The Bright Side of Dark Times

Politics in America seems to be going off the rails. Therefore, I thought it wise to pause and try to look at the bright side, if there is one (and it turns out there several). I wanted to imagine how, even if the conflagration comes, we might simply roast some marshmallows and enjoy the warmth of a new beginning.

Now I’m not trying to cheer on the end, by any means. Quite the opposite. What I’ll try to illustrate is that whatever happens, this isn’t the end–the apocalypse is not coming (sorry Glenn Beck). What I’m saying is that we should see this disaster for the sham disaster that it really is. In fact we can, if we look at it from the right angle, see it as a revelation and an opportunity, and this for at least three reasons:

  1. First, the Republicans. The Republicans, who typically manufacture their candidates according to multi-national moneyed interests are finally seeing the process break down in front of their eyes as the monstrosity that is Donald Trump becomes “their” candidate even though they don’t want him. That’s quite a thing, since the conservative candidate has, for as long as I have been alive, been chosen not by the people but by the party. Trump is the first example I’m aware of in which a candidate bucked the party with some degree of success. Even if Trump is a clown, he could be the clown that rips the veneer from the Right’s illusory version of democracy and gets the train back on track by derailing it.
  2. Second, the Democrats. The Democrats are destroying themselves in a different way–by become like the Republicans. What I mean is that they are trying, by hook and by crook, to manufacture their candidate according to multi-national moneyed interests. They have even shamelessly suppressed their own vote in order to make it happen. It might work, and it might not. It is probably too early to tell. Regardless, the final outcome will be to show the suppressed Democratic voters, who have until now seen their party as, if nothing else, less of a corporate shill than the Republicans, that this distinction was actually a false one. They’ll start to wonder. That’s a good thing, even if it’s a disaster, because just like the Republican train wreck the end result will be the rending of a curtain. On both sides, the man in the booth will be brought to light, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.
  3. Finally, the Presidency. The Presidency, and the individual who holds this office, have I think been too long used as scapegoats for the failings of the rest of the government apparatus, as well as the American people at large. When something goes wrong, it’s “the Obama administration,” or “the Bush administration,” or whatever. In reality, the President is not really all that powerful, at least in the present context. Yes, he’s certainly more powerful than the monarchs of old, but he’s connected to hundreds of other monarchs whose powers exceed his own, if not individually then certainly as a collective. Taken together, we as Americans have really traded the ancient tyrant for a few hundred tyrants constantly at odds with one another. And so the popular idea that everything that happens in the world is something that Obama either “made happen,” through his omnipotence, or “let happen,” through his negligence, is an absurd exaggeration of both his office and his human powers. To call him a devil or a saint is in both cases the result of a grandiose view of the office. So…what does this have to do with the present situation? Well, if someone like Trump should win, and if our normal assumptions about the Presidency were actually true, then we’re all going to die, and fast. However, in the same way and for the same reasons that we didn’t all die when Obama became President (despite how many times Fox News promised we would), we aren’t all going to die if Trump wins either. Things will, by and large, carry on much like they always have. Terrorist attacks will continue. Immigration will increase. The family will decay. The economy will ride its roller coaster. A new flu virus with a scary new name will appear on the scene. All this will continue even if Trump wins, or if Hillary wins, or if Bernie wins. And that will, or at least it should, lead to a valuable revelation for the American people. And that revelation will be that the President does not hold the world in his hands. If the system is falling apart, it might be (and probably is) Congress’s fault. It might be (and probably is) the Judiciary’s fault. It might be (and it certainly is) your fault, my dear reader. And so I say that the greatest gift offered to us by the oncoming catastrophe is knowledge: knowledge about our political arrangement–with respect to what matters and how much it matters–and knowledge about ourselves, so that we can be empowered by taking our share of the blame for our problems.

So there you have it. We all lose something, but what we lose is mostly our ignorance. So grab the marshmallows and settle in, because this is going to be quite a show.

This post originally appeared at The Dorothy Option.