Great. Four more years of getting beaten up at lunch.
Did you hear the one about the Evangelical who walked into a play?
Mike Pence, conservative former governor of the Ingrate State of Indiana, stepped into a theater built by Jews, written by Communists, performed by queers and women and brown people and black people, and sat down in a packed house in New York City, in which I would wager no more two living souls voted for that dad-faced criminal. Mike Pence, who advocated for amending an AIDS funding bill to include conversion therapy for gays, went to Broadway to take in a show.
And after the show, the lovely and talented Brandon Victor Dixon stood before the crowd and said, “Mike Pence, if you please sir, we kindly ask you to kindly tell your boss to please be kind to all of America, not just white men. Thank you.”
And of course, Mike Pence’s boss had another emotional stroke.
Which brings me to the point: I think we are fucked. The Republic is existentially fucked. We are fucked because this feels, deep down, like what it is to be bullied. Which is to say, you can never beat a bully.
In going to see Hamilton, our national bully at US Middle School left the locker room and came to THEATER CLUB and watched OUR MUSICAL on OUR TURF and then, still panting from the finale of Pirates of Penzance, we stood up and told him to please not beat us up in the hallway, please. And he *still* threw us in a garbage can, demanding that we apologize to him for offending him.
I’m sorry to have to say this, because I am so proud of the cast of Hamilton for speaking truth directly to power, but if every single person who knew what Hamilton was voted for Hillary, the election would have changed not at all. That was a demonstrative, literal act of preaching to the choir, and even in that small, way, Donald Trump could not handle it. He had to punch down, again.
You don’t beat a bully. Even if you think you beat a bully — even if you do get them suspended, or somehow manage to shame or embarrass them in front of your classmates , you *still* haven’t beaten them. Because the very nature of the bully is a lack of introspection. A beaten bully doesn’t walk home thinking, “man, that Aemilia really razzed me today, I should reconsider my future choices.” He thinks, “Who does that bitch think she is?! Fuck that slut.” He goes back to his circle of friends, and they all have a good round of fuck that little dipshit for getting me suspended, and therefore have not lost a thing.
None of our teachers ever looked at our bullies and said, “Fuck yeah, Dan. Call her a whore again!” They took us aside and said, “you are better than them. Be the bigger person and just ignore them.” And then they duly suspend your Bully, and he learns nothing, and he comes back to school, angrier than ever.
None of us has ever beaten a bully. All we did was leave. We took the elevator up, and for that we made ourselves feel better. But we never actually beat them. As a wonderful writer for Samantha Bee said today, we the bullied left our bullying towns and built great things together, away from bullies.
But now, apparently, we find ourselves in a great big middle school that none of us can leave. All of our instincts are failing us. Our introspection, our thoughtfulness, our journaling and artmaking, our rational discussion and appeals to our better angels — none of these actually worked before, and certainly not working now. So what do we do?
What do we do? I am genuinely asking this question. Because it *feels* like what we need is to abandon all introspection, dust off that copy of Nietzsche from our elite university, dispense with all self-reflection and self-criticism, and try to master this incredible skill of plugging both ears while still having a hand free to wave your dick.
The problem, of course, is that we’re right. Ours is the right way to behave.
It’s the same problem as it always is in this crazy, mixed up Republic of ours. Sure, it sounds great to halt every brown person at the border and give them a religious test so we have zero terrorists in the USA to ruin the USA, except for the fact that you just goddamned ruined the USA by putting a religious test at the border. America is a place where we try to avoid dick-waving, and that is what makes it great. Dictatorships are for dick-waving.
But, feelings. It *feels* so strong and definitive to *deport* people and *ban* muslim immigration. And yet, his whole system — our whole massive, lumbering American Experiment — is a check on feelings. The rule of law is a check on feelings, because power feels good, and fast forward movement feels good, and marching and speeches feel so goddamned good. What we have are documents, and ideas, and blocks at every turn, and a grindingly slow machine that was built so meticulously by our founders exactly so that no single strong man would ever be able to helm this motherfucker ever again.
Our whole system is a check on bullies. The idea of states’ rights is anti-bully. Three branches of government is anti-bully. Two separate congresses is anti-bully. The first Amendment is anti-bully. The other nine of the original amendments are anti-bully. I’m sure you could read anti-bully into the other 16 as well. The Goddamned Electoral Goddamned College was built to be anti-bully. We are anti-bully, from George III and Federalist 51 on.
So what do we do? Do we play the bully’s game? Do we fight? Do we reason? I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that we must not look away. None of us can blink for the next four years. There is a fight for the soul of the Republic going on right now, and it is much more dire than between Left and the Right.