Televisions control your world.
In the mental institution the television controls your world. Time and space are dictated by whether the television is on or off, whether it is tuned to something you want to watch or not, whether there are people you want to hang with or not, whether you or people controlling you want you there in front of the television or not. Group is from 9:45 to 10:45, 11:45 to 12:45, and so on. During group hours the television isn’t on and those, meaning most, do not want to participate in group unless perniciously forced — Perniciously, because when you’re in an institution, nothing is more prominent than the belief you shouldn’t be there.
Of course you participate because of the pernition but life is most definitely better when the television is on rather than off. It means you can have freedom. It means for at least an hour you have the freedom to control your time and your space. You can sleep. You can congregate. You can puzzle. You can being the operative. It means you don’t have to talk about your problems. And it more importantly means there is some semblance of normal within an abnormal situation. Congregation around the television is just as important as its organizing principle. Whether you’re a reader, an antisocialite, a liberal, a conservative, a puzzler, a crossworder, a looney tune, a depressive, a manic, a messiah, a person; at one point in your time at the institution you will sit in front of the television and you will watch whatever is on. Of course this means you may watch things you don’t like, and because you’ll watch things you don’t like you may get exposed to things that set your emotions on edge.
Honey you better know and you better realize I control the world. All these children have distorted god’s word and god’s word comes from that tube. Fox news they call me and I tell them disasters honey. Remember that Katrina honey well that was me honey. Killing the sinners and the gays honey. And uhmm you want to change the channel honey well just know you’ll be in hell honey. Because if you change it you’re changing it against the word of god honey.
Part of the power of the institution rests in controlling the remote. There’s one remote for two televisions. Changing channels means first negotiating with staff and the negotiating with patients. I would like to say there is cooperation and I would like to say that there is understanding but most generally comes down to the implicit majority will. Defining what was watched and what wasn’t watched during the election felt cumbersome but after the election there clearly was one channel that some in the mental institution wanted to watch more than others.
Everyday I bring a little sunshine into the world. I bring a smile to your face by being in this place. What’s that nurse you want the remote. Well, taking the remote means taking sunshine, do you really want to take all the sunshine away.
Fox news was blasting and people were happy. Their candidate gained victory where my candidate lost heinously and ineffectively, becoming both the victim and the product of a political reality that stormed to make her lose an election. Watching their enjoyment I was struck by the eerie feeling of phantom elation I felt when Barack won in 2008 and 2012. Yet somehow I was also struck by the insane irony of the current reality I was in. Trump’s victory speech blared and he said all the shit he said during the campaign but the appeal that he was emanating rang hollow in the environment I was in. Those that laughed hardest and those that cheered hardest had more invested in Trump than I ever did.
There letting me out of here. What day is it. They’re letting me out of here. What do you mean they are letting you of here. It’s Sunday. And they let no one of out of here.
The Veteran in conversation with The Alcoholic
What are you all watchin. I am reading a book about Benghazi and let me tell you that Bo Bergdahl pisses me off. He pisses me so much I would piss on him if were here. I know that’s not pc but that fucker is the fuckiest of all fuckers. Friends of mine had to search for him and they couldn’t find him and they nearly died because of him. Like I said a real fucker.
A veteran denied by the veterans administration voted Trump because his PTSD was so bad that vivid nightmares were leading him to drink til death was imminent. A bipolar woman who considered herself to be the hand of God loved Trump because he would save America from the apocalypse. A man, who’s favorite quote was that he brought a little bit of sunshine to the world everyday, voted Trump because he was hellaciously afraid of the reality Clinton would create. On and on these stories went. Their vote was visceral more than my vote was visceral. They felt Trump like I never felt any politician. Trump was a promise and a rhetoric that the fucked up world of America would be fixed under his tutelage, because he was not like other politicians. He was a businessman, a builder, a doer and that more than any other rhetoric struck chords with people like those mentioned above, and that chord rang so forcefully in areas hurt by our modern reality that the escape of Trump came to them and momentarily gave them reprieve from fucked up reality. I don’t understand this idea in the realm of politics but I do understand in the realm of shame and alcohol.
Shame defined most simply is an idea that I am a mistake because of the mistakes I have made.
