This will, hopefully, be my last thoughts on the election. Certain people shouldn’t read this.
Someone on Twitter mentioned that after this history-changing election, everything that was written about the event will be studied by our future historians and our grandchildren. So let me state, for the record, so that no one ever confuses my opinion for someone else:
I fucking hate Trump.
(note: it’s safe to skip the next paragraph)
Even if he had the personality of a cherub from on high, I would find his ineffectual/inconsistent policies on immigration, corporate tax breaks, economic isolation, and Net Neutrality to be deal-breakers when he comes calling for my vote. Any of the (both fair and unfair) criticisms thrown at Clinton-- from her bought political favors to her war-hawk tendencies to her compulsive lying-- anything she did, Trump has done several times worse within the same categories. Even when he advocates for something I DO support, like a educational voucher program, I have no reason to believe he won’t change his mind again. Most people know that I loathe blind party loyalty, but I voted Democrat for President, Iowa Senator, and Johnson County Representative due to one part policy analysis and one part the chance to never hear the word “Trump” again. The Access Hollywood tapes didn’t change my opinion on him at all-- I knew he was a horrible person before and after the tapes broke. But then he starts threatening to limit freedom of the press, and I find I can detest him EVEN MORE.
Some of the snarkier friends of mine are already typing below, “But Nick, tell us how you REALLY feel.” The more heartbroken among my friends will wonder why I didn’t show this kind of righteous anger beforehand. I imagine some will say that my privilege allowed me to keep silent. After all, Trump’s victory came from white men and women… shouldn’t I have done more to call out Trump?
The thing is, I had no idea what to do. And the people who did know what to do did everything wrong.
All of the criticisms I lobbied against Trump have been said 10 times funnier, 10 times nastier, and 10 times more compelling, by people that most of the country respect and love (though they’re maybe not as respected as I thought). My skills as a writer and satirist are not at the point where I can radically change people’s minds… good for cheerleading, not for quarterbacking. A cowardly assessment of myself? Maybe. Maybe I could have done more than vote, but I certainly shouldn’t have done the same as everyone else. When great civil rights leaders work their life to stop racism and sexism, and we’re still at THIS point… well, why would my weaker imitation of them help anyone? Don’t let the voter turnout and bad polls fool you; the anti-Trump coalition was not like the Who village crying out to not be boiled alive by a kangaroo (and let’s hope we never end up in that predicament). The anti-Trump coalition was a thunderclap-- loud, disruptive, powerful, and ignored by modern people indoors.
Kurt Vonnegut said it best: “During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.”
Many of you read articles asking for your sympathy towards the economically disenfranchised Trump voter. And you’ve also read about how the voting tallies don’t reflect that narrative, that the only consistent predictor for Trump support was hostility towards women and minorities. You’ve read that it’s unfair to beg an audience to understand the plight of the voter who chooses to inflict many plights on the rest of the country. I agree: it’s unfair to ask that of people. It’s also the only option that, at this point, I think might work.
Admit it: you thought you knew instantly who I meant when I said “certain people,” did you? Guess again.
As a pop-culture and literature affectionado, I’ve seen Republicans compared to every fictional evil organization under the sun: the armies of Mordor, the wealthy Lannisters, the well-known Panem, the obscure Empire of Blood. How about the Sith? Don’t worry, this isn’t a trick question: if you believe that the Emperor and Darth Vader represent Republicans, I can’t stop you. So if Republicans are Sith, in your mind, does that make Democrats the Jedi? Consider, then, that the Jedi’s actions in the Clone Wars led to their complete destruction, and yet the only plan Obi-Wan and Yoda could get behind to save their way of life was “have our only hope for spiritual stability kill his father.” Luke won in Episode VI by taking a new path, away from the cycle of violence, even at great personal risk.
I cannot honestly ask someone to feel bad for Trump and his kind, or to love them regardless, or even simply not lash out at them. Your feelings are not wrong. I cannot dictate how you should grieve. All I want you to understand is that THE OLD STRATEGIES WILL NOT WORK ANYMORE. Maybe compassion and understanding won’t work for 2020, but dammit, we need to try.
Mel Brooks’ method of combating evil will always inspire me. I love his hilarious, and brave, work. But, man, Mel Brooks stopped making movies a long time ago. We’re no longer in the 90s, now we have to watch the world wake up TO history. Make fun of Trump, call him an asshole… I will do those things in the future. But I’m also going to do things that ACTUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Calm people’s fears, allow for open discourse, look at people as individuals instead of a collections of labels. And even then, I still have room for opposing unconstitutional executive orders and support the people our president hurts. I don’t doubt that this path will result in many racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted viewpoints being shared. But those viewpoints never went away in this country, they just learned to keep quiet. To fight an enemy, you first have to learn where they live.
And, because I’m apparently not done destroying my credibility as a voter and a nerd, I’m going to quote the novelization of Revenge of the Sith by Matt Stover. It’s about how the Empire destroyed the Jedi so quickly and effectively (people used to call it unrealistic, but now I’m not so sure they will).
“The Sith had changed. The Sith had grown, had adapted, had invested a thousand years’ intensive study into every aspect of not only the Force but Jedi lore itself, in preparation for exactly this day. The Sith had remade themselves.
They had become new.
While the Jedi--
The Jedi had spent that same millennium training to refight the last war.”
In these uncertain times, I know of two political certainties: Americans are tired of the same old methods, and they believe that hate is the strongest motivator around. I disagree with the later. But if you plan to stand up to Trump, please, please don’t double down on the same old methods. You can still mock, lampoon, and criticize as before, even if you know it won’t work. But if you want to convert others, try something new. Don’t act like Deadpool and pretend you’re Jesus. If you want to change the world, get used to the new changes.
Published by Nick Edinger