Judith Armatta

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist and human rights activist

What Doesn't Kill You . . . .

 Don’t you just love cliches? Particularly when they’re offered in the form of advice, as in, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Really? Wowee! We should all be Atlases after four years of Trump and nearly a year of the Corona Virus. I’m not feelin’ it. I am relieved that Joe and Kamala won the election (though Donald and 70% of Republicans don’t accept it). Not that the skies opened up and showered these Dems’ path to the White House with stardust. Wasn’t going to happen. Trump is hanging on for dear life or is that pomp, power, and attention? What of the Republicans? With a few exceptions, they’ve fallen in line, “waiting until all votes are counted.” I’m waiting to see if that child arises to tell them that the emperor has no clothes. And whether they’ll believe her. 

I can’t say I feel any stronger after four years of DJT’s lying, blasphemy, and bullying, not to mention the holes he’s ripped in our democracy (ok, it wasn’t perfect, but still). Is it right that the majority of Americans should be ruled by a minority cabal of senators, supreme court justices, federal judges, always Trumpers, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox news? And that one senator from Kentucky of all places can determine who should sit on the nation’s highest court, in essence seizing one of our three branches of government for the Republicans for the rest of my life?

A quarter million Americans aren’t feeling too resilient these days, having succumbed to the Corona Virus. But Trump survived. He’s resilient. He also had special treatment and a team of the finest expert doctors not available to Grandpa Robinson or your next door neighbor or you. 

Like the rest of the country (and the world), Oregon is undergoing a spike in CoVid 19: over a 1500 people were found positive for the virus today. Fourteen died. Not to be outdone by the crowds of worshippers assembled to hear their great MAGA  leader defy the medical experts, Oregon has our own eminence: Tootie (swear to god, that’s her name; also the name of my partner’s childhood stuffed lobster) Smith, chair-elect of the Clackamas County Commission. Chair-elect Smith tooted on facebook: “My friends and family will celebrate Thanksgiving with as many family and friends as I can find. Governor Brown is WRONG to order otherwise.” She says she’ll do the same for Xmas. I wonder how resilient Tootie, her family, and friends will be? And the nurses and doctors who will have to treat them?

 Let’s not take the spotlight off Mr. MAGA for too long. We don’t want a tantrum. Mr. Trump (which he’ll be on January 20, 2021) also believes in his POLITICAL resilience. Facing 79 and a half million people who chose Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over him (6 million more than voted for him), he’s doubled down, aided by his trusty sidekick Rudy let’s-file-another-lawsuit Giuliani, and declared himself the winner. Now that’s resilience!! No matter that his lawsuits are being thrown out of court right and left and five of his attorneys have resigned rather than be laughed or kicked out of court. So, his latest is to take over the Electoral College and have himself declared the winner no matter the people's choice. America's first dictator? 

I wonder if Trump is stronger after his humiliating loss? Perhaps. Most likely, he will persist in giving his opinion as often as the media allows. Given theirs and the public’s penchant for the outrageous, he will continue bullying, pontificating, lying, stirring up trouble, and reinforcing the divisions among us. Resilience isn’t always a virtue. 

And what about my resilience? My “what doesn’t kill you . . .” self?

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I’ve always been considered resilient, i.e. having “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties,” according to google dictionary. I made it out of my origin family alive and hopeful despite some serious, if invisible, emotional scarring. There were a few bruising relationships resulting from my disability to choose well and one or two who escaped because they weren’t so disabled. But, alone among catastrophes, partnership failures grew a few muscles, enabling me to find and hold onto my one true love. Yet, like a moth to a flame, I sought career and volunteer opportunities where other injured souls gathered to work out their karma on each other. I wasn’t strong enough for that. I grabbed a life vest and abandoned ship.

But ever resilient, I packed up my papers, books, and supposedly stronger self and headed for a foreign land to help establish a fair and independent judiciary struggling under a “soft” (read “lying” and “manipulative” with a healthy dose of secret police) dictatorship. That didn’t work out so well for me or them. Next stop: a war zone. I should have been mucho strong after that. I crawled home taking thousands of tragic stories with me. 

Self-deceived into believing in my resilience, I took in a disturbed teenager to keep him out of jail. Success? Not so much. He went to prison for 16 months. Continuing my strength training, I defended him, bailed him out of jail, provided a free home and meals. Objects started disappearing: a keyboard, binoculars, prescription drugs, money. Slowly, oh so slowly, I began to realize he might fit into my resilience pattern. I cut him loose. Stronger? I became ill for three months with an undiagnosable mystery disease.  

None of this has killed me. But am I stronger? I don’t feel it. I retreat into the warren of rooms in this old house, and, lacking motivation, obsessively read the national news that substitutes for a life. I feed the birds, squirrels, and the neighborhood cat who’s adopted us at least for meals, though no lap sitting or sleep overs. I feed myself and my partner —with a different menu, of course. I walk and rake leaves in lieu of strength training and cardiovascular exercise at the gym. With atrophied biceps, I now need help to open jars and lift our cast iron pans. Occasionally, I think of the memoir I’ve been writing for three years or more. It rests in pieces somewhere in my new laptop, inexplicably saved in different programs that refuse to recognize one another. The piano has been neglected so long it can’t carry a tune. And seven years of my photos are floating somewhere in the ether.

Resilient? I don’t feel like it at 1 a.m. as I lie in bed obsessively reviewing the things I didn’t do right, the things I didn’t do, the people I’ve lost (dead and alive), searching for positives to replace the negatives, but the negatives have a built-in dominance to keep the bears and snakes away. I take a CBD tablet to fall asleep and silence these insistent voices. Morning draws me from dreams scattered like pieces of a dozen jigsaw puzzles all mixed up. What for, I wonder? My bladder forces me to put on slippers and head downstairs. After the toilet, I turn on the kettle for tea and my computer for the latest news, where I expend half my day. During the other half, I feed all the animals, walk in the neighborhood, and go another round with my computer before collapsing in a chair to read with little comprehension. Is this resilience? Is this a life? Maybe next year.