An Election Day Fantasy Bedtime Story
I could tell you that we will come back from this. I could tell you that everything will be all right, that we will rise up. I could tell you that this election will end in an acceptable fashion for a lot of people and that things will go back to normal tomorrow.
I could tell you that we, as a country and as a nation, are better than this. I could affirm your desire to believe that the attitudes revealed by this election diverge from the good that really motivates us. I could even say that our current climate is a bastardization of what the forefathers intended, and that though they didn’t execute their values well we still have a chance to. I could assure you that there is still hope, that whatever kind of life you imagined yourself in before this election and before this Movement for Black Lives is still possible.
I could lie to you so good you would swear on your momma it was the truth. I could whisper you sweet nothings about how this democracy is real. Your vote matters. Your opinion counts. This is a real race and it is legitimate. I could tell you we aren’t living the Hunger Games and you would believe me. I could tell you that the false moral fiction that has been told in this election — that we (the good) need to defeat the Trump (a textbook villain to the point of being a trope) — is accurate. That when the big bad monster is slain we will live happily ever after, victorious and safe. You can change things next time — today is the day for slaying the dragon.
I mean, without a dragon to slay, what good, to the peasant, is a monarch’s reign? I digress.
We could sit and share stories about the past. We can romanticize the agitators and organizers and fighters that we discarded and laid to waste. We can cheer about how far we have come, knowing damn well we wouldn’t have made the trek ourselves. I can see us, over hot tea and crumpets, reminiscing about the price that was paid for our freedom. We won’t talk about who is free and free to what extent. I won’t mention who paid and how. And neither of us need to say that we ourselves wouldn’t make such a sacrifice. In truth freedom is a euphemism for comfort. It is not so much being bound that bothers us, rather knowing it. But such conversation would spoil the crumpets.
And when among company we will assure each other that this world we have is the only one possible. We will talk of it as if it is as old and sure as time itself, though we know that to be false. If we are feeling particularly honest, we might feign hope for some variations of this current scheme, but we won’t imagine very far. Our hypothetical endorsements of those variations will be enough proof that we are indeed moral. Because when the dragon is around, hating the dragon is the threshold for being good. We can all be the hero, or at least the victim.
I will tell you all of this as I tuck you in at night. I wouldn’t want you to lose sleep. This is what you want from me anyways. What we desire comes first and then how we justify it comes next. We fashion a world that benefits those that have power to shape it, and later we come up with a story to rationalize it. Truth is, we aren’t good; we just love a good story. But I’m not supposed to tell you this.
And after you’ve gone down to sleep I will retreat to my place. It is hidden in plain sight but disdained by the world. My friends, dear and stranger, meet me there. They, too, have escaped temporarily from their daily grind as storytellers to the comforted. We will go back in the morning, but tonight — tonight is ours.
We tell stories here too, but there are no dragons, only mirrors. No princesses, only paupers. No heroes, only magic. No saving, only seeing. Here we tell tall tales of a life that the sleeping couldn’t imagine, and wouldn’t want to. It is too costly for the comforted and too outlandish for the protected. So plain it could not be possible, so imaginative it could not be worth pursuing.
We sing songs of prison walls crumbling and shackles bursting open. Verse after verse, “poor” and “rich” alike are dismantled. One by one we belt out riffs of forgiveness. Bars upon bars we turn up to repentance and Justice. We harmonize in healing. In a grand chorus, the band plays. One strums humility, another keeps a steady beat on compassion. One keeps melody on the reed of wisdom, another plays gently a score of self-awareness.
In the corner someone paints a blasphemous mural on the wall. In this scene everyone is fed and the people have no king. There are artists, but no poor. There is accountability, but no criminals. There are workers, but no CEOs. The sick are healed, but they don’t have insurance. Women and femmes have full control over their bodies, which they only give freely. There are children and a community that loves them and learns from them. There are dissenters, but nobody is a “problem.” There is conflict, but no cowering. There is hope, but no ignorance. There is life, but no one is dying.
After we have eaten our fill of these things, of happiness without ego and joy without greed, we say our parting words as we drink clean water that no one owns and that flows abundant. We sneak back to where the comforted sleep, our mothers and and fathers and friends and neighbors. We sneak back into bed full of the possibilities of a world that the comforted won’t even entertain. The small rations of liberation and revolution we ate in the night will tie us over until the next. We live for the night, but we hope for the morning. The day threatens to kill us, but we survive and we create masterpieces out of dust under the stars.
I won’t tell you, my dear, that you are the comforted. I won’t ask you to risk it all at the chance, the mere chance, of creating the world I only visit at night. I won’t tell you that we are drowning in a trap of our own fear. That our shackles tell of our lack of imagination and that our slave quarters narrate our consumption and self-importance. I won’t tell you, my love, because you wouldn’t hear it anyways. The dragon said something ridiculous again, and though you are above it you will go to hear him speak anyways.
I won’t tell you we are dying slowly, because I don’t want to die without you. I will lie down with you in this grave and I will hold you tight, beloved. You will feel my embrace as the dirt comes down upon us. I’m sure the flowers near our gravestone will be quite nice.
But all this I have told you, I have not told you the truest truth. That I am the comforted, the artist, the laborer, the dragon, the enticed by this world, and the one fighting to break free of it. That these things all exist and are warring within me. That each day I must fight to be the storyteller that dances at night, and not the coward who tells stories to get through the days. Many days I fail. I am the one that knows the truth, but doesn’t want to. I am the narrator and the reader. I am not absolved.
And when I wake up after Election Day I will face the same world as you, when the dragon story has come to an end and there is a temptation to believe that we narrowly escaped danger.
We are not okay, but if you so choose, if you are willing to pay the price, we can fight each day for the chance.
The chance to be free.
Please, beloved, do not fall asleep.
Come dance in the night with me.