Shame defined most simply is an idea that I am a mistake because of the mistakes I have made. The toxicity of this emotion is so potent that many die because of it and I also almost died because of it. Shame sits in your soul stream kind of like alchemists of yore believed toxins sit in your blood stream. It’s crippling. It’s demeaning. And the irony of the whole emotion is the more you ignore it and suppress it the more potent it becomes. I have shame for many things but more potent than anything is the shame I feel it comes to feeling and thinking about death. It’s a constant struggle. Everyday I wake up and everyday I think about how I can or how I should kill myself. Usually it involves a rope and usually it involves fleeting thoughts, thoughts that unfortunately become more congruent and more corpulent as depression reigns through my psyche. When I try to sink these thoughts by tying them to rocks they fester, and through tons of self work and tons of self talk I have learned that this isn’t the way it should be done. That if you’re going to work on shame you need to talk about it and work on it. You need to transform and hammer shame, malleate it so it’s guilt, a far more manageable emotion.
When Trump holds a rally he holds the rally in places where the shame of America has been internalized, hidden through addiction, through misery, through loss from a time when America was great, to a time where America feels rusted. And the rally isn’t so much a rally as it is a eulogy. A procession for the time when America was white, for when the rust belt wasn’t so much the rust belt as it was the steel belt and the breadbasket of America really was the heartland, feeding the rest of our nation, and the ranches in the west weren’t dry, they were oases, and everything was real, that is everything that was white was real. Everything for those that were white was better, yet beneath all of this greatness there was a hidden awfulness. Our nation was built on conquest and that conquest gave us shame.
Why our conquest gave us shame is hard to say but I think the idea comes from the main belief that we are a land of virtue even though our destiny was established on slavery and on empire and generally on a principal of besetting freedom over others bodies. This illicit fact was part of the reason why our destiny was manifested rather than predestined. We couldn’t claim it as something so apparent that it was ordained but we could claim a type of destiny determined by our creator. We of course knew that this was a lie and because we knew it was a lie we shamed our nation into crisis.
As we remedied our past this shame lessened and things for a while actually got better but we also never actively engaged in fully fixing our shame. As history moved onwards as a nation we moved upwards but the active shame we felt as citizens festered and it soured. Somehow we thought it would be better but we never truly engaged our very strange paradox that we were a nation built on slavery yet simultaneously hallowed on freedom. This very paradox is the one Trump used to win and it’s the reason is message is so insanely potent. It’s the belief that not only are we great but we are the best compared to the rest and that belief is toxic because it means we’ll fail when it comes time to fix our most pressing discrepancies.
Valor is something we truly try to honor yet our soldiers, experiencing the deficiency of our own democracy, come back wounded and unable to process the atrocities they were privy to. They are told by our government that they are fighting for freedom, but reality shows that they are fighting for special interests, set on establishing an agenda in places America has no real business being. Additionally, the gain they often get runs counter to the interests and needs we all share as a country domestically. War distracts us. And war shames us. It makes us forget the better values and sicken more easily to the awful values our forefathers enshrined in the Constitution.
All of these things together shame our nation. They make us hide the worst of our nation and through this obfuscation we lose sight of these things that are so awful in our history and because of this we simultaneously cannot see how far we have come. We are in a deluge. And because we are in a deluge it means that the waters flooding over us make us respond emotionally in unsure ways. Humor tells us that these unsure ways are a river in Egypt and when we’re in denial it means we often lash out at those revealing how prominent are problems really are. Trump voters are lashing out. And while they lash out the worst off in our country lose out because shame, like the most toxic of substances, poisons at the bottom first, and then eventually, move upwards into the more healthy parts of psyche.
Trump won. And he won because he pushes the shame down and replaces it temporarily with ego, with self assurance, that America can win again through the cloud of breathing nostalgia. Nostalgia unlike other emotions holds sway because it intoxicates your senses with what should have been rather than what happened. This distinction may seem superfluous but it’s important. Should of distract from dealing with our problems directly. Trump is a should of. And this fact makes him more dangerous than any politician we could know.
How do we compete against someone that actively distorts our most heinous emotion? Through truth telling. And principal. Our history is codified but it is not justified. Throughout our history we have made our nation better, and we need to do it again. I was institutionalized. I am an addict. I committed suicide. These are all truths that I must wrestle with, just as our nation must wrestle with the truths Trump tries so relentlessly to make us forget. If we cannot do this then we all should be placed in an institution.