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We’ve finally escaped from the rubber room of rage

Trump and his criminal cronies contaminated us – his departure brings relief, says LINDA PENTZ GUNTER

MY Twitter feed was full of them. So was my Facebook timeline. My cell phone’s camera roll filled up as they flowed there by default from WhatsApp. 

And even as Joe Biden was being sworn in on Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, my brother-in-law fed me an unrelenting stream on text message.

They were the Trump memes. And now, suddenly, they are gone. And it’s such a relief. 

Because somehow, our obsession with every possible offensive joke about Trump was almost as toxic as the reality of the man himself, occupying an office for which he was neither qualified nor worthy.

For sure, it was impossible not to relish some of the more ingenious parodists, like Randy Rainbow; Michael Spicer’s The Room Next Door (albeit not restricted to targeting Trump); and Sarah Cooper’s irresistibly goofy lip-syncs. Even the Jonathan Pie rants, already on overdrive, went supersonic during the Trump era.

But without that endless stream of home-made, photoshopped GIFs, jokes, spoofs and videos, I feel like I can, well, breathe again.

I can take the time to soak up the mellifluous incantation of 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, whose words and bright yellow coat dazzled and uplifted us during the presidential inauguration. And I can enjoy it without having to anticipate a tsunami of brilliantly humorous and appropriately harsh attacks to follow. 

Not that we shouldn’t resort to laughter and indeed satire over the next four years. But we can at last climb out of that echo chamber of horrors. 

Dwelling there for four years, alongside Trump and his criminal cronies, contaminated us. 

We delighted in laughing at and indeed mocking a tyrant — precisely what Trump himself did to a disabled reporter early in his first campaign — which in some ways exposed a baseness in our own characters.

We laughed but we felt uncomfortable doing it. And beyond the laughter was the hatred. 

Trump brought out the worst in many of us who believe themselves fair-minded and striving to do good in the world. 

One of my more Zen friends posted his own struggle on Facebook the day after the Capitol insurrection: “I’m seeing lots of my friends calling for peace and unity, and while I don’t disagree, I’m not there,” he wrote. “I’m working on ways to express anger in a healthy way, and then there will be space for peace and unity. But stepping over the rage doesn’t work. Got to feel it to heal it.”

We have spent four years in a near constant state of heightened anger, raging against the dying of our democracy. And all of a sudden, we must confront this abrupt catharsis. We must go cold turkey into a new dawn where unity and healing is the goal.

Now we must try to remember what life was like for eight years under president Barack Obama (not perfect, by any means), when we read, thought and talked about things that actually mattered. 

No more will we squander countless vacant hours scrolling through Trump memes and YouTube gems, which, while entertaining, left us bouncing around in a perpetual rubber room of rage. 

In the end, Trump was a dismal distraction, a poor apology for what passes for entertainment. 

The media made that mistake from the first moment Trump threw his hideous red Maga hat into the electoral ring, viewing him as a curiosity before realising too late that he was a serious threat, including to their own freedom of expression and personal safety.

Our obsession with hating Trump consumed us and sapped creative energy much-needed elsewhere. 

Perhaps, in the glorious words of Amanda Gorman, we are freed again now to rise up and work on that “nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

 And of course laugh a little while we’re at it too.


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