Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
– Leonard Cohen, The Future
Santayana was right and Godwin can go take a walk. Conrad didn’t go far enough. And dear departed Leonard warned us of the future and then left us alone the very same week it arrived.
As I’m writing this, it has been 8 days since the election. The first 7 I finished each day by drinking whiskey until staying awake was no longer an option. Last night I did not get drunk. Apparently bourbon is a great anti-anxiety medicine.
I spent most of the night with my thoughts playing in an infinite, unclosed loop. Like in programming, a loop that isn’t closed will eventually bring down the whole system. So I’m writing this as a way to perhaps close my mental loop. You’ll forgive me if this has little to do with wine or food, travel or anything else we cover here. Or you won’t, fuck it, I’m beyond giving a shit.
While I have experienced anxiety over the years, sometimes perhaps a little more than what is considered normal, for the most part it doesn’t do much more than nag at me to do something I’ve neglected or nudge me to try and do better. But last night I experienced it at the attack level. Unable to breathe, full-on panic mode, bolt upright in bed, my brain screaming at me to do something, anything, because reality is unacceptable.
I recognize this. It’s what has happened in moments of unimaginable tragedy before. The unexpected loss of someone I loved deeply has triggered this at times in my life. Worrying about my family in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 did too.
The loss this time is of my country. It’s all of you, all of us. As I see it, life as we know it is about to change drastically. Catastrophically, maybe even apocalyptically. This isn’t really up for debate, nor is it a political issue. We’ve made a mistake of epic proportions, and we’ll pay very dearly for it.
This is unacceptable, by any standard. We’ve let hate vanquish hope. Families are being torn apart, friends no longer friends, hate crimes are on the rise, and no remedy in sight. All one week after the election, months before it takes effect.
There is something about all of this that stinks to high heaven. The numbers look off. It feels wrong. Yet, other than the usual shenanigans that one party uses and the other is always forced to overcome with sheer numbers, there is no evidence of massive fraud. Still, it doesn’t pass the sniff test. Despite that, in the absence of evidence, I remind myself that it’s human nature to want an acceptable explanation for horrific events. A wimpy little loser like Oswald could not take out JFK by himself. A few religious nut jobs with box cutters can’t take down the towers and the Pentagon within hours of each other. Can it really be that ignorance and apathy did this?
Unfortunately, it probably did. We may very well discover there was more to it some day. Some Russian connection, maybe. But what good will that knowledge do us at that point? None that I can see.
History buffs who have wondered what it must have been like to see Hitler take power in Germany can experience it firsthand. We all can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not predicting a repeat of the Holocaust or WWII. But the process is repeating itself. A despot has taken power by appealing to fear and the inherent darkness of the human soul. Very dangerous people are being elevated to high places. Plans are being put in place to document and track “the other.” We’ve all seen this movie, or at least read the book. Now it’s right in front of us.
What’s to be done about it? If only I knew, perhaps I could sleep sober again.
I know that many readers will see this as an overreaction or partisan rant, and if I was a praying man, I’d pray they are right. But, as a man with a gamblers heart, I’d bet that 2 years from now we are very likely to see that I am right. Tragically and irrevocably so.
Part of what kept me awake was that I don’t know how to forgive the segment of the electorate that voted for Donald Trump. How could they? But, and here is the hard part for me, I know that a certain percentage of people in this country are always on what I consider to be the wrong side, and those who voted this way fall well within this percentage. The real culprits, a better word eludes me, are those who didn’t vote at all or voted for someone other than the two that had a real shot at winning. That includes dear friends and family.
What do I do with that? Be angry at people who I love to be around? Perhaps not be angry, but rethink the friendships and then begin to put some distance in the relationships? How does that translate to one of my sons who just couldn’t be bothered to find time during the 2 weeks that he had to vote?
He gets unconditional forgiveness, my friends get partial forgiveness, but others get nothing but my scorn? I may be a lot of things, but a hypocrite isn’t one of them.
I understand that many are disillusioned by our political process. I have been for many years, myself. But completely checking out of it accomplishes nothing, in my opinion. I have no party affiliations, and neither do some of the friends I mention. However, they come from the perspective of being independent by virtue of the parties that they formerly identified with having abandoned or failed them. The consequences of sitting this one out, or of casting a protest vote were way too high this time, and we’re all going to suffer for that decision by anyone. But, as hard as it for me to swallow, it’s understandable.
I hate that so many people treat politics as if they are rooting for their favorite sports team, no matter what. But I do believe that there is some of that in all of us. So this analogy seems appropriate.
I was a Detroit Pistons fan for a very long time, but I came to really dislike the modern game and have no faith in the NBA at all. I quit watching the game completely, I pay it no attention at all. But that doesn’t mean that I could ever be a Bulls fan. Ever. For some, voting for the qualified candidate would have been like that.
Human nature is what it is, we don’t always do what’s in our best interest, because we can’t always see it. How do you hold a grudge for that? That’s not to say that we hold hands with the racists and the bigots and sing Kumbaya while we watch the world fall apart. Our friends and family hopefully weren’t racists before the election, so they aren’t now either.
So, before we break into the inevitable “we have no choice but to give him a chance” and #notmypresident camps, keep in mind that to have any hope of fighting the tide of hate that is heading our way, it’s going to require us all to say, ” No, this isn’t acceptable!” in unison, as often as we have to, and we can’t do that if we’re still throwing bombs at each other. Blame is useless now.
A friend of mine asked me on Facebook what can be done, looking for a glimmer of hope in the face of all this. My only answer was, “Use what time that’s left to drink and fuck as much as possible.” I wasn’t being glib, and despite the gallows humor of that, I was serious.
Open those good bottles, make love as much as possible, hold your loved ones tight. Share meals with those you love, perhaps with those who you need to mend fences with. Those who disappointed you by not voting, or who for whatever reason voted incomprehensibly. Maybe we can get through this somehow, maybe not, but we do have to get through whatever time we have left. And hasn’t that always been the case? The truth is, apocalypse now or later, the end comes for us all in time. Use that time well, my friends, use it very well. Tomorrow was never promised anyhow.