This Time Around America Wants to Liberate Us From Itself
A shameless plug for Joe Exotic
When your dreams perpetually turn into nightmares, perhaps you decide to give up on them. Maybe you learn to be suspicious of your imagination, to drug yourself into a dreamless sleep, whatever it takes.
And maybe you manage do just that. Maybe you cast your dreams on the waters and live a healthy, illusion-free life.
More likely you realize you need to retain some kind of imaginative outlet to cope. You realize that dreams are a kind of food for your intuitive brain, and nightmares are a form of digesting.
You realize that you can’t be empty and right, because no one is.
Watching America chew up its illusions and its sense of collective idealism in this election may be the revolution we’ve been waiting for, but it feels scary. The ideals might not have been realistic, the nightmares bad. But the process itself is essentially normal. You feed yourself with what’s best. You’re responsible for your dreams.
When Americans hold a presidential election, people in the rest of the world pray, bite their nails, whatever works for us. We each have our individual opinions on the candidates, but collectively we just hope Americans won’t burn it all to the ground in a strop.
Like all empires, America has long assumed the rest of the world wants them to liberate us. Americans have blindly crashed the rules of other cultures and planted their flags in sovereign ground like children playing in the dirt.
Only this time, they want to grow up. This time, they want to liberate us from their own dreams and delusions.
Even the typically warmongering Republicans have put forward a candidate who thinks Americans made “bad decisions” in foreign policy and should find a way of retreating to a self-protective, geopolitical high-ground. Third party candidates point out hypocrisy everywhere, talk national self-loathing, dead children and drones. The presidential favorite, Hillary Clinton blithely insists that America is still essentially “good”, and just needs to keep pushing its agenda both at home and abroad.
Americans, we don’t want you to liberate us from anything, not even yourself. We just want you to start acting like a country among other countries that all have dreams, delusions and demons. And to learn to make conscious, responsible choices rather than to blindly serve these demons/dreams or overthrow them in an endless virtual reality game. In this game, because of exceptionalism, every statement or policy or slogan becomes orthodoxy, and has to be fought over on truth claims rather than acted on, or not.
It’s a game where, because of internal ideological differences, every other nation becomes a projection of America’s internal ideological seesaw, rather than the equal partner it should be.
Joe Exotic is the candidate America needs — he’s gay, he’s macho, he wears cowboy hats, he’s a little bit misogynistic, but he seems libertarian enough that it’s just tough talk. He cares about, well, raises animals. You could say at a stretch that he’s a cat lover. Joe Exotic is the child-like honesty of the pure American self on display. Joe Exotic is everything America. If you’re against hypocrisy, vote personal embodiment of everything you are without shame. Vote Joe.
Recent research suggests that negative voting makes us more critical, and helps us to make better choices. Americans are voting negatively this time around — even dyed in the wool Republicans, beloved of exalting home, country and all things wholesome— they are voting, in an almost perfect existentialist scenario, in a suddenly godless, chaotic universe, trying only to preserve good faith. Or we should hope.
But as privileged citizens of the empire America still is, American voters continue to elevate every new development, even disillusion, to a religious proclamation. You only have to look at the progressive slogan-of-2016, “lesser evil voting”, to see how even negative terminology can become rote.
Voting in a presidential election may not be a good shot at getting what you want, but it is a chance to think, a chance to own your choices, and a chance to make those choices in a way that’s connected to other minds, rather than in isolation.
It’s not that you have to stop dreaming America. It’s that you have to be aware of when you’re awake and when you’re dreaming. You have to know the difference. You have to remember that your nightmares are your dreams too.
Now go vote for Joe Exotic. We’re counting on you.