Trump pushes us to fight

Jan 17, 2018 at 10:25 am

Is Trump good for America?

We idealists are a ridiculous group, to be sure. Faced with overwhelming evidence of the collapse of humanity and the impending apocalypse, we nonetheless gather, as objectors have done for millennia, to search for solutions to what ails us — poverty, the unequal distribution of power and wealth, the looming police state and the quartet of racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia.

Strikingly, as the federal government loses its humanity, and Donald Trump’s grasp of reality grows more attenuated, We The People are waking from our slumber, peeking out from under the covers, checking Twitter and exclaiming “Holy Shit! He did what?”

And, as a result, they are organizing for the midterm elections, but also figuring out the best ways to resist, reset and change the nation through an array of means, including with art.

As activists and celebrities remind us to speak our truth, own our power and blow the whistle, the voices of the marginalized multiply daily at decibels the Trump administration can’t ignore.

What America buried about itself, or was taught not to say aloud in gentler times, is now splayed out before us like the frog we were supposed to dissect in biology class. We have to talk about it or die. Trump has presented us with two options: Slice the frog with a scalpel to see what’s inside to save your grade, or get a note from your parent that science is evil and fake news, and pay your teacher to give you an A. Because after all, when you’re rich they’ll let you do anything.

Love or fear? Trump is forcing the decision — which might be the only good part of a Trump presidency.

“One of the things that I think has become obvious to a lot of people, he has made visible a lot of our prejudices and fears,” said Kremena Todorova, who teaches American literature at Transylvania University.

As we enter a second year into Trump, Todorova said, we are living in an “interesting and complex moment” when it’s impossible to ignore sexism, homophobia and especially racism. “White people are realizing it and in that realization is a lot of potential to make art.” She sees it as an expression of the impulse to make something positive out of all the negativity the Trump presidency has brought. “We are realizing just how much badness there is around us, but a lot want to overcome the badness.”

The wide-ranging art project “Unlearn Fear and Hate,” created by Todorova and Kurt Gohde, professor of art at Transylvania, has become even more resonant in these Times of Trump. The project has included a metal sculpture bearing the message attached to the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Lexington, lectures, embroidery projects, social hours and multiple 60-foot-long collaborative stencils painted on the streets in Lexington.

The duo’s goal is to create an artwork and dialogue that do not point fingers, but help people talk to each other, despite political opinions. “When we don’t see each other as fully human, we respond with violence,” Todorova said. “We were taught at some point to fear and we can unlearn it.”

Gohde and Todorova plan to keep collecting stories and sharing them as a way to both preserve culture and to make people aware of things and people they’re afraid of, to unlearn prejudice and to accept difference more.

Said Todorova: “I would never say that I think [Trump’s presidency] it’s been good for us. I think it’s terrible. Instead, what it has helped us realize is who we are ourselves and as a nation. And it’s encouraged us to find better versions of who we are.”