Screaming at Weeds Doesn't Make Them Disappear
As the very real possibility that Trump & Company may continue to trample through our federal government, overturning established laws, creating distractions for us to buy into, freak out, and miss it when they do the real work of dismantling the safety net (that was filled with holes, anyway) things have become downright 1968.
Now that he gets another bite at the SCOTUS apple, it might be like 1950 meets 1968. Christ, all he needs is a war with a draft and someone send in the Terminator to kill him before he is born.
People are anxious and enraged on both sides of the Trump Machine and a sense of petty vengeance is in the air like the scent of magnolias and burning dog. It's as if everyone forgot why we had to codify our rights in writing through war to get them even temporarily established. That our relatively short battle against thousands of years of tribalism, subjugation of women, religious persecution, and the guards of the king (or pharaoh) torturing you for saying the wrong thing was over because, in our arrogance, we decided that enough was enough. We put our foot down and said "No more racism." and somehow expected the march of inter-tribal animus and war that has been present and ongoing for thousands of years was going to simply evaporate out of fear of our online mob.
It's as if, in this fragile democracy, we've never been at our worst than this time in history. That Trump is the sum total of the most horrifying mistakes we could exact upon ourselves — like he's the really fucking fast zombies of 28 Days Later or the population killing virus of so many dystopian novels and films.
Except that I remember how angry I was when the Scalia-infused SCOTUS handed George W his screwy Electoral College win and spent the next eight years pissing and moaning about everything from the corruption of his cabinet to his inability to say certain words correctly to the fact that Cheney had no heart but a mechanism that ran on sand and hate. To me (and so many of us) W was the apotheosis of everything wrong with America. It certainly was the worst we had ever faced as a country, right?
"I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believ'd in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ'd in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appaling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout.
The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north, south and west, to investigate frauds, has talk'd much with me about his discoveries.
The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time. In business, (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician's serpent, remaining to-day sole master of the field.
The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress'd speculators and vulgarians. True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous labors are to be discover'd, existing crudely and going on in the background, to advance and tell themselves in time. Yet the truths are none the less terrible. I say that our New World democracy, however great a success in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic development, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary, and esthetic results.
In vain do we march with unprecedented strides to empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alexander's, beyond the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we annex'd Texas, California, Alaska, and reach north for Canada and south for Cuba. It is as if we were somehow being endow'd with a vast and more and more thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul."
— Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman (1871)
Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States.
The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men.
The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater.
I say that our New World democracy, however great a success in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic development, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in its social aspect...
OK. This is not to say that things aren’t bad in the United Skeets of Racist-murka. Is Trump bad? Duh. Is he Hitler Redux? No. Is he the worst president in our history? Perhaps the least qualified for the job but hardly the worst. I mean, so far. Are we going to have to refight the battles for the rights of women? Yup. For police to stop killing (mostly black) people? Definitely. Were we ever going to be able to relax and forget about these things? Not if we're smart.
This is to say that it has never been as great as the bullshit textbooks that erased women and blacks and Native Americans and immigrants told us it was. Never. In 1871, Walt wrote out how crap things were from his vantage and, as I read his text, it pretty accurately describes things as they are today.
Breathe. Acknowledge this fact.
Get a fucking grip on yourself, stop flailing your arms and typing fingers and cease the fearmongering and hyperbolic spew. Sure, elections based on fear and hatred of the opposition win all the time but when we go there, we get crap for leaders. Every time.
Grab a can of perspective, crack the top, and understand that the march of history and the essential nature of human beings is to be constantly fighting for and against the concepts the country is founded upon. Going to war with one another is hardwired in our DNA, fighting for dominance is the defining element of our species. If equality among everyone was so fucking easy, why do we keep having to fight for it?
It's as if our ancestors have been toiling away, trying to get rid of weeds in the yard and we woke up to more weeds and threw up our arms, fell to our knees (all set to strains of Barber's Adagio for Strings in G minor) and screamed "But WHYYYYYY?" when we saw that more weeds had sprouted up overnight. Weeds, like tribalism, hatred for the Other, the enslavement of one another, superstition, and war, always keep coming back. The arrogance to assume that because we did some weeding before (I mean, women got the right to vote less than one hundred years ago in this Fabergé Egg of a society) that we could just stop weeding is Icarus Wax Wing-level shit.
Finally, this is also not a call to be more civil (despite the fact that it is called "civil disobedience" and not "act like a fucking asshole disobedience") but a call to be better at your incivility. If the best you can come up with is to insult Republicans with names a fourth grader could come up with after watching HBO for an hour, you’re a fucking dimwit.
Also, if you absolutely cannot resist being an angry fourth grader barking at the weeds, do it while also doing the real work of systemic change, which isn't fun or exciting or blessed with any sense of immediate gratification. If the best disobedience (civil or otherwise) you have is to flip off the president or call anyone who disagrees with your worldview garbage, you're just fucking lazy.
The lesson we can learn from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is that, in order to win, we need to organize, get out the vote of people who generally don't, and provide a candidate of merit and hope rather than a well-financed campaign of fear and rage. Provide an alternative to the Trump Machine rather than shame people into a moral quagmire of our own making. Ideas rather than insults; hope rather than condemnation.