What are these feelings?
Over seven seasons of “Mad Men,” we got so used to seeing the super serious Don Draper never smile that, to me, it was unnerving to see Jon Hamm, the actor who played the boozy, buttoned up ad exec in the show, give a wide smile or even a loud chuckle in real life.
And in the last scene of the last episode of “Mad Men,” on bright oceanside bluff in California, Don’s grimace, the OG resting bitch face, if you will, broke into a gradual grin and you got the sense that Don — maybe, deep down inside — had feelings.
For the past four years, everyday life in this country has felt like reporting for work at the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the agency at the center of “Mad Men.” It’s a place where the men were “in charge,” the office doors were always closed and the employees were left to nervously wait for the next shoe to drop. Instead of latent anxiety over yet another knock-down-drag-out office fight, we were always waiting for the next mean tweet. And then the fallout and the questions. What would the words of President Donald Trump mean for the stock market? For international diplomacy? For our kids? For humanity?
Yet time and again, we were expected to show a stiff upper lip and keep in check our very valid reactions, ranging from anger to disgust to horror, to hearing the leader of the United States talk about “pussy” grabbing, or note the “very fine people, on both sides” of violent racist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, or tell women of color, U.S. citizens serving in Congress, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The Trumpers just laughed. They cackled at his comments and they laughed at our sadness. They said, “Make liberals cry again.” They put “Fuck your feelings,” bumper stickers on their pickup trucks. They sneered when we spoke up. And they were silent (SILENT!) when we asked for leadership from the White House as the country faced a deadly virus that required thoughtful planning, straightforward and streamlined messaging and coordinated action.
In “Mad Men,” Don Draper said, “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it – because we want them to be who we want them to be.” And that’s what happened during the campaign leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump, for years, had been telling us who he was with his failed businesses and phony reality television schtick, but many Republicans, desperate for a “tell it like it is” candidate, ignored that and clung what they wanted, which was a “successful businessman” who would turbocharge an already on-its-way-back economy. They prayed for everyone at church, but they worshipped at the Trump altar for themselves.
And now our country has a new president, but even that didn’t come without a new round of trauma. The violent insurrection by rabid Trump supporters at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021 killed five people and stunned the world. Those deaths, like the hundreds of thousands of Americans killed by the coronavirus over the past year, didn’t have to happen.
This new administration is talking a lot about unity, but we’re also hearing a lot about honesty. I think it’s the focus on the latter that is among the reasons I’ve cried so much over the past week. It feels like a release and it feels less lonely. It’s like someone finally said, “No, you’re not crazy. This is messed up and it’s sad.”
Whew! After four years of ** wildly gestures air quotes ** greatness, I am ready to feel some goodness and see some smiles.