Election 2016

I warn you at the outset that no matter who you are, no matter your political persuasion, you are unlikely to finish this entire piece, because you are likely to be angered by something in here. Maybe you’re like everyone else and can’t read more than 140 characters without yawning. Or maybe something I wrote will offend you. Almost certainly both. Asking Americans to read is like asking Americans to slide little splinters of wood under their fingernails.

Know this: I’m not going to unfriend you, though you might want to unfriend me. If I unfriended everyone I had a political disagreement with, I’d have like eight Facebook friends and would have no idea what was ever going on or what people who think differently were actually thinking. All the same, I am going to offend pretty much everyone equally. Read at your own peril.

The election is over. The president will be Trump. A lot of you are shocked. I am not shocked. Disappointed, grievously, but not shocked. And yes, I’m going to talk about it. When Americans are pissed about something, they let people know. If you’re an American, you probably haven’t gone a month without complaining about one thing or another online. Well it’s my turn.

This country isn’t terrible. We’re pretty fortunate to live here. I don’t think any reasonable people see America as either a candyland or a goulag. Indeed, we were pretty close to being just right. A little more work, a little more diligence, a little more toughness, a little more thinking of others and we might have… we could have had the kind of country where people of every persuasion could work hard, develop their natural gifts, and enrich their own lives and those around them. We were just a few steps away from that.

But our country had a choice to make and they made it. They had to pick between two very different options. Let’s talk about those options.

When I go to deal with new people, the very first thing I do is try to answer this question. “Is this a good person?” Like an Easter Egg hunt in a drug needle junkyard, you can always find a little good in someone if you’re willing to look hard enough. Conversely, like a drug needle in a bag of Twizzlers, you can always find a little bad in someone if you’re looking for it, too. Yeah, that’s kinda how I see people. But I always want to know one thing. Is this person actively trying to make the world better?

I took a look at the past presidents and even many of the presidential candidates we’ve had. When I considered this list, I found that they all had something in common. They were soldiers, lawyers, clergy, and public administrators. They had all been public servants. They had all dedicated some or all of their lives to improving the lives of others. Even those that you might disagree with tremendously, who had done some terrible things, had also been the kinds of people who helped mankind. Don’t like genocidal Jackson? Army veteran. Can’t stand paranoid Nixon? Navy veteran. Hate miserable Cruz? Well… not much redeeming there, but you see where I’m going.

I think a good indication that someone is a good person is a record of giving, of doing, of helping. If you’re going to care for a bunch of strangers, it would be nice if you had some evidence in your past that you actually gave a shit about people.

Hilary (ne Hermoine Grainger) Clinton has a long record of helping people… like all of her life… like since she was a kid. She also cheated that time to help Harry win a quiddich match (don’t judge me). Maybe she’s not the most charming person, but I consider that a positive, evidence of someone who spent less time learning to bullshit and more time learning to get shit done. She’s a social justice warrior but wearing the jacket of traditional politics.

And Donald Trump? He’s Draco Malfoy. He’s Joffre Baratheon (first of his name). He’s an angry spoiled little prince, like his kids, with no history to speak of wherein helping people played any regular part of his life. He’s the kind of person you protect other people from. He’s an asshole. That’s pretty much it. Not the worst asshole. There are way worse people in the world. But there’s no mistaking he’s an asshole. He fails the most basic test of being a good person. Alas, so do many politicians.

Looks like a tough choice. And we’ve elected Pre… Presi… the Prince John of Nottingham. I’m sure he’ll give running this country all 25% of his attention.

So who’s fault is it?

Well, certainly some of the fault lies in the Republican party for elevating him.

You had to pick among the options on your table during the primaries and you picked Kim Jong Il. I know that you know an asshole when you see one. We all do. We all read about them and see them in film time and again. We know what assholes look like. You had a few non-asshole options. If you desperately wanted an old white man, you could have put John McCain up again. I love him. Admittedly the talent pool in both parties was a little thin, but there is no one of any intelligence who did not see the Donald for what he was: a spoiled middle schooler with the character to be a top notch used car salesman (nothing against used car salesmen).

