I guess it’s time for me to talk about the election. Because… well… it’s the thing to do, this week. I actually got a full 8 hours of sleep last night. The insomnia seems to have abated. For now.
Who’s not thinking/talking about this election at length… perserverating… wondering what-if… and trying to figure out next steps? A minority segment of the population is taking another route, providing a much-needed public service of posting baby animal videos and fart jokes to social media, compassionately playing the clowns to ease the angst of the majority of voters whose candidate conceded the morning after the election. And I thank them for that.
It’s been a little over three days, since the results came in, and it’s been the longest year ever, packed into less than a week.
Probably the most distressing and taxing thing for me, personally, is believing that the results of this election didn’t just magically appear, but are part of the logical progression we as citizens/residents of the United States have collectively been involved in, over the past years… decades… centuries. The alt-right didn’t suddenly drop their cover (as encouraged on Reddit and other online enclaves) and surge forward to elect “their man”. Violence against vulnerable / different people didn’t just start happening since Tuesday night. Swastikas haven’t been spray-painted in public places only since November 9th (that’s been happening increasingly over the past couple of decades). This sort of acting out has been going on for a long, long time, building to a head this week like a boil under the surface of the American skin.
And we’ve participated. All of us. On both sides of the proverbial aisle. We’ve all been complicit, to some extent or another. We’ve been complacent. We’ve wrapped ourselves in the banner of American Exceptionalism and decided for ourselves that “we’re better than that”, all the while ignoring the in-your-face facts of our historical genocide, slavery, the land grabs, the destruction of the earth, and the systematic oppression and violence against anyone and anything who does not Dominate. We’ve cheered on the dominators… when they’ve been on our team. And we haven’t done much to curb our lust for retribution when we’ve been dominated by those “others”. We’ve collectively contributed as an entire nation to this progression, whether directly or indirectly. And all the people reacting to this election’s results with shock and dismay, just shows me how few people have really been paying attention for the past 30 years.
No, wait – the past 300 years.
No, make that 1300 years.
Too many of us have been living in an echo chamber consisting of highly personalized experiences of one sort or another: overwork, over-worry, a steady diet of nervous-system-tweaking television (you know that commercials are specially designed and produced to put you into a persistent, heightened state of alert, right?), networks of social media friends and contacts who not only agree with us but shore up our biases with links to blatantly propagandist pseudo-news and their own personal manifestos, and our flat-out refusal to consider any points of view different from our own. All that customization both increases and reduces the friction in our lives, and in so doing, it saps our resilience. Pinballing reactively between comfort and crisis is no way to build core strength. We’re so caught up in “Don’t think – react!” mode, that we’ve slowly been deconditioned away from complex thought… the ability to connect with others different from ourselves… the ability to be more than blue-pill-popping Matrix power supplies.
And so, it’s extremely difficult for me to take issue with one side over the other. Yes, violence has accompanied the rhetoric and rallies of the leading Republican contender. Yes, his followers have kicked the crap out of a lot of folks, threatened them overtly, plotted large-scale destruction against them. But the violence has been coming from both sides. No one side has been any less or more culpable than the other. And those of us who stood by and made excuses for it or justified it when it was coming from people who agreed with us, were complicit in that sort of behavior. We legitimized it. Because we took sides, and we refused to look further.
Don’t get me wrong. I am categorically opposed to just about everything the current incarnation of the Republican Party stands for and promotes. At the same time — woe is me — I can completely and totally understand where all the right-of-center adherents are coming from. It’s a terrible place to find myself, because I can’t comfortably inhabit just one side of the issue and pretend the other doesn’t matter. It does matter. It has an impact. And I cannot even begin to discount the validity and legitimacy of the very real pain, suffering, and sense of hopelessness that permeates that part of the culture I observe from what I think is a safe distance.
There is no safe distance. Not anymore.
I may be one of the very, very few people around, these days, who feels this way. I’m sure there are others. I’ve read some very good pieces by them. But we’re precious few. The partisan nature of our lives, the “team sports” mentality, the our-tribe-against-their-tribe orientation… it has suffused our public and private lives for so long, it feels normal. Natural. How Things Are Supposed To Be. And now this election happens… and what do we have but a president-elect who embodies the most extreme form of partisanship ever. He’s built his platform on resentment, hate, pain, fear, and the openly expressed desire to tear down the system that so many feel oppresses them — and so many rely on for their survival. It’s now US against THEM in a whole new way — not the ritualized political schism-making we seem to have down to a science, but a cultural rift that we perpetuate gleefully, even as we bemoan the fruits of our actions.
I’ve written about how we’ve gotten in the habit of pretending other people’s pain doesn’t matter before, and it’s time for me to think about it again. A lot. It’s ridiculous, really, how we got ourselves into this situation, but we’re carrying on as though we don’t understand why. The signs were there. They’ve always been there. We just chose to ignore them, because — for the time being — they didn’t work against us. So long as “our guy” won and was in office, and our interests were covered, we were good. We thought it was all good. And a whole new generation of Americans has grown up in a fantasmagorical bubble of thinking that the kinds of behaviors and policies we’re now seeing are anomalous, un-American, and the behavior of deranged individuals who are unhinged from reality.
I’ve got news for you, in case you hadn’t heard — the kinds of behaviors we’ve been seeing leading up to the election and coming immediately afterwards, are exactly the kinds of things you can expect from Americans who have been living under the conditions and with the mindsets that the opposing echo-chamber folks blissfully ignore or discredit. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard”, which means we haven’t been listening. And we devalue other people at our own risk. The idea that we can pay no attention (la-la-la-la) to the sufferings of select others — whether they’re white or black or brown or red, whether they’re “entitled” to suffer or not — and expect it to never blow back in our faces… it’s just plain delusional. Clearly, our logic and our ability to pay attention and connect the dots has failed us.
Welcome, America. Welcome to the world we have created.