, what America readers will probably already know.

Saginaw (as in, ‘it took me 4 days to hitch hike from’) is in Michigan, a state won by Trump.

Saginaw’s population decreased dramatically when automobile, and other manufacturing, moved out. Unemployment skyrocketed, though it’s settled down a bit now.

The ghosts of its industrial heritage are derelict buildings and many bear graffiti – specifically words from… America by Simon and Garfunkel.

I love that song, its questing, yearning poignancy. And perhaps if we were younger, if he were younger, it would be different.

But there isn’t the time left for us to sit on a Greyhound bus and look at the scenery and watch the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike and look for the real America.To help re-find the real America – wherever, whatever that is.

So, it looks, at the moment, as if the US passport might not be renewed when it expires next year.

And we will have to turn our efforts to making Britain great again. No.  Let me rephrase that, making Britain kind, caring and pleasant again.

Thank you for your tolerance. Have a nice day.


PS. It became plain to me after some comments recently that though I know what I write, sometimes people will read what I don’t. Take their own meaning from my words. If you take offence from any of this please put it away swiftly, none is meant. I am deeply saddened by the world and want nothing more than to help make it a better place. And, by the way, I’m an optimistic pessimist. Despite:

leonard-3

*Yes, RIP one of my all time musical heroes, the master, Leonard Cohen. We bought this piece of his work several years ago and now I am comforted to have it on the wall, next to our old stereo, where last night I listened to ‘Democracy’. Tonight we will listen to some of his more romantic and spiritual songs, today I may re-read some of his poetry, out of ‘Death of a Lady’s man’. It’s been a very dispiriting week.

This entry was posted in Britain now & then, Texas, Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to ‘Michigan seems like a dream to me now …’

  1. ricardo says:

    My initial reaction to Trump’s win (electoral votes, not popular votes) was shock and dismay. How could the pollsters have been so wrong? How could so many Americans overlook the fact that Trump is morally, intellectually, and emotionally unfit to lead our country? My secondary reaction was to accept the results and hope for the best. That is, until Trump and his staff began indicating that they would be filling key government positions with creatures who are beginning to slither out of the “Washington swamp” that Trump vowed to drain. Creepy John Bolton et al. My optimism is fading fast.

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    • Yes, my secondary reaction was to come to terms with it, then when seemingly decent people started telling me that his sexism and misogyny were actually just inventions of the media, that they didn’t matter, it was just personal stuff, all presidents had bad aspects to their characters, it shouldn’t matter, I woke up. And now – can Rudy Giuliani really become … no, tell me it’s just media bias please! My condolences to you all. I think we need to resort to prayer, here and there and probably in France, Italy, Crimea ….. And as for Syria. I just dare not think what lies ahead. I hope the gloomiest are wrong and the optimists are right. But I don’t feel optimistic this time. The only silver lining to the cloud is the popular vote. Like I said, I have to hope there are more good people in every nation than mad or bad…

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  2. livroxy says:

    RIP Leonard Cohen, he will be sadly missed in our house too. Love the artwork though, it has made me smile on a sad day.

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    • Ah yes, a very sad day, but today, for me, this piece of his life came into its own – I finally realised it is even more precious than I thought, its if a relic of him! Thanks for commenting Liv, good to hear from you.

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  3. Thel says:

    Unspeakable.

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  4. jilldennison says:

    So much of this post resonated with me, and yes, brought tears to my eyes. I can relate to “I don’t know who I am” … I think I said that many times Tuesday night and into Wednesday. But you know what my take-away from your post is? It is so comforting to know that those in other nations care about us, care about what is happening over here. I have blogger-friends (yes, I consider you a friend) in the UK, The Netherlands, Austria, Germany … all of whom have expressed empathy and have followed our contentious year-long struggle. It makes me feel … not so alone. Thank you for this. I loved this post, by the way … so heartfelt and … honest.

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    • Ah, so glad you found it a source of solace Jill and thank you – your response brought tears to my eyes too. I am still wandering around in confusion but a morning reading the Sunday paper has helped me start to to refine my feelings into something potentially positive. I always want to do something, perhaps that will come, meanwhile, I will refuse to walk by on the other side and will endeavour to argue reasonably (and with any knowledge I can muster, I’ll keep on reading your posts for a start) against anything I feel is beyond limits or offensive. And will try always to be kind and not nasty (even though I’m a woman!). We can, will, must do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        Yes … it’s sometimes … always, perhaps … hard to rein in the snarky side, but if we intend to have meaningful dialogue, it is necessary. Sigh. Thanks for saying you will keep reading my blog! I always hope that people come away with something of value. I’m honoured and humbled.

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  5. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    I understand how you feel about Trump, MOH, but, you know, although he’s deeply unpleasant as a person and flaky as a politician, he’s going to turn out to be a damp squib, because most of his electoral promises are unworkable. He’s already backtracking on Obamacare. My husband (not a professor and a Brit) thinks he’ll get bored after 18 months and retire (as apparently he can).

