It’s been a hell of a ride, America. Remember last December when I posted my guide to the presidential primaries and everything seemed so light and innocent? We were all fresh-faced, filled with hope, and the biggest burning question on our minds was whether the new Star Wars movie would be any good or not (Also: Who is Jim Gilmore?). Boy, those sure were the days.
Then the Fire Nation attacked.
There’s no question that this has been a goddamn demoralizing year for a lot of us. We witnessed the deaths of too many cherished icons (Bowie, Prince, Jeb Bush’s political career), helplessly observed senseless tragedies far and wide, then there’s the small matter of our new commander-in-chief being a reality TV star of extremely dubious credentials. If 2016 were a movie I would probably walk out halfway through because I’d find it too unrealistic. Like, really, how could people care that much about a fucking gorilla.
But in all seriousness, the catastrophic amount of doom, gloom, and resignation amongst my peers and friends in light of the election has reached a peak saturation point. I can’t deal with this shit anymore, ya’ll. I could spend an hour listening to Morrissey read Joy Division lyrics to the musical accompaniment of Swans and leave in a better mood than I would after just ten minutes on an average Facebook feed. It’s time to put on our Big Progressive Diapers and stop mucking around our social media platform of choice in a self-perpetuating negative funk. You all sound like Denethor when Grond is about to break through the walls of Minis Tirith.
A rational person would say: “Corbin, get off the Internet. Delete your social media accounts. Go outside. Build a yurt somewhere in the mountains. Learn to tan hides and make artisanal honey. Save yourself.”
To that I say: Fuck you, coward. I’m here to fight for the collective unconsciousness. Now bring me my longsword or GTFO.
True: The world is garbage sauce and populated with human-shaped trash pieces. Our government and institutions are broken jokes on wheels. We will soon have a Twitter-addicted cartoon character as our fearless leader. Our mass media has morphed into an Orwellian nightmare. But to paraphrase Genesis (the cool one): This is the world we live in and this is the hand we get. So I hope you all pound those shots and break some shit in the next week and a half folks, because we got some fucking work to do in the coming years. Like Rihanna/Drake levels of work. Probably more.
I say “we” because I still consider myself a drum-pounding member of the progressive left wing. It’s been a little rough going these last couple months as we’ve begun eating our own in response to Trump’s election (more on that later), but I’m used to belonging to a group of self-hating losers. Comes with the territory of being a sports fan from the Midwest.
So where do we start? Simple. Stop sharing apocalyptic news items on your mini-feed as if that’s going to prevent the End Of Days. Stop getting into circular online slap fights with your friends’ Uncle Roy/Aunt Marie from Tulsa over gender binaries. Stop talking about fucking Russia or abolishing the electoral college. That’s the kind of stuff that creates the illusion of doing something about the situation. Let’s talk about real action and real solutions.
Understand kids, they want us scared. They want us demoralized. They want us fighting amongst ourselves. That’s how the shadowy greed cabal that actually runs this country has maintained power since our inception and the game still hasn’t changed. Let’s break the cycle and evolve.
I suppose we might as well begin this savage arrow to the heart of our cultural discourse by confronting the big fat orange elephant in the room.
If I can help it, I’m planning to only use pictures of Donald Trump from his many appearances in pro wrestling on this blog. The reason for this is twofold. First: the lulz. Second: To remind everyone that Donald Trump is a celebrity-joke-puppet-bobblehead and not some fearsome authoritarian monolith to cower from. I never thought I would live in a universe where so many people were collectively shitting their pants over a man that once put on bib overalls to sing the Green Acres theme song with Megan Mullally on national television, yet here we are.
For the record, I did indeed vote for Hillary. It took a lot of self-convincing and exasperated sighs on my drive to the polling station, but I did the damn thing. No mistake, I was as shocked and non-plussed as the rest of us on Election Night. Until the day I die, I will always remember watching mass media melt down in real time as they realized the world was going off the script they had written for us years ago. I recall watching Stephen Colbert getting hammered on-camera while talking about his mom in stunned grief and thinking “this is fucking surreal”. That’s when I realized we were moving into a whole new paradigm as a country.
Whether the election was legitimate or not is completely tangential to our current situation. I will say that my fury at Hillary Clinton and the DNC for squandering the easiest fucking election in history is enough to drive my blood pressure through the roof, but I won’t dwell on it. Hindsight is not the focus here.
OK. I lied. I need to get this off my chest: Fuck Hillary, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and the DNC. Fuck them and their hubris and their focus groups and their lazy dickless campaign that took millennial/minority votes for granted. Fuck them to the ends of the Earth and back.