Do you think he cares about your problems? He doesn’t. He has no track record that would support that. He doesn’t share your opinions about abortion. I’d be shocked if he’s paid for fewer than three. He doesn’t share your opinions about guns. Do you really think he’d comfortably walk through New York while every random stranger was open carrying? He doesn’t share your opinions about religion. Though, in fairness, neither do I.

While it is not impossible that Dear Leader Malfoy will do something positive, good, useful for the country, for people, and for the world, I think we’re going to get stuck with a lot of needles to find that one little chocolate egg. I’m just not feeling like it’s worth it.

I understand wanting to disrupt the establishment. It’s a frustrating machine that often gets us nowhere. Hilary Clinton is establishment. In addition to disagreeing with you politically, she’s part of maintaining the establishment. I totally get that. I could go on for half an hour and pass out talking about that. However, the character of establishment that we all forked over by allowing… (Jafar? Starscream? No… Find your own examples.) to get into the White House was the tradition of service and self-sacrifice. She was a decent person and qualified for the job.

Yes, there are an awful lot of bigots (sexists, racists, homophobes, etc) in the Republican party. But not most of you. Most of you genuinely believe in conservative principles and are probably sick of being called sexists, racists, and homophobes when all you want is to have your side of the argument heard. Here’s the thing, in every perfectly reasonable group of like-minded people, there are a few assholes who, shielded by the insulation of others, stand up and hurl insanity at another group, attempting to pick a fight that didn’t need to happen and attempting to change the character of a group that had been basically decent.

Since 2008, your party’s guidon, the flag a military unit aligns itself around, has been handed to worse and worse people. The bulk of you seem to realize this. It is hard to hear reasonable, level-headed Republicans over the din of your assholes. It would be easier to hear your generally reasonable arguments if you occassionally did what John McCain did and told the assholes in your group to up the shut fuck.

This is not all on the Republicans. It’s not even mostly on the Republicans. Your guidon is just as contested as theirs.

Fully half of the responsibility for Supreme Leader Trump J. Don falls on Democrats. Why? Because you made it nearly impossible for a Republican to be an ally.

When someone realizes that their position or view is wrong, they may be inclined to modify it, develop it, and encourage others around them to set a healthier path. That’s how discussions, debates, and arguments are supposed work. It’s not about winning. It’s about finding the right answer. When you detect the right answer, you should gravitate toward it, wherever you found it. Many Republicans throughout this election cycle attempted to move away from Trump. And many Democrats sneered at them, pummeled them, and drove them back to their previous position because they had not always been an ally or were not prepared to change everything else that they believed.

I know this behavior. Minorities and other marginalized groups do it as well.

Think I’m being unfair? Here’s a little test. If Donald Trump had taken over the Democratic base (which he totally could have – or if you’re not that imaginative, try picturing Richard Branson instead), how easy would it have been for you to vote for Jeb Bush?

Don’t rush. Take your time. I’ll wait.

My guess is that most Democrats would find this an almost impossible decision. Could you imagine yourself EVER voting for a Republican? Not now in retrospect, but as who you were before the election. And if Republicans did exactly what Democrats did (which they certainly would have) and pounded on those of you deciding not to vote with your party, might you have said, “Well, fuck you then,” and voted in the asshole anyway out of spite? If you thought you were a Moderate, this is how you know that you are not.

You, who pride yourselves on being sensitive to other people’s positions, made no effort to empathize with the position of moderate or otherwise reasonable Republicans.

There are white people in America that are just as poor and uneducated as any minorities in America. They are just as prone to replacing science with religion. They are just as scared, carrying guns in the absence of proper law enforcement. They are just as eager to substitute flashy media for bitter reality. And they, too, believe that the problem in the country are the wealthy, the powerful, the privileged, and the people who don’t look like them. The only difference is that doors will open for them that will not open for any other group. Not because they are gifted, charming, or come from a good background, but merely because they are white heterosexual males. That sucks for everyone else. But that does not mean that they have nothing of value to say. Indeed, if you listen to them, you’ll find that most of them have no idea that those doors stay closed.

Yes, there are an awful lot of bigots (sexists, racists, homophobes, etc) in the Republican party. But they are also in the Democratic party. Less so, admittedly, but they are still present and still effecting the character of your party. What you tend to have instead are people so determined to eradicate those things at all costs that you make no room for any other way to be. I meet people so short-fused about these issues that they are destructively anti-male, anti-white, and anti-hetero, as if there were something fundamentally wrong with those traits.

As with Republicans, it would be far easier to hear your perfectly valid arguments if you told your assholes to up the shut fuck.

Maybe it’s a little my fault. Maybe I didn’t do enough. Maybe it would have helped if I’d shared my opinions about this sooner. Or maybe that would have had no effect at all.

Maybe we Moderates (wherever we may be) are at fault. Maybe we, as a reasonable group of people dissatisfied with the options on the table, spoke little or not at all, voted in every direction or not at all. Maybe we hoped that people were more reasonable than we knew them to be.

Or maybe I’m just an asshole and I should up the shut fuck.

I don’t hold the keys to culture. I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like ultimately. What I do know is that I don’t like hanging out in dense groups of either one of you. You probe and test me to see where my affiliations are.

“Guns are…”

“Abortions are…”

You are as like to see me as a political ally as you are to label me a political foe. But I’m neither. I’m a Moderate. I’ve got the guidon. I should not be guiding on you. You should be guiding on me.

I’m disappointed in you. I’m ashamed of you. I’m embarrassed for our country. I hope, when you’ve had time to think about it, you will be, too. If you don’t yet see this as severe as it actually is, I hope that you figure it out soon.

I don’t think this will be the end of the country. At least I hope not. It’s certainly interesting to think that this is the catalyst for a Mad Maxx America (I emphasize not “fun,” but “interesting”). But while there will probably be twenty of years of damage stemming from the next four years, I think we’ll come out of it. And perhaps we’ll come out of it better. Not because we managed to find a sufficient number of Easter Eggs to make this worth it, but because we as a country will re-evaluate who we are and who we want to be, and make serious changes here and in the rest of the world.

As I said, I’m not unfriending any of you. I like you (other than this terrible demonstration of decision-making). And I’m not leaving the country. I could have left society long ago. I didn’t then. I’m not now. I stay. I fight.

If Trump is here to teach us a lesson… if there is a lesson in any of this, then I think it is that anyone, absolutely anyone, you included, can run for an office, win, and change the way this country works. So all of you amazing people out there with strong wills and brilliant ideas and communities of support, including some of the people out there I’m angry at right now who could run this country better than who we just elected, I’m talking to you. I’m talking to you veterans, people in medicine, cops, writers, social workers, activists, firefighters, teachers, SCIENTISTS. I know you’re not happy about the way this system works. Step into the light, run for office, and fix this shit.


A little extra:
On Veteran’s Day, my family went out to Applebee’s for my free vet dinner. It occurred to me on the drive there that there would probably be hard core Hilary supporters and hard core Trump supporters there. After this election, I thought that there was a non-negligible probability of a physical altercation. I got my mind around what was going to have to happen if that were to occur. But it didn’t. I didn’t see so much as a political article of clothing. Brothers and sisters in arms of every branch gathered, acknowledged each other’s service and went on their way, their common purpose as clear now as when they swore in; taking care of people.
I found myself talking to an old black Marine who had been in Vietnam. His son was on his fourth tour in Iraq. I told him how I’d been in Fallujah and how my cousin had spent a good piece of the war in Baghdad. He sat down before we did. Before he left, he stopped by our table and told us that he had paid our whole check, including tip, and not to worry about a thing. Semper Fi. The world still works. We can still work together.

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