Fear and Loathing Returns to America
I’ve seen a lot of elections come and go, but I was never really interested in politics. To me it was just endless bluster; empty suits talking over each other about some obscure policy and never making any real differences. Sure, they’d throw us a bone whenever they needed more votes. Then would start the constant reminders of what they did for us that one time, and maybe now we’ll get some more cool stuff!
It was all very tiring, so I mostly ignored it. I was the perennial non-voter, the person everyone hates at election time because they remind people that team sports only help the owners and the players. As much as they said my vote mattered, I knew it didn’t.
That all changed when I heard Senator Bernie Sanders speak for the first time. Instead of the same empty rhetoric, he came with a message of hope, and it wasn’t something he had focus grouped and decided on in the last two weeks. He had that rare integrity that we only read about, that rare breed of politician that history remembers but we never actually see. I believed in Bernie Sanders.
I followed the primary season all the way through, watching more political theater than I ever had in my life. I felt the surge of hope as Sanders won seven primaries in a row, only to have that hope deflated as superdelegates and suspect primary elections turn the tide back in favor of Hillary Clinton. I watched a stunned nation nominate Donald Trump as the republican candidate, something that just eight years ago would have been so improbable it would have been deemed to unrealistic for anything but animated television. I felt the stab of betrayal as leaked DNC emails revealed the fix had been in against Sanders the whole time, and finally watched with a heavy heart as Sanders was paraded around as some sort of charm to invoke “party unity.” They had taken a great man and replaced him with an empty suit.
As I watched Representative Tulsi Gabbard give her nomination speech for Sanders to become a Democratic candidate for president, I wept. I wept because I knew she was sincere about “a movement based on love,” and I knew it had been hijacked by corporate interests and repackaged into something soulless like everything else good in the world. How much more inspiring would a convention to nominate Sanders would have been instead of the endless pandering and half-hearted endorsements we received instead! We did get a phenomenal speech by Michelle Obama, but it was more remarkable for Obama’s own story about her and her ancestor’s relationship to America than anything having to do with Hillary Clinton. We got a classic speech by Sanders, which finally turned his “political revolution” to ash as he attempted to redirect his loyal followers towards the empty corporate suit.
The Democratic machine tried their best to sell me on this female Nixon, throwing out their best emotional appeals and promising a fiery apocalypse under President Trump if I didn’t give them their vote. However, I was tired of fear. I had been hearing about fear for the last fifteen years, ever since two jet airliners brought terrorism out of the movies and into our everyday conversations. The Republicans would have me believe that people from a faraway land were plotting to kill me, and the Democrats wanted me to believe that it was the Republicans would transform the country into a less stylish version of the Third Reich, with Aryan ideals replaced by aging white men who were going to round up all the minorities somehow and push them into the sea.
Neither of these things seemed plausible. America is a relatively young country, but it is the oldest democracy still in operation. We’ve been at a crossroads before. We were at a crossroads in 1776, when a handful of colonies rejected paying a one percent tax on their tea and shook off centuries of British Rule to form a “more perfect union.” We were at a crossroads in 1861, when we were so angry about accepting certain people as members of the human race that “brother fought against brother” and we turned the ground red with American blood. We were at a crossroads in the late 50s and early 60s when we still couldn’t agree whether or not those people that 620,000 Americans killed each other over were still people or not. We were at a crossroads in 1968, when poor young men were being drafted to go fight abroad in Vietnam while other, more affluent young men stayed home. We’ve had political divides so vast that four sitting presidents were assassinated. We’ve gone through several major political parties, from the Federalists to the Whigs to the Republicans and Democrats. We’ve seen Americans go from a handful of European immigrants to a robust coalition of representatives of every culture on the planet. Our ideals have always been based on one simple concept: that we don’t need a king to rule us. Granted, we haven’t always been the best at expressing this sentiment. We’ve engaged in the same kind of colonialism and imperialism that we fought two wars with Britain over, and we’ve committed some serious civil rights offenses against cultures whose only crime was different than our own. But we’ve learned from our mistakes, for the most part, and we’ve made some amazing achievements. We took technology invented by Nazis and turned it into a benign national pasttime. We put a man on the moon, and then we made a robot and then put it on another planet just so we could see what it looked like. We figured out a way to take the whole of human experience and cram it into a device small enough to fit in your pocket, and then use that device to complain about how our childhoods were being ruined by depictions of female comedians pretending to battle ethereal spirits.
We’ve done all of this, defeated all of these powerful enemies, and somehow Donald Trump is going to end all of this? Or a handful of religious fanatics on the other side of the world? No.
We can be better. We can. But as the song goes, “If we don’t take action now, we’ll settle for nothing later.” How are we going to continue the political revolution? By showing the corporate interests just how much pandering they need to do to get us to accept their latest empty suit? Shall we be locked into a constant game of bait-and-switch as we chase a carrot of “equality”? Are we going to allow them to continue to use our tragedies as proof that invisible enemies want us dead? There’s a good bit of irony in the fact that Donald Trump is a billionaire that managed to wrest at least some modicum of control from the other, more wealthy billionaires. In the fight for the common man, he’s as close as we can expect to get to victory, and he’s not even fighting for us. The person that was fighting for us was sold up the river and ceremoniously made to submit after they had to cheat their way to a victory. The Democrats claim they have a “progressive platform,” but we’ll get the bare minimum and they’ll blame the rest on inaction in Congress. “Sorry,” they’ll say. Those other guys just wouldn’t let you have everything we promised you. If only you would elect better people!”
We’ve tried. For every good person we manage to elect, one hundred others come hungry for money and power and are corrupted by the machine. Bernie Sanders started out like Frodo, and almost carried the Ring to Mount Doom. We tried to be his fellowship, but either he succumbed to the power of the Ring and became Gollum, or was defeated by the forces of Mordor.
We can’t be swayed by fear into voting for empty suits. Reject their false hope, and let them live with their mistake so that they can see what defying the will of the people gets them. They don’t know this yet, but they need us. They may not respect us as anything more than “brands” to be exploited, but all their power comes from us. We can weather the storm for the next four years. We’ve fought and died in enough wars to make men who would desert us richer, we can hold out. Don’t let the leaders of a country built on rebellion tell you that you need to fall in line to preserve America. America isn’t contained in the political machine. It’s here, in all of us. America is nothing more than an idea that says “we are all equal.” If you feel that the system we have now is good enough, then go ahead and vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Either will preserve the status quo. But if you truly believe that we can be better, vote with your heart. Don’t let fear convince you that the supreme court is going to save us, or that we need a giant wall to keep dangerous undesirables out of our community. Don’t let empty suits weaponize the struggles of your fellow Americans and guilt trip you into keeping them in power.
I didn’t vote for Bernie Sanders, the politician. I voted for a political revolution, and they stole it from us. Do the thing they fear most. Vote your conscience, and let them lose.