OK. Back to our scheduled deprogramming.
In the moment (defined as the immediate 72 hours after November 8th) it was hard to reconcile Trump’s victory with objective reality. After all, we successfully voted a black man into our highest office not once but twice. Gay marriage was finally approved by the Supreme Court. Weed got legalized in a few states. By all accounts, that should have meant social conservatism has been defeated once and for all, right?
Don’t believe the hype, friends. America is still a country very much invested in its old values and prejudices. Police brutality, racism, anti-LBGTQ sentiment, and systemic oppression of the lower class is still just as American as apple pie and just because Michelle Obama is dancing on Ellen and doing carpool karaoke on primetime TV doesn’t mean shit about fuck. You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.
Eight years of borderline-conservative-masquerading-as-progressive leadership with a few token concessions to socially liberal causes doesn’t mean we’ve turned any corners as a nation. Far from it. Donald Trump’s election proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Go ahead and drag out the statistics showing Hillary won two million votes more than Trump. Whoop-dee-doo. I’ll show you the electoral map to remind you that America is more than just California and New York. If you reject that logic because you blanket-paint all red states as a bunch of ignorant yodels that listen to country music while fucking their pickup trucks, then you’re part of the damn problem. It’s that smug bubble-enforced attitude that turned the Rust Belt off the Democratic Party in general and lost the election.
Or else you can try to convince me that Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania all became magically racist and bigoted in the last four years.
Trump’s election is a sobering and frightening next step in the direction that our country is heading in terms of how we view our politicians. When I did my guide to the Republican primaries, I wrote that Trump’s political advantage lies in the fact that he’s not beholden to the same code of ethics that other, normal politicians are bound to. When Trump calls an opponent a limp-dick and implies they wet the bed on weekends, his supporters see it as further confirmation that he’s a Real American Who Doesn’t Care What People Say. That’s how marketing works. And it worked well enough to get the man The Big Chair.
The disconnect, of course, lies in the fact that Trump is just as disingenuous as any other politician. His Cabinet appointments (a Suicide Squad hodgepodge of corporate cronies and establishment Republicans) are a good indication of that fact. Trump just sings a different song from the other members of the chorus line so he stands out. All the posturing and aggression and mean tweets and Putin fan-boying is just more red meat for his supporters.
It also creates a match made in heaven between the future Trump administration and the locust-like hobgoblins that make up the mass media. Behind every hysterical pundit and thinkpiece in the last two months is a group of people secretly celebrating a veritable fucking gold mine of material for the next four/eight years. Back in the Old Times (pre-2016) it used to be the game plan of the media to use celebrity and sensation to distract the public from the malfeasance going on in our federal government. With Trump in office we have cut out the foreplay entirely and CNN can now cover Trump’s behavior with the same kind of breathless fervor that they do whenever Kanye West does literally anything.
The three main food groups of the media are Fear, Sensation, and Confrontation. Trump, his cronies, and his message contain all these ingredients like some kind of hellish jambalaya. Just look at what happened when Mike Pence went to go see Hamilton on Broadway in a totally-not-contrived-move-at-all in the days following the election. The audience reacted in a totally predictable fashion (booing), which gave Team Trump the ammunition they needed to put out an incendiary tweet that caused even more hysteria which led to more reactions which led to more tweets which led to more hysteria and are you starting to see a pattern emerge yet?
I hope you’re all taking notes because this is going to be the song and dance for the next four years:
Step 1: Trump does/says a Thing.
Step 2: People react.
Step 3: One hundred breathless articles are written about the Trump Thing.
Step 4: Pundits spend all day talking about the Trump Thing.
Step 5: Trump doubles down on Trump Thing in response to reaction.
Step 6: More people react. More articles are written. More pundits hyperventilate.
Step 7: Trump does/says a New Thing.
Step 8: Repeat cycle until I shoot my television and throw my computer at moving cars.
What this means for us, the lowly proletariat on the ground, is that we need to detach from this endless cycle of outrage/tweet/outrage because it will soon obfuscate the entire conversation. That means we need to begin analyzing the news with a critical eye and be able to discern what’s worthy of our attention and outrage. Imagine the Trump-backed media like a many-headed hydra. Every time one outrage is sorted out, three more appear in its place. If we keep trying to respond to every single little thing the man does, we’re going to wear ourselves out and look like dumb Chicken Littles in the process.
Understand: The President is not God-King-Xerxes. We fought a whole war against England to buck that kind of leadership. Just because Trump tweets something negative about SNL doesn’t mean that he’s going to use his Evil Presidential Powers to shut down NBC. Trump making a statement about building up our nuclear arsenal does not automatically spawn 1,000 more Hellfire missiles pointed at China. There’s still a Congress full of ineffectual politicians that are still bound by the traditional rules of engagement that he has to work through in order to make any of these things come to pass. For once, we can take pride and solace in our government’s twisted bureaucracy.
There’s been a lot of talk post-election comparing Trump’s rise to power to Hitler’s rise to power. Superficially, I can see the similarities in the same way I can see how A New Hope and The Force Awakens are similar. It’s a basic example of taking a logical, arguable premise (Trump is a not-good person) and pushing it into absurd territory (Trump is definitely Mecha-Hitler). It is in fact possible to oppose somebody and their views without resorting to Godwin’s Law.
I’m not telling you to go back to bed. Far from it. Obviously we should be worried and ill-at-ease. These are troubling times. It’s a time of great instability and uncertainty in our world and we’ve elected an empty suit con-man at best and a bigoted authoritarian at worst. But shitting our pants and losing our minds over every little thing will do nothing but drive up our blood pressure and leave us all dead (inside) of heart attacks by the time we get to the end of 2017. And that’s when they’ve actually won.
So what now?
We get involved. We get engaged. We get action. We stick together. This is the great test of our generation, guys and gals. The time for apathy and half-hearted engagements is over. We can’t look to Bernie Sanders, the Obamas, Elizabeth Warren, or any other figures of the establishment as our allies. Inspiration, surely. But if we’ve learned anything from this election, it’s that our politicians and system have failed us. We’ve spent our entire lives believing that our agency has been surrendered to these people, but the fact is that we are the ones with the power. The fact that Trump was able to defeat a billion dollar campaign with the backing of nearly every major establishment politician, celebrity, and media institution in our country is an indication of that fact. If the Illuminati is real then they fucking suck at their job. Bunch of goat-worshipping slackers if you ask me.
But we have to, have to, have to stick together and get on the same page. And that means putting aside our petty human desire to be right and correct and polite all the damn time. Immediately after Trump’s election, there was a whole wave of suggestions that we begin wearing safety pins on our person to communicate to others that we are allies to groups that might be oppressed by a newly-emboldened aggro-conservative population. It’s a cute, simple idea that there’s nothing objectively wrong with. Right?
Apparently not. It didn’t take long before social justice warriors began declaring war on one another and mounting a shame campaign against those that chose to don the safety pin, citing “white guilt” or some other “No-True-Scotsman” horseshit. The message was obvious: I’m a better activist than you and this is why. It makes me sick on a spiritual level that even in this dark time of national uncertainty, there’s still people on the left that feel the need to assert their faux-moral superiority over others, even when it’s something as simple as wearing a fucking safety pin. Really, are you that goddamn insecure?
It’s my professional opinion as a human being that you are free to go about your activism in whatever way you see fit. If it means wearing a safety pin, wear a safety pin. If it means wearing some goofy hat, wear a goofy hat. Chase your bliss. At the very least it’s a fucking start. What I cannot stand is watching us get into these absolutely petty conflicts that bring fucking nothing to the table except shame and silence. Some people are being turned on and engaged to our social movements for the first (and possibly only) time in their lives and you’re shutting them out because they’re not a Social Awareness Level 10 with a secret decoder ring and badge? And you call the other side fascist? Please.
So can we agree to not be douchebags to one another since we’re all on the same team? Yeah? We cool? Great. Moving on.
Going further, it’s important that we continue to engage with our fellow citizens and our community. That means getting out of our safety bubble and interacting with our big ugly world. It can mean attending city council meetings, supporting local artists and musicians, or just getting to know the yodel next to you on the bus. If it turns out that person is a Trump supporter or has otherwise opposing views from you, don’t go on the attack. Find out why they feel that way. Earnestly engage them. Approach them from a position of human-interacting-with-humans, rather than somebody with a personal axe to grind. As a liberal that grew up in the same Rust Belt that elected Trump, it’s a skill I’m very familiar with. Knowing the mindset of the opposition is essential. I’m not saying you need to love your enemy, but you can learn their name at the very least. Remember, knowledge is power.
What we cannot do, however, is either lull ourselves back into complacency or fear ourselves into paralysis. That’s how we lose. I’ll be doing my part by putting this little piece of online real estate back to work at dispensing rage and social criticism with corresponding dick jokes and pop culture references. I’m sure there will be no shortage of material in the coming months and years as we enter our Brave New World.
Have a happy holiday season, stay vigilant, listen to the new Run the Jewels album because it’s dope as fuck, and pour one out for Harambe.
I’ll see you all in the New Year. Clean, mean, and ready to fuck shit up.