A Waterfall of my Feelings

I married an American citizen and moved to the US in 1990. At the time I was a very patriotic Russian. It took me a year of pain to realize that some of my ideas had been influenced by Soviet propaganda. After I washed away the brainwashing, I fell in love with the US. For 25 years I thought that America was great. Not anymore.

For the last several months I’ve been worried as never before in my life. I feel paralyzed and sick. To help myself I decided to put my feelings in words.

World War. My mom was 15 when World War II started. The war affected her entire life, as well as the lives of everyone in the USSR. Every now and then my mom would tell me, “You are lucky that you are already 20 and you haven’t witnessed a world war.” I moved to the US while my mom stayed back in Russia. From time to time I tell myself something like, “I am lucky that halfway through my expected lifetime, I haven’t had to live through a world war.” It’s been more than 70 years since WWII ended. To maintain the peace is a difficult job. Everything needs to be in balance. Trump is disrupting this balance. I am worried sick that my children or grandchildren will have to witness a major war.

The Red Button. I’ve noticed that, as a true showman, Trump likes misdirecting attention from things that worry him to fantastic plot twists that he invents. What’s the best way to make people forget about his tax returns? It’s the nuclear button. Dropping a nuclear bomb some place will divert people from thinking about his tax returns. As his plot twists are escalating, is he crazy enough to push the button?

Climate. The year 2014 was the warmest on record. The year 2015 was even warmer. And last year, 2016, was even warmer than that. I remember Vladimir Arnold’s class on differential equations. He talked about a painting that had been hanging on a wall for 20 years. Then it unexpectedly fell off. Mathematics can explain how such catastrophic events can happen. I keep thinking about our Earth: melting ice, dead reefs, fish eating plastic, and so much more. My grandchildren might not be able to enjoy beaches and forests the way I did. What if, like the fallen painting, the Earth can spiral out of control and completely deteriorate? But Trump is ignoring the climate issues. Does he care about our grandchildren? I am horrified that Trump’s policies will push climate catastrophe beyond the point of no return.

The Truth. Wiretapping is not wiretapping. Phony jobs numbers stopped being phony as soon as Trump decided that he deserved the credit. The news is fake when Trump doesn’t like it. Trump is a pathological liar; he assaults the truth. Being a scientist I am in search of truth, and Trump diminishes it. I do not understand why people ignore his lies. Two plus two is four whether you are a democrat, or a republican, or whomever. Facts are facts, alternative facts are lies. I am scared that lies have become acceptable and no one cares about the truth any more.

Russia. I lived in Russia for the first unhappy half of my life, and in the US for the second happy half. I do not want to go back. There is something fishy between Putin and Trump. Whether it is blackmail or money, or both, I do not know the details yet, But Trump is under Putin’s influence. Trump didn’t win the elections: Putin won. This horrifies me. I do not want to go back to being under Russian rule.

Gender Issues. I grew up in a country where the idea of a good husband was a man who wasn’t a drunkard. That wasn’t enough for me. I dreamed of a relationship in which there would be an equal division of work, both outside and inside the home. I could not achieve that because in Russian culture both people work full-time and the wife is solely responsible for all the house chores. Moreover, Russia was much poorer than the US: most homes didn’t have washing machines; we never heard of disposable diapers; and there were very long lines for milk and other necessities.

The life in USSR was really unfair to women. Most women had a full-time job and several hours of home chores every day. When I moved to the US, I thought I was in paradise. Not only did I have diapers and a washing machine, I was spending a fraction of the time shopping, not to mention that my husband was open to helping me, and didn’t mind us paying for the occasional babysitter or cleaner.

For some time I was blind to gender issues in the US because it was so much better. Then I slowly opened my eyes and became aware of the bias. For some years it has felt like gender equity was improving. Now, with a misogynistic president, I feel that the situation might revert to the dark ages. When women are not happy, their children are not happy, and they grow up to be not happy. If the pursuit of happiness is the goal, the life has to be fair to all groups. But Trump insults not only women but also immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community, as well as the poor and the sick. The list is so long, that almost everyone is marginalized. This is not a path towards a happy society.

Democracy. Trump attacks the press and attempts to exclude them. Trump has insulted the intelligence community and the courts. He seems to be trying to take more power to the presidency at the expense of the other branches of government. He ignores his conflicts of interest. Trump disregards every rule of democracy and gets away with it. I am horrified that our democracy is dying.

Tax Returns. Trump’s tax returns could either exonerate him or prove that he is Putin’s puppet. The fact that he is hiding the returns makes me believe that the latter is more probable. Why the Republicans refuse to demand to see his returns is beyond my understanding.

Corruption. Trump does so many unethical things. Most of his decisions as president seem to be governed by Trump trying to get richer. Let us consider his hotel in Azerbaijan—a highly corrupt country. Having lived in a highly corrupt country myself, I know how it works. For example, an Azerbaijani government official who has access to their country’s money can make a deal that involves a personal kickback. This means that their government is paying more than necessary for a service or product in order to cover that kickback. This is how national money makes its way into individual pockets. Since all the deals in Azerbaijan are reputed to be like that, I imagine that when Trump built his hotel there, the Trump organization was overpaid in order to cover the bribe to local officials. Will our country become as corrupt as Azerbaijan?

Americans. The biggest shock of the election was that so many people were so gullible and actually voted for Trump. They didn’t see that his agenda is focused on his own profit, and that he lies and makes promises he doesn’t plan to deliver. It really terrifies me that there are some people who are not gullible but still voted for Trump.

Is there hope?



  1. Felipe Pait:

    Yes, there is hope.

    Everything you wrote is true and scary. The last few months have proved that American democracy and indeed the Republic are not as solid as we had thought. But they still have strength, and they may be able to defeat the forces of authoritarianism. There is no guarantee, but survival of freedom and of a mostly honest America is still the most likely outcome.

  2. Lucy:

    You associate your happiness in America with material goods such as disposable diapers. You also express concern about the environment, e.g. “fish eating plastic”. Please be aware that each year, billions of fresh “disposable” diapers end up in the sea. The fish eat them, and we eat the fish. Yummy! Oh, how much better America is than a country in which “disposable” diapers are banned/unavailable! I grew up in America, but disposable diapers were too expensive. My mother had a huge stovetop pot in which to boil the cloth nappies every few days. We also did not have a washing machine; we had a huge kitchen sink and a laundry line, which are both hard-to-find luxuries in America today, but maybe they still have them in Russia.

    And do you really think that capitalist America promoted “disposable” diapers for the purpose of gender equality? If using “disposable” diapers nevertheless results in more “fairness to women”, do you think it is fair to the fish? To the environment? Every time you “dispose” of something plastic, it does not get reused and rarely gets “recycled”. But it does not decompose and it does not disappear.

    Most Americans say: 1) I want to use lots of (disposable) plastic, and 2) I care about the environment. Trump says: 1) I want to use lots of (disposable) plastic, and 2) I don’t care about the environment.

    Who is more consistent? Who is more logical? Who is smarter?

  3. Gerhard:

    Just a losely connected comment on Donald Trump: I saw him yesterday on TV, and he described Bashar al-Assad (the Syrian president) as an evil person: “He’s really an evil person.” It is shocking that political actions of an US-president might be built on the fuzzy concept of evilness.

    The guys who crashed the airplanes into the world trade center towers on 9/11 did this, since they considered the US to be evil. Hitler considered Jewish people to be evil. Evilness is not a political category. I do not want to hear the word “evil” coming from the mouth of an US-president.

  4. Alexander:

    ” … some of my ideas had been influenced by Soviet propaganda …” that was a very good point! And I think it’s great that you were able to tell the blatant lies from the obvious truth, and to change the way you see things. It’s an important transformation. And I’m sure it required some effort and some courage. But does this experience make you completely immune to any other propaganda? It should definitely make you more skeptical, but probably not 100% immune. I think it is equally important to stay alert and to question things constantly. Even if they come from a very trusted source like Pravda, mmm, no I mean New York Times.

  5. not important:

    Western establishment stopped caring about proles long time ago (in particular it was painful to watch Obama in Jan 2017 how concerned he was about middle class in the next 4 years. He forgot how in 2009 he gave TARP money to the banks to keep them afloat, not to struggling homeowners to keep them in their homes. About no bankers in jail for the 2008 financial crisis. How Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein became billionaires instead of convicts. How noone went to jail for Deepwater Horizon explosion. And no execs in jail for VWs emission scandal. etc….).

    Then you end up with Trump because proles are desperate enough to take a chance on anyone except the establishment. (to quote Alan Greenspan, not a gentle soul himself: “the rise of populism is a cry of pain”)

    Machiavelli said that the strong prince takes care of his people – well-cared for people will not plot to kill their prince; they will protect their prince when other princes will attempt to conquer him.

    Anyway, I plan to stay healthy because the next 30 years in America will be interesting to watch.

  6. tanyakh:

    Lucy, good point.

    When I came here I was clueless about the harm of diapers for some time. I am way more careful about my environmental impact now.

  7. tanyakh:


    The disadvantage of my upbringing is that I do not trust anyone completely. But certainly I trust the New York Times more than I trusted Pravda.

  8. taposikb:

    Fed up with Trump? We have Modi. Care to exchange? For far too long we have allowed a political and economic system that allowed accumulation of wealth by a handful and perpetuated inequality. The fruits of liberal democracy that we cherish so much remained accessible only to an ever shrinking small proportion of population. The vast majority were never allowed (I believe it is a necessary condition for the existence of the system) to enjoy those fruits and therefore they don’t believe in that anymore. The result is, we have a Trump and a Modi who came to power democratically in two over-rated democracies and then start attacking the very principles of democracy. They undermine the democratic values; try to replace democracy with majoritarianism; but people are not too bothered. I just hope we don’t have to witness another fascist regime in our lifetime.

  9. Anonymous:

    Mrs. Khovanova, I agree with your points. These are all real problems, and we should fix them: SOON. I think that the best way to do that is to first, get rid of Trump, Pence, and other extremists and idiots. The system in America is revolving around the white, rich, male people. I would’ve said non-immigrants, but everyone who is white came to America as an immigrant. You ask is there hope. I say both yes and no. Yes, there is hope if those who understand the issue educate others, and if those who understand stand together and start changing things. However, I also say there is no hope because there just might be too many ignorant and hateful people in this world.

  10. Odyssey Laertes:

    I’ve been reading your blog on and off for several years and mostly enjoyed it but this post is so strikingly naive that I feel compelled to add my comment. It is a waste of time to describe various deficiencies of Trump. They are all in plain view. The question is why, despite all those outrageous shortcomings, almost half of the voters chose him instead of Clinton. The answer is evident to a big part of liberals: it is because those voters are all misogynists, racists, bigots, intolerant, Christian fanatics, uneducated rednecks, sexists, homophobic, hateful, etc. – the list is too long to continue. The comment made by Anonymous is a clear illustration to the point. But are they indeed? Where have all these deplorable people been hiding all this time that you enjoyed your life in America? I think the key to understand what happened is to look at what is going with the left. I could tell you about university professors who claim there is no such thing as biological sex or say that it is unethical to call breastfeeding “natural” because it “reinforces gender roles”, or brainwashing university students about white supremacy/privilege, creating paid positions for student activists to tattle on other students about bias incidents (and “bias” has a very broad meaning nowadays) – does it ring a bell to you?, how university professors have to censor themselves to not get in trouble, how we are fed the endless stories about discrimination of women in workplace despite numerous studies prove otherwise), how so called “tolerant” liberals don’t want to hear anything that is different from their opinions. Again, the list is very long so I will stop here. I have just found this on AMS website: https://blogs.ams.org/inclusionexclusion/2017/05/11/get-out-the-way/ If you happen to get curious and read this, please keep in mind that when she is referring to white cis males, she is referring to your two sons. My husband once said that the Soviet union collapsed under the huge amount of bullshit that has accumulated over the years. It was a joke but these is some truth to it. You can make people eat bullshit by buckets only so much. At some point they realize that enough is enough.

  11. tanyakh:

    Thank you Odyssey,

    There is a lot of BS in politics and in life in general. Previously, I felt that BS I encounter can be sorted out with time and progress. Now I feel, that the world might collapse.

  12. Vladimir:

    Татьяна! Вы умная женщина, мы даже с вами учились в одной школе (вы ведь 444 заканчивали?). Но я удивлен той ерундой, что вы пишите. Никто ни на какую кнопку жать не будет. Это никому не выгодно. Климат пока от человека мало зависит. Астрономические колебания земной температуры в последние тысячелетия знали куда более драматичные изменения. Создаётся впечатление, что как вы были заражены советской пропагандой, так и сейчас вы зашорены уже американскими штампами. Многие наши с вами одноклассники голосовали за Трампа – не вижу в том беды.

    И еще: мне кажется, что глуповато считать детство несчастной половиной жизни. Вас что, били в детстве, пытали? Вы голодали? Да, идеологическая отрава лилась на нас, но ведь нормальные люди просто смеялись над этим. И это (как ни странно) прошло.

    И Трамп (как и Путин) пройдет. Нечего драматизировать!

  13. yanwen xia:

    I share all your sentiment and thoughts about Trump. It’s getting more and more crazy with his recent move regarding John Brennan and his tweet calling Omarosa “dog.” The only comfort that I can take is the American political system. The check and balance system is also very self-correcting. I am sure people will revolt and things will be corrected after Trump leaves the White House.

  14. Jacob:

    I wonder if your opinion has changed two years later.
    You may want to take a look at the opinion of another distinguished mathematician (former head of Math department at Weizmann Institute): https://xaxam.livejournal.com/1141050.html (in Russian)

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