How Donald Trump gave me writer's block

How Donald Trump gave me writer's block

Jenna Simeonov

I thought it was writer’s block. I figured it was a combination of the insane happenings with the Presidential Election, and the distractions of the holiday season, that made it hard to get invested in operatic topics and write about them.

Every story, every opinion on opera seemed dwarfed by other news (except, of course, the outrage over booking Jackie Evancho and, temporarily, Andrea Bocelli for the Trump inauguration). The planet is getting hotter, and the weather is growing more unpredictable; it feels like we’re living in a classic good-versus-evil movie, where the good guys have an objectively positive goal, and the bad guys are just out to block their way and get rich instead. Like FernGully.

Donald Trump will become President on Friday, and that’s horrifying. He panders to xenophobic people who denounce vaccines and climate change, and he won’t shut up about building that damned wall. He’s unpredictable, thick, and treats the country like a giant business. He has already left people panicked about their health insurance, making America great again, indeed.

Even if Trump is impeached, there has been enormous social damage done by this election; in his rhetoric, people have found a safe space where they can be honest about their bigotry, which seems to be rooted in misinformation, personal pride, little international travel, and plain old low intelligence.

When the atrocious stories of America-Russian collusion and the melting Arctic are compounded with the everyday, where people continue to find reasons to hate and hurt one another, being an artist feels utterly useless.

Artists have difficult careers; we know this well. But in times of crisis, we are not charged with the same responsibilities as are, say, law enforcement, paramedics, lawyers, and politicians. We do make a difference, there’s no doubt about it. But in his article, “Art Is Not Action”, Topher Mokrzewski wrote, “Art is an imperative force and an essential part of the human experience. We need it vitally. Yet the notion that it can solve complex global problems, in and of itself, seems to me both misguided and self involved.”

Leonard Bernstein told us that, in the face of violence, we must “make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” A noble sentiment; still, in January 2017, making music loudly amid greenhouse gases and Donald Trump seems a lot like plugging one’s ears, yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

At these very, very low points in the history of humans, the idea of “inspiring” people with art and music feels silly, as though we artists are children being told to go play in the corner while the grown-ups (the doctors and lawyers, et al.) sort out the problem. I suppose it’s hard to write about opera with scary nonsense in one’s head.

Readers, am I wrong?

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, via Flickr.

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