The morning after the election of Donald J Trump remains one of the worst my worst mornings in recent times. The sheer level of anger I felt was frightening, both to myself and my partner who I was with at the time. The one constant image in my head was inspired by Michael Moore’s program on why we should elect Hillary Clinton. It was just this clear image of a dark horizon aglow with the red and orange hues of distant fire. On the inside, I was burning just as much.
As much as I hate Trump, my anger against Hillary was equal in intensity. A day before the election, I saw her doing a rally in Cleveland, being introduced by Lebron James. It reminded me of a scene from Apocalypse Now regarding USO shows.
“Charlie didn’t get much USO. He was dug in too deep, or moving too fast. His idea of R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He only had two ways home: death or victory.”
Hillary was giving us one big USO show, with a smugness, arrogance, and entitlement they can only be expressed on Saturday Night Live and endorsements by basketball stars. In the meantime, Trump was in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, etc. Trump was doing the equivalent of eating rice and rat meat, stirring up his base and stoking up a nationalist fervor that none of us liberals could even recognize.
And here we are.
On the surface, this country becomes more and more entrenched. Apparently we only have a binary choice: Trumpism or socialism. Conservatism or liberalism. American or un-American. Us or them.
There’s one thing I know about binary choices: they are a cognitive distortion. They distort everything from scientific research to social and governmental policy. Binary choices are false choices, an abstraction of reason that, if allowed to go unchecked, prevents thought and action to move forward in a constructive manner.
This is the essential nature of the dialectic: objectively analyzing both extremes and finding a middle solution that combines the characteristics of both extreme choices into one manageable decision. A logical and practical path forward.
The thing is, where is that middle ground? Both sides of the debate, Republican and Democrat, attempt to drown one another out and prevail by force of will. We see this in our media, the news coverage, the political commentary, the very networks that are our sources for information. We are given a binary choice: Fox News or MSNBC/CNN. Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow/Anderson Cooper. It’s a false choice, but unless someone or something emerges from the middle, they look like the only choice to make.
I don’t know if I will write anything after this, or how long it’ll take to do so. All I know is that the constant bombardment from both sides of the American political spectrum are numbing. I either internally react with rage and fury at the other side, or I try to avoid the whole thing altogether and numb out on some sort of distraction.
Covid-19 is making it very hard to do that. The current pandemic is brutally exposing fatal weaknesses on both sides of the argument. This is going to have a cultural and political impact unlike anything else we have experienced in our lifetimes. With the exception of World War II veterans: I think they went through something that was actually worse.
We are not going to survive this by being a Republican or a Democrat. Liberal and conservative solutions will fail. One could easily state that after the stimulus package was passed, we are all socialists. I don’t believe this is true. But I do believe it is a once in a generation opening for a more substantive and meaningful discussion. Because at this very moment, there is no manual for coping or survival. We are all writing this book as it unfolds. If nothing else, I think will be interesting to see where all this goes.
And I’d like to see if I can find my voice…