    Btw, you may be confused to receive a comment from Rosemary Reader and Writer. I used to be Charlie Britten. I have dumped my pen-name, changed my name on WordPress and separated my blogs, one for writing and everyday life (the original one) and one for book reviews https://wordpress.com/dearreader915.wordpress.com.

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    • Well hello, RosieCharlie! I hope your husband is right – one of my friends is convinced he will get bored and duck out – he has all the hallmarks of spoilt child, no attention span, and not a completer finisher (takes one to know one I’m afraid). But what worries me is the people he is appointing – and on top of that, if he disappoints his fan base then what? Well, nothing I can do about it except be nice, spread harmonious vibes (ommm) and keep fingers crossed. And maybe join the million women march if it goes ahead next year. The decision for the prof is a hard one – all tied up with .. so much. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and explaining, I’ll check out your split personality! M

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  6. petersimmons725097879 says:

    Sounds like reassurance is needed all round! I’m sad at all the sadness this has caused, but agree with Rosemary above, and wonder how much sadness/panic/despair is created by too much attention to politics and politicians. Feeling very ancient, I remember many previous US presidents, some of whom scared me at the time, though I don’t remember getting depressed even at the height of my [youthful] political activism. Kennedy, while loved by the whole of the ‘progressive’ world unconditionally it seemed, brought the world the closest to nuclear destruction that anyone ever has [and sent me to protest outside the American Embassy in London as the world teetered on the brink, saved only by the evil Russians [chosen after WW2 as ‘the enemy for the US arms industry to profit from’] backing down at the sheer horror of it. The Cuba ‘crisis’ was portrayed as an American victory, the world recommenced breathing.
    Nixon was clearly a corrupt sleazeball even when elected, and went on to plot and lie until finally revealed to the blind as a crook. Reagan, often thought the best modern president, was an actor playing president! Perhaps that’s the clue, ban all politicians from standing, and get an actor. Half of America already thinks Morgan Freeman IS president anyway, so changing the post to an entirely theatrical one would surely suit someone like Trump also, he could let the showman show off without scaring anyone he was serious or important.
    Is America anyway really run by one powerful individual? Isn’t democracy supposed to be representative? It seems the failings of this clown are taken too seriously, since much of the Republican party must also be appalled by him and will doubtless control and curtail him. Amerika will continue as it has for a century; bullying smaller nations, funding and arming right wing alternatives to democratic left wing governments [see Chomsky], and using its financial muscle to make itself and its citizens richer at the expense of others. I see no chance jobs lost to China will return to the US despite his promises.
    The very best Americans have always been and still are those opposed to what their government gets up to, and often ex-pats [Vietnam started the trend of Americans seeking sanctuary from the beast]. They are all still who they were before Trump, and will be after he is a memory, sad profs included. Presidents come and go, don’t go along with politicians overblown egos and accept they are that important. Mostly, society is made by, run by and mediated by ordinary good people trying to do their best; creating, starting trends, making decisions, forging alliances. Politicians and other parasites may affect this marginally, but I’ve seen enough promises broken over the decades to know they are all straw [wo]men, and the worst you can do is take them too seriously.
    What the liberal left needs to do now is a great big rethink, because the rise of populist, right wing candidates and parties is a direct result of the failure of the liberal left political class to understand what was happening and respond appropriately to massively changing circumstances. Instead, the liberal elite have sneered at the working class for too long and are now having to face the fact that despising their electorate has repercussions. Some new thinking might be welcome.

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    • I certainly agree with you about the left needing a great big rethink, but I am not sure about the whole sneering at/despising the working class thing. For a start, I don’t really know how you would define working class now – it is a term past its sell by date as far as I’m concerned. The future – setting aside Trump, Farage, May, Merkel, Hollande, Le Pen and so on – is looking really bleak for everyone but the rich. Artificial intelligence, robotics, are changing the nature of work and how it is done. The working classes as were have been undercut by technology, now the middle classes are seeing their turn coming. How will it all work out? The rich simply becoming richer and richer as they maintain control of global corporations and investment and technology? I daren’t really think about it too much and really must get on with my latest failed book! But before I go, I’m not sure how we can ever end up with a good government if you believe that merely by standing as an elected representative of the people you disprove your worth. And sometimes even the good people holding society together can be led astray by demagogues and Svengalis who end up being despots and tyrants… or worse. I hope we are all wrong to be so fearful of Trump, but I think it is good for society that some people are keeping a wary eye on him. He has many of the hallmarks of a dangerous man. I hope he is a paper tiger (can I use any more cliches in one comment do you think?). But hey ho, I’m just back from Sweden and feeling enlightened! Taxes are high but they pay for good public services. And education is valued. I like that on an emotional level 😉

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