A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

In my fantasy, I’m climbing the barricades.  I’m not sure why I’m climbing the barricades. It’s been a long time since I’ve believed in anything strongly enough to do that sort of thing.

Maybe I’m climbing the barricades because I got tired of playing with my phone.

I’m waving a flag, but what flag could I possibly be waving?  The flag of doing my best to pay my bills?  The flag of 9 to 5 employment?

I’m surrounded on all sides by real fighters–warriors truly engaged in the battle.  Unlike me, they’re not here to march down the alley in slow motion, trying hard to be Beyonce in her Lemonade video.  They actually want to change things.  They’re not here looking for a shiver of excitement, for a reminder that life doesn’t have to be safe and boring.

Me?  I think the truth is I want to belong somewhere.

But speaking of the excitement, where is it?  Where is the smoke?  Where are the tear gas cannisters?  I don’t see any bombs or bricks getting thrown.

For that matter, I don’t see anyone to fight.  The street I’m wandering down is suddenly very empty.  No creepy authorities dressed in black.  I look around, feeling lost.  Nobody to get angry at, to shout at.  And why should there be?

It turns out, the person I’m protesting is myself.

I turn my laptop on in the morning already knowing that the battle continued raging even while I was asleep.  Indeed, shots were fired in the middle of the night.

“You have to ask yourself, are you here for the revolution?  Are you a revolutionary or what?”

I’m definitely a “what.”  And the correct category is…?

“Are you a patriot?  Are you fighting for liberty?  We are continuing our fight against the useless bureaucrats in D.C.”

“How can any liberal support Hillary?”

“How can any conservative support Kasich?”

“Bernie will smash the banks…”

“Trump will keep those illegals out…”

Remember when the Internet used to be all about posting pictures of babies, lunches and kittens?  Believe it or not, I really miss that time.

“You people are privileged and don’t know what it’s like to struggle…”

Hey, everyone!  Here’s a video of Chirpy!

“You people have never had a real job or paid taxes–you don’t what it’s like out there in the adult world…”

“Old and square…”

“Young and dumb…”

Chirpy is a parakeet.  He likes to play the synth…

“Racist…”

“Politically correct sheeple…”

“Fascist…”

“Communist…”

Watch him play the Game of Thrones theme!

“You Nazis should get sent to camps…”

He even whistles along!

“You SJWs should get shot into a ditch…”

And isn’t it hilarious how the cat is watching him from below?

Right?

Guys?

“Let’s burn everything down!”

“Let’s burn everything down!”

It’s not too late.  We don’t have to burn everything down.

 

I suppose this is what it must feel like to be on the wrong side in one of those good vs. evil fantasy movies.  I’m still here, one of the minions laboring in the Dark Castle, hoping that Commander Clinton pulls off a victory, but the audience in the theater can already tell where this one is going.

Yeah, it’s likely that Hillary will end up the Democratic nominee.  But it’s clear she is not the true winner of this election.  Hillary’s the Queen clinging to her crown, while outside her window Bernie prances about, surrounded by happy woodland creatures and chirpy little songbirds, sprinkling his fairy dust on everyone.

At this point, I’ve moved past the furious stepmother phase of my reaction to this election cycle…or at least I hope I have…and, while not enthusiastic for him, I’m glad for how excited the people in my life are about Bernie.  Not being excited about Bernie when you live in Portland is a little bit like being the only sober person at one of those parties where all your other friends are high on something, but that’s okay.  It might not be fun at first, but then you let go and roll with it, and learn to accept the meandering philosophical discussions and the random crying bouts.

As for me, I’ll keep skulking in the shadows, rooting against all odds for Queen Hillary to become President…and maybe even more than that…

“What are we doing tonight, Your Highness?”

“What we do every night…try to take over the world!”

 

So, what is the deal with this cray-cray Trump candidacy?  Is it just the reality show from Hell?  Is it a dumber incarnation of Mussolini?  I’m staring at it in horror, but what is it?

One simple answer is that it’s a reaction to Obama’s presidency.  The racists of this country have had a rough seven years trying to deal with the reality of a black President.  Now, here comes Trump to the rescue, this man who still hasn’t sorted out his feelings about the KKK.  The yokels who cheer for him might not agree with his stances on health care or abortion or almost anything else, but that doesn’t matter–the essence of his campaign is all about bashing brown-skinned people.

Despite the fact that his administration is responsible for a record number of deportations, the screaming heads on talk radio have always accused President Obama of purposely letting high numbers of undocumented Latino immigrants into the country in order to “change our culture” (code language for making the culture less white).  But, never fear!  Trump is here and he’s going to build a giant wall to protect us from all these foreign aliens.

Likewise, the right-wing conspiracy theorists believe that Obama is sympathetic to radical Islamist terror groups, perhaps even that he’s a radical Muslim himself.  This although he has expanded George W’s drone strike program.  Once again, Trump bravely steps up to the plate.  He will keep all the Muslims out.  Radical or non-radical, it doesn’t matter.  That should solve the problem.

In an ironic twist, as the President is disrespected because of his skin color, he is simultaneously blamed for being the one to cause racial division in the nation.  Apparently, he is too soft on the (scary to conservatives) Black Lives Matter movement.  In the world of anti-Obama hysteria, tiny molehills are turned into mountains.  As with everything else in his presidency, Obama has treaded very carefully when it comes to incidents of police brutality, not speaking out as forcefully as many would like him to.  He got in enough trouble just for saying that Trayvon Martin could have been his kid.  And still, according to the crazy rightie blogosphere, he has been coddling rioters and looters.  Trump, on the other hand–he doesn’t mess around with those pesky BLM protesters.  He will have his own audiences kick and shove them out of his rallies.  He’s a big man, that Donald.

So the question is–will we allow the racist backlash against our country’s first African-American President to result in a destructive, reactionary Trump presidency?  I sincerely hope not.

Here I sit, the winner of my own private civil war, and what have I gained?

Bombs were thrown and insults were lobbed back and forth.  “Liberal Demoshit.”  This was a fight in the family, so relatives jumped in.  “Well, you’re a right wing piece of shit.”  The battle had to end with the final shot–the unfriending.

Granted, the guy in question is an asshole.  He has a virulent hatred of the President and the First Lady.  And he doesn’t do a very good job of hiding the fact that his hatred has a lot to do with their skin color.

It should be easy to crow over how stupid he is.  But there is no feeling of triumph after a debate with a Trump supporter.  There’s no satisfaction in having to cut off a part of my family.  There’s only an empty sensation.  I hate conflict.  I hate fighting and mudslinging.  My “uncle” hit me with a low blow, but I allowed myself to get dragged down there with him, and became just as much of an idiot as he was.

And it’s a bad sign of what’s been happening, more and more, to all of us.  We can’t be friends if we’re on the opposite sides of the political party divide.  And now it’s even difficult for members of the same party.  I bite my tongue and stay quiet about the worries I have about a potential Bernie presidency, because I don’t want more unfriendings in my life.

I get the premonition that someday we’ll be standing there, looking at the charred, smoking remnants of our homes, our family relationships, our country.  We’ll shake our heads sadly and say:  “Yeah, it all started with an online argument….”

 

This blog post dedication goes out to a very special presidential candidate…and the way he’s changed my life.

As some of you may know, I work in the health insurance industry, for a local company which shall remain nameless.  Yes, it feels paradoxical to be working in that field when I’m a supporter of a single payer system, but that’s life for ya.  Working in insurance may seem like the most boring career path ever–I’m like Kafka without the brilliant novels–but over the years, I’ve enjoyed my job and found some good friends among my co-workers.  It’s been a nice stable paycheck, and I was hoping to keep working there for years to come.

And now the company I work for is imploding.  Why?  Well, there are multiple factors, but a major one stands out.

When insurance companies agreed to join the Obamacare exchange, the government promised them payments from something called a risk corridor program.  This was meant to compensate them for the fact that they would be taking on a large number of new customers who had been uninsured for a long time, and thus would be very sick and would need costly treatment.  This turned out to be true, and costs for the industry have been even higher than expected.  If anything, this is evidence for just how broken our healthcare system was previous to the Affordable Care Act.  All these newly insured Americans are now finally receiving care for medical conditions they were often forced to neglect because they couldn’t afford to have them treated.

I certainly do not expect sympathy for insurance companies in this scenario.  However, the risk corridor payments were supposed to make the transition to Obamacare smoother and keep the health care infrastructure from falling to pieces.  Supposed to.  But only 13% of the risk corridor money which was promised has been paid out.  And it’s all because of that one very special guy.  Yep, Marco Rubio.  Marco cut most of the risk corridor money out of the budget, and he’s very proud of it.  He brags about being the only conservative who has truly succeeded in damaging Obamacare.  Because it’s so much more important to stick it to the President than to allow Americans access to health care…

So now, insurance companies across the country are going out of business, employees are facing layoffs–and the truly frustrating thing is that Obamacare is getting the blame.  I’m hearing it myself around my own workplace.  It’s easy to think that it’s Obama’s fault, if you haven’t heard all the facts.  Rubio knew what he was doing.

Okay, so saying that I’m not voting for Marco for President is a bit of an empty threat–it’s not like I was going to vote for him before.  Still, I’m definitely never voting for him now. Not for dogcatcher.  I’d gladly vote for Bernie over him.  A shoe could be running against him and I would vote for the shoe.  Call it a personal grudge.

Say it with me, everyone:  elections have consequences.  Think there’s no difference between the candidates?  Think it’s not worth your time to vote?  Nope, nope, nope.  My future, and the future of almost 2,000 other workers, hangs in the balance right now because of the actions of one man.  Vote like the quality of your life depends on it… because it does!!!

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