One reason to read poetry is that lines long ago memorized sometimes float up from deep in the mind. Like visual memories, bits of songs, fantasies or dreams that bubble up from the unconscious, they inform us of what we are feeling. Sometimes, they bring a warning, for instance, of a grief not yet acknowledged. Other times, they comfort, the way hymns comfort those who attend church each Sunday.
This morning, I found myself hearing in my head part of a Keats sonnet that begins:
After dark vapors have oppress’d our plains
For a long dreary season, comes a day
Born of the gentle South, and clears away
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
For me, these lines have long captured the feeling of a burden being lifted, and, with it, a sense of oppression dissipating. The heavens are being washed clean. We are relieved.
Perhaps this sonnet arrived this morning because it’s unseasonably warm, and the sun is shining. But I am inclined to think, however contradictory the notion, that it has come to mind because I am beginning to feel that we have turned a corner in the presidential campaign; Donald Trump’s over-sized threat is beginning to dissipate, his demagogic power has peaked and is on the wane.
I think the candidate crossed two lines this past week, one, by threatening to “spill the beans” on Ted Cruz’s wife; the other, by threatening punishment to women who seek abortions, presuming a Trump presidency and that abortion is made illegal. (There was also the matter of Trump standing by his campaign manager, even after his arrest for assaulting a female reporter.)
Bit by bit, Trump has disgorged so much anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-black and anti-Hispanic hate that the mass of its combined sewage may finally be backing up into his own house.
From a psychotherapist’s perspective, I’ve felt unable to imagine a way to deflate the Trump phenomenon other than to encourage him to talk and talk and talk until he has exposed so much of his deep ugliness that the majority of voters turn away. I just haven’t known how long the mix of tragedy and farce would take to run its course. Now, it may just be happening.
Americans have been prey before to destructive political hysterias. The half-decade it took for Sen. Joe McCarthy to ignite, fan the flames of, and burn out his reign of anti-communist and anti-homosexual terror suggests that my thinking about Trump's political flame-out may be wishful, even if I don't think Trump has McCarthy's focus or conviction.
I am beginning to feel that we have turned a corner in the presidential campaign; Trump’s over-sized threat is beginning to dissipate, his demagogic power has peaked and is on the wane.
But he is such an empty, ignorant person that I have thought that when he really tumbles off his wall, not even all of his money, consultants or followers combined will be able to glue his image back together again.
This public and political moment is different from Trump's comebacks from bankruptcy. In a bid to hold the highest office in the land, not even he can hide facts, manipulate laws and spin events long enough for his lawyers to paper over his abject incompetence.
Perhaps I am premature. Sometimes dark vapors dissipate only to return, a false spring before the real one. Maybe Trump will survive long enough to become the Republican nominee. But I don’t believe he will win. He will be “cleared away,” to paraphrase Keats, and we will be freed from his “unseemly stain.”