Ben H. Winters

I think it’s hard sometimes for people to grapple with the real-life consequences of political change. I think that, we as a culture, feel like politics is one sector of our lives that can feel apart from our personal lives and the cultural things we’re interested in and the sports we watch. It feels like this separate, different thing.

The election of Donald Trump is, to me, this very clownish personality with no political experience, who had literally been using fascist slogans in his campaign. It had seemed so impossible. Even after he was elected, and even now, it still feels impossible. It felt like we had fallen into this wormhole of history.

It is really something, the extent to which we allow ourselves to live without thinking of things that we know, in the abstract, are bad, and are going on right now, somewhere far away. We think, “Well, what are you gonna do?” In a way, that little instinct, that “What are you gonna do?” is the most dangerous thing in the world.

The membrane between where we are right now and a very different reality, is so much thinner than we like to think. Things can go back, and things can go to the side, and things can go to places where we might not even have been on guard that they might go. I think that if there is a great gift that this [Donald Trump] election gave us, is this sort of sense of vigilance, the sense that we have to remain on guard. We have to support our free press.

Here in America we have a man [Donald Trump] who is a master of a medium that is all about self-aggrandizement and/or cruelty to others. I have been off Twitter lately because I had this sudden sort of feeling of, this man is the president of this club and it’s not a club that I want to be in. Sometimes I feel like, well, perhaps it’s not right because as a political activist, this is where politics is happening right now. This is where the conversation is going on, but at the same time, I think there is something corrosive about it.

I think it’s a very stark marker of what kind of president we have that, from all available evidence, Donald Trump has not read a book, as an adult. This is not someone who sits down in the evening to consider the latest bestseller, let alone Tolstoy – but who is very very active on this medium that requires no discipline and no attention and no empathy. It is all about retweeting praise of oneself or very quickly or poorly considered, ill-typed, misspelled diatribes against other people.

We forget the conditions – not only in slavery – but after slavery, when there was this purposeful locking out of African Americans from economic opportunity. Or we forget today’s incarceration rates, and educational and housing discrimination; all of these things. We pretend that everything that has happened happened long ago, and then we act as if we all now just treat each other equally, everything will be fine.

Because as any writer will tell you, an IDEA for a book is like falling in love, it’s all wild emotion and headlong rush, but the ACTUAL ACT of writing a book is like building a relationship: it is joyous, slow, fragile, frustrating, exhilarating, painstaking, exhausting, worth it.