A note on writing the American future in a fast-moving time of crisis
The Nearly Now is anticipatory journalism: in it, I tell stories about people who don’t exist and things that haven’t yet happened in order to free our thinking about what’s possible.
Given current events, this work is inescapably political. That’s because darkening the future is a core strategy of authoritarians, and the White House is being run by a gang of authoritarian thugs. They need Americans who oppose them to believe things can only get worse, because that belief saps people’s will to endure, resist and win.
When we imagine the better world that will rise from the ashes of the Trump era, we undermine the power of the Trump gang. Resistance begins in imagination, or, as I’ve been saying, “Fight back… but fight forward, too.”
I have to admit that this puts me in a bit of a bind, though. I’m as outraged as anyone by the news of the day, and I would love to focus on how we take action in the present to take back our country. But I also feel it’s absolutely critical to envision what comes after this crisis — to take back our future.
Unfortunately, you can’t do both at once, right now.
Things are way too weird. Reality is, in the short run, dangerously fluid. Prediction of short-term events is pretty much impossible.
So, you’ll notice that in the stories I’ve been writing for The Nearly Now, I refer to Trump in the past tense: with “the Trump years” and with the ominous, unexplained “500 days.”
These are to indicate that a) I believe it is predictable — utterly predictable — that Trump will not last forever; indeed, may not even last out his first term, and b) he has plunged America into a crisis that will do massive damage and last far longer than any decent person might hope.
How Trump is defeated and driven from office is unforeseeable. That ten years from now we will not have a president Trump is an easy guess, though.
That this crisis will end but will have serious costs is predictable, even if the course of events that get us there are not.
So, I probably won’t explain “the Trump years” and the “500 days” in these stories, because what’s important to the inhabitation of future possibilities is not how Trump is defeated, but what happens after he is. Politically, these stories are a means of taking back our future.
There will be a post-Trump America, and that is where our story begins.
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