11.09.2016

idiocracy now

vintage Mexican Tonala pigeon

I texted my friend Carol last night that I didn't know whether to cry or vomit as Hillary Clinton's electoral-vote needle stayed virtually still while Donald Trump's inched closer and then surged far past the 270 mark needed to win the election. I cried. I listened to part of his acceptance speech read from the teleprompters, magnanimity gushing from that cruel mouth, and then went to bed, bereft.

Even a few months ago, I doubted I'd vote for her, preferring a protest vote (remember, though, that my state is one of the "blue" ones, meaning that the city of Portland is liberal while most of the rest of the state is red). As a senator, Hillary voted for the Iraq war and against the U.N. consensus that said Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. If I could tell it was all a big U.S. con simply from reading international news sources outside the MSM, how could she not have known? Instead, she and many other politicians here and in the U.K. supported George W. Bush's fictional rationale for war with its continuous, devastating consequences in the Middle East and at home. She supported both NAFTA and the TPP. She is in many ways a good conservative. Instead, I wanted Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in charge, both passionate, lifelong fighters for the little people against moneyed interests.

But despite Hillary's flaws as a candidate, and despite anger at the inherent perpetual gridlock of a two-party system, I voted for her because, unlike her opponent, she had over-prepared for the job (as so many women must), while the alternative was simply . . . unthinkable.

Yet here we are, the day after. I must be living one of the worst possible versions of my life according to multiple universe theory: the me that got married and divorced (beloved and then discarded like a used tissue), the me that has struggled for years career-wise and financially (despite holding a master's degree), the me that then got cancer (ramped up by all the stress), the me that witnessed the Brexit vote firsthand, the me with Trump as president. Should I cut off the other breast now and bow out of reconstruction to eliminate the need for expensive future scans? Because while I do have health insurance now, if Obamacare were gutted by Republicans, as promised, I could be left uninsurable with a pricey preexisting condition. Do I become an expat and move to Europe or Canada for single-payer or subsidized national health care? Or do I go back to school for a PhD or MFA for the student health insurance? I don't know what to do now. Although fearful types tend to be conservative, I'm a progressive who fears strongly for what's ahead for this-me and the rest of us in this-universe. Or maybe life is simply a computer simulation running in the future. But it feels real enough.


vintage hand-painted Mexican Tonala mug

Donald Trump is a man who scoffs at global warming, the one life-threatening issue affecting not just the future of our species but every other species apart from rats and cockroaches (and the elephant in the room during the presidential debates). This is a man accused of multiple sexual groping assaults against women over decades, a man who values women according to their physical attractiveness and calls them ugly animals when they dare challenge him. This is a man who believes undocumented Mexican immigrants are mostly drug dealers and rapists, whose third wife herself worked illegally as an immigrant. This is a man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country. This is a man who may have colluded with Russia, our Cold War enemy, to influence a national election. This is a man who tweets invective in the wee hours, who can't control his big mouth or little fingers, let alone, presumably, a nuclear trigger. This is a man unqualified to lead a town meeting, let alone a country, who speaks in empty adjectives and adverbs ("great," "tremendous," "terrific," "beautiful," "big league"). This is a man whose companies went bankrupt four times, yet who claims to be an expert at managing money. This is a rich man who brags about tax avoidance. This is the man embroiled in the Trump University fraud case. This is a man who headed a popular reality TV show, who owns casinos (profiting from "the stupid tax")—a showman skilled in the art of artifice, in make-believe. This is the man most likely to brand the face of the White House in big tacky gold letters: T-R-U-M-P. This is a man endorsed by the KKK and neo-Nazis. This is the man who stoked the racist birther movement against Barack Obama. This is a man who, with the help of Republican minions in Congress, will repeal Roe v. Wade and stack the Supreme Court with conservatives slavering like rabid dogs to repeal hard-won human rights. This is a man who admires the decision-making powers of dictators. This is the man who tells lie after lie after lie until it's perceived as some sort of reality. This is a man experts (and his biographer) believe is a narcissistic sociopath scoring rock-bottom-low on empathy, a man who wouldn't recognize the truth if he stepped on it. This man will be the next U.S. president.


vintage Mexican hand-painted ceramic pigeon

Cue the 2006 comedy film Idiocracy, in which a future world is led by an ex-professional-wrestler and whose citizens are so devolved that they water their crops with an energy drink. The movie was intended as satire, though now it's looking prescient. We are blasting full-speed towards a Dark Age, as predicted by Jane Jacobs, Morris Berman, James Howard Kunstler, and many others. Or on a more immediate level, as my expat-friend in London said by phone this morning (before I read the same question from Jessica Valenti and others), "What are we supposed to tell our kids now about how to treat people when the president himself is a bully?"

I understand that the white working class is angry about getting left behind during globalization and the rise of job automation. I get that our two-party system is a perpetual tug-of-war that doesn't speak for increasing segments of a highly divided, changing population. I get that working people around the world want actual change, rather than mere hope. But, as with Brexit and the rise of the far-right in Europe, the 2016 U.S. presidential race was more a referendum on xenophobia, racism, and sexism than economics, or rather, those issues all tangled up with economics. As a result of this election in which, once again, a Democract won the popular vote but not the electoral college, the ignoramuses have taken control. Fear won out. Less-educated whites living in rural areas, especially ones with rapid Latino population increases—and thus without earlier lifetime exposure to different groups of people as peers at school and in the workplace—were the ones most likely to vote for Trump. Centering the white backlash to Obama's historic presidency, Trump will soon become the Racist-in-Charge (along with Sexual-Predator-in-Chief). Perhaps the Statue of Liberty will start weeping like a Catholic Madonna.


Mexican onyx soap dish


vintage Mexican onyx paperweight pen holder

Whiteness is a historical privilege. I am on the side of brown people around the world. I am with Muslims, on the side of the woman on the bus wearing a hijab, heading, like me, to work. I am on the side of Black Lives Matter who have said, "Enough." I am on the side of the courageous native peoples protesting at Sacred Stone (Standing Rock) against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota. I am on the side of my young Latino students—American citizens—terrified that they will be torn from their law-abiding, tax-paying, hardworking parents who could soon be scapegoated and sent back south across the border unwillingly, the students who asked me whom I would vote for with fear in their eyes. I am on the side of women who fought valiantly for centuries for the right to vote and the right to abort, for control of our own bodies, who are still fighting the patriarchy for equal treatment under the law. I am with LGBTQ people and for the right to love.


Mexican handwoven wool textile

"Make America Great Again"? Oh, please. That ship has sailed, along with widespread support of Columbus Day and all the U.S. factory machines parted off and sold to China years ago. That sounds more like a Nazi slogan with the name changed. This country was founded on the North American genocide of indigenous peoples who had their own democracies and constitution centuries before this one. This country was built on the backs of imported African slaves. And this country has yet to reconcile our shameful ongoing history of racism against African-Americans. We can reject these truths and cling to a false white male supremacy, or open our minds and hearts. Either way, computers and robots will soon take over the jobs outsourced to Asia at discount. The rich will wall themselves off from the plebs in gated communities and towers. The earth will scorch. Hurricanes will rage. Refugees will migrate in search of water and food and safety. The future has already been written across decades of science fiction. All that's left is to choose which version of the future to support, which people, which revolution.

 

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