I was tempted to give this post a provocative title. People who know me offline, know that I often say shocking things. It’s a habit that people tend to either love or hate. Some people think my penchant for being shocking and gross is hilarious. Others disdain it and consider it a tasteless, vulgar habit. Personally, I think it’s more of my form of rebellion. I was encouraged to be classy and ladylike when I was growing up, although looking back on it, I didn’t have that many examples to follow. So here I am…
Last night, as I was eagerly waiting for Joe Biden’s inauguration, I ran across an article posted by Rachel Maddow, a journalist whose wit has really enchanted me over the past couple of years. The article was about “draining the swamp”– as in, Trump rolling back one of his very first policies from 2017. You see, when he was first installed as 45, Trump made a big deal out of a policy that would forbid “executive branch employees from lobbying any agency where they had served for five years after leaving office.” The order also instituted a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.
But then, in the wee hours of the morning– 1:07am, to be exact– Trump reversed that order. So now, people who are newly disenfranchised thanks to Biden’s inauguration can go for those lobbying jobs to their hearts’ content.
I don’t really care too much about that particular policy. It’s not something that affects me personally, except to point out, yet again, that Trump doesn’t honor his promises. That’s not a new or earth shattering revelation, though. What inspired me was the image of “draining the swamp”. It made me think of a painful, infected, inflamed, oozing sore. So I left this comment on Rachel Maddow’s page.
I actually know of what I write. Back in 1996, when I was about halfway through my Peace Corps service, I got a very painful abscess under my arm. It was probably because I got a cut shaving under there. It was the first of quite a few somewhat serious skin infections I suffered from June 1996 until May 1998. I had cellulitis diagnosed three times, but if I’m honest, I probably had it at least five times. Twice, I didn’t go to the doctor for treatment because I didn’t have the money to go and it was located in an embarrassing place (right over my butt crack).
I’m pretty certain I somehow picked up a staph aureus germ while I was abroad. I’d get an infection. It would fester and swell, then burst and heal. Then I’d get another one. Fortunately, I didn’t get sick in either of the cases in which I didn’t see a doctor. But then one day, my luck ran out, and I finally did get an infection that made me really ill, to the point at which I had to go to the emergency room in Gloucester, Virginia. It was on my stomach. I watched as it went from being the size of a 50 cent piece to the size of my hand. I developed a high fever and was in extreme pain. It was probably the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.
I remember going to the hospital in hysterical tears. I cried as I showed the nurse the infection, which was hot, red, and burning with pain. I remember her shaking her head and saying, “Oh my God. That’s got to hurt.” Not long after that, I was hooked up to an IV, getting very powerful antibiotics. When the bag was empty, I felt so much better. My fever went down. The chills stopped. The pain grew much duller. As the days passed, the infection completely cleared, and I was as good as new… at least until the next time I got cellulitis.
Cellulitis causes a really nasty, painful, dangerous infection. It forms deep in the skin and causes searing pain, high fevers, inflammation, and swelling. When it clears, it drains thick, brown, foul smelling, oily pus, that is really messy, sticky, and disgusting and leaves an empty pocket beneath the skin. Sometimes it’s bad enough that you have to be hospitalized to get over it. The second time I got it, I had it on my face. I looked like the Elephant Man, and my doctor wanted to admit me to the hospital. He was worried that my eyesight or even my life could be in danger from the infection. Fortunately, I got better without being hospitalized, but I was left with a scar on my cheek.
I got treated three times before I finally stopped getting those serious infections. The first two times, I had to take very powerful, expensive antibiotics that gave me yeast infections. But the third time, the infection wasn’t so bad and I got well quicker. It was the last time I ever got cellulitis, and I finally went on to recover for good. I remember during that time, I also finally addressed the depression and anxiety that had plagued me for years. It was the start of a much better life for me. I started to heal.
Yesterday’s inauguration reminds me a little bit of that serious infection, and finally getting the cure. I don’t tend to watch inaugurations. In the past, they didn’t interest me. Like a lot of people, I was pretty complacent about politics. I always had the feeling that the “new boss” was the same as the “old boss”. I guess if there’s one thing good that came out of Trump’s presidency, it’s that he jarred a lot of people like me out of complacency.
I teared up watching Joe Biden becoming our 46th president. It’s not because I am particularly enthusiastic about him. I have never followed his career and I don’t think he would have been my choice for a candidate. But I have to say that listening to him speak yesterday was a real pleasure. I felt kind of like I did after I got those powerful antibiotics that started to clear the infection that made me so sick. I felt like maybe healing was possible, even if we have to go through some unpleasant and expensive treatments to get there.
Of course, I’ve already lost some friends. Some of my relatives don’t speak to me anymore because I’m not a Trump fan. This morning, I lost an old friend because I expressed basic empathy for Mike Pence, even though I certainly don’t agree with his politics and would never vote for him. But if Mike Pence hadn’t done his duty and stayed faithful to his oath to support and defend the Constitution, yesterday might not have happened. If he had gone along with Trump’s wishes and given in to the threats of the Proud Boys and QAnon, where would we be today? Maybe yesterday still would have happened, but it would have been much harder to pull off. So I am grateful to Mr. Pence for doing his duty, even if I disagree with his political views.
Dr. Ramani, in the above video, makes a lot of sense… although perhaps some people think that by recognizing humanity in Pence that I’m enabling their abuser. I’m not, though. I simply recognize that Pence has spent four years trying to work with a narcissist. It doesn’t mean I excuse him for his policies or that I’m a fan of his. It means that I have some basic empathy for him and appreciation that ultimately, he didn’t follow Trump when he was under tremendous pressure to do so.
I guess losing friends and relatives is part of this process of healing. At least I know I’m not the only one, draining the festering abscess of the past few years. I know that recovery won’t be cheap or easy. But I have hope that it will finally begin, if only because we have someone in charge who is an adult with empathy. I have no delusions that the QAnon wackos and Proud Boys are vanquished. I’m sure they’re waiting in the wings, ready to strike. I’m sure Trump’s successor is being trained up and will be ready to attack when the time is right. We have to stay vigilant. But it’s nice to finally have hope.
I also know, having watched Bill deal with narcissists and having experienced dealing with them myself, that what Pence did was actually pretty brave. I know that after he refused to do Trump’s bidding and made him look like a fool to his followers, he became Trump’s mortal enemy. You can rest assured that Pence is now dead to Trump. He won’t ever be forgiven. Maybe some people think Pence deserves that treatment for signing up with Trump in the first place. But most people don’t understand that narcissists are not normal people. Pence probably thought he could change Trump or handle him. He probably thought Trump would drop out and he would take over the presidency. He was duped, like a lot of people were.
I do feel better today, even if some people don’t like me anymore. It’s not like I haven’t been through that before, though… I will survive, stronger, healthier, and maybe with a fresh battle scar or two. I know some people are sad about Biden being our new president. Some people are legitimately frightened, mainly because they’ve been misled into believing conspiracy theories. But others, like me, are very hopeful for healing, messy and painful as it might be.