January 2016


Somewhere, in the darkest of night, Jeb and Hillary are curled up in a ball, having a panic attack.  If they were not avowed political adversaries, they would be hugging each other to ease the trauma.  I want to find out where they are.  I want to find out where they are, so I can curl up in the fetal position next to them, because I’m just as anxious about the primaries.

This is not going to be a good election year for moderates like me.  I