Kate Kretz, “Futile Fantasy: A Glimmer of Self-Awareness, And The Subsequent Remorse” (2017), Prismacolor pencil on black Rives BFK paper, 20 x 16 inches

Even now, a full year after the election, there are thousands of US citizens who wake each morning in shocked disbelief that Donald Trump is our president. Each day seems more absurd than the last. We keep checking in with each other, to make sure we’re not dreaming. Maybe, we think, the past year of watching our nation collapse in slow motion has just been a bad movie: A madman moves into the White House and appoints sinister minions to key posts, where they each destroyed the part of our country that the post was designed to protect. He plays chicken with the second craziest leader on the planet, to see who would flinch regarding nuclear war. One of his driving goals is to take away his citizen’s health care as he uses the highest office in the land to make himself richer, while his campaign slogan, believe it or not, was ‘Drain The Swamp!’ Now, we are all waiting for the moment when we can exit the theater and walk out into the sunshine, reassured that the sick feeling in the pit of our stomach was artificially induced, and that, in reality, we have nothing to fear.

Our collective incredulity stems from the fact that many Americans seem to lack direct personal experience with sociopaths. We find it difficult to imagine the existence of humans without morals or conscience. It is harder still to comprehend that our fellow citizens have put one of them in power, despite the overwhelming evidence of his affliction, there in black and white, available for any voter willing to do even a modicum of homework. Those of us who DID read the documentation (of small business owners he stiffed, women he groped, hundreds of lies that he told, as well as the lawsuits he obliterated with his ubiquitous countersuits) now seem to be living in a permanent state of stupefied amazement.

Yes, this IS really happening. Something dark has permeated our collective subconscious, shaking the very foundation of a narrative we have carried around since infancy. The archetypes and storylines of fairy tales are designed to help young minds understand and process concepts of good and evil: Disney movies have horrific villains, but, through struggle, good inevitably triumphs and evil is vanquished. This narrative is the one that allows all of us to sleep peacefully at night, the one that gives us the optimism to have babies, and to tell those babies (as well as ourselves) that “everything will be all right.” In 2016, this narrative was crushed: the sadistic bully won.

“But surely…,” we think, “someday soon, like the Grinch, this soulless leader’s heart will grow ten sizes larger, and he will realize that he is hurting this country’s most vulnerable citizens, the ones he was hired to protect.” It will dawn on him that half the victims of the latest mass shooting were innocent children, and no one there deserved to die, and that those facts trump the influence of NRA money. He’ll suddenly see (and care) that thousands of people will go bankrupt or perish without affordable healthcare. He will understand that he is endangering the entire world with his blustering, aggressive tweets. He will finally wake up and realize that he is a public servant, not a king… right?

I am not the only one who turns on the news each night, with the fervent hope of (finally!) seeing our monster of a President led away from his perch of power in handcuffs, with tears steaming down his face. We are a society supposedly built on justice, and it’s natural to want to see the Devil get his due. But we must accept that this scene will never play out: we may see the perp walk, but we’ll never see the contrition. Sociopaths don’t cry.

Kate Kretz is based in the DC area, and has received the MD Council for The Arts Grant, NC Arts Council Grant, The South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship, The Florida Visual Arts Fellowship, and,...