On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, I worked from home most of the day, grading papers, planning classes, and writing.
My monthly newspaper column was due Thursday evening for Monday publication, so I set to drafting what I thought would be a reaction to Trump’s election loss. I figured that he would end his run the same way he had campaigned: petty, dishonest, bitter, barely coherent, and with no sense of the damage his terrible presence in our national politics had created.
In anticipation of Trump’s “concession speech” being full of lies, bluster, and accusations of a “rigged election,” I wrote what I thought he should have said. I wrote an apology in his own voice as if he had finally realized that he owed the nation a massive apology.
That night, I watched in horror as Trump remained competitive in several key states even as he fell further behind in the popular vote. As the dead of night descended, Trump held on for a tiny Electoral College victory.
I barely slept that night and had to face my students the next day. I had been telling them that facts, research, critical thinking, civility and empathy were keys to good scholarship and good citizenship. But the candidate who had violated each of those essential qualities had somehow won the presidential election. They were as depressed as I was.
I eventually added a preface to my column indicating that this fictional concession speech was set in a better world, the real world where the unimaginable remained unimaginable.
My column was well received as an insightful look into the con artistry that had led to Trump’s victory. The strong responses led me to start working on expanding that column into a book of Trump’s fictionalized ramblings, titled, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” That book is now finished.
Pretty much everything in the book, despite its fictional format, is based on verifiable facts about Trump’s actions, character, and campaign. The non-fact-based fictional elements I added to the book are the tiny portions of humility, humanity and shame that I doubt he will ever actually feel.
All my life, I’ve written civil, scholarly, reasonable essays with some generous hints of satire. Trump’s antics invite satire. Writing a book about him that is total satire wasn’t that big a stretch, even if I had to stretch my writing enough to occupy Trump’s big, wrinkled, lumpy, empty suit.
People have asked me if I’m afraid Trump will sue me. I’d rather he didn’t, but he doesn’t react well to criticism or mockery. We should all aspire to a life that would prompt Donald Trump to sue us.
Satire is free speech protected by the First Amendment, but I’m glad that I personally know an ACLU lawyer. (Hi Bill!)
Most likely, Trump will never hear of this book. Reading is not one of his strong suits. I’m sure I’ll get some misspelled hate mail from his most deplorable supporters. But I already get hate mail from them for my reasonable newspaper columns. Maybe I’ll get one of Trump’s infamous hate tweets. A guy can dream.
Our job in the age of Trump is to resist his terrible and unjust policies and not be deflated by his embarrassing character. Every day is the worst day of Trump’s presidency, but we have to keep going in whatever way we can. Most days, I have no idea how to do that, but I keep trying. Most days, I cycle through the five stages of grief a dozen times in random order, but I keep trying.
The best advice I heard about how to go on during Trump’s gloomy reign came from a singer I know. She said that we all have to keep doing what we do best. She needs to keep singing, as best she can, the songs that make the world a better place. She’ll keep singing progressive, loving songs that combat Trump’s regressive, cruel agenda. And she’ll also sing songs that challenge Trump directly and open our nation’s eyes to the ways that Trump violates the values that have actually made America great.
I’ll keep teaching my students that critical thinking, evidence, creativity and empathy are the keys to learning, growing, and being the best citizens they can be.
I’m a terrible singer, so I’ll keep writing. That’s one of the things I do best. I’ll keep writing my civil, empathetic, and reasonable commentaries about politics and current events. And I’ll keep writing gentle and not-so-gentle satire when people like Trump deserve it — which is often.
My grandchildren are 1 and 3 years old right now. Many years from now in better times, they’ll ask me, “Grampy, what did you do to resist Trump?” And I’ll be able to tell them, “I wrote a funny book to help people see how horrible Trump was, and the book also gave them a little hope and something to laugh about in a very sad period in history.” And my sweet and smart grandkids will be proud of their old Grampy.
And America will be great again because we resisted Trump.
John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His new book, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech,” is now available. Find him at JohnSheirer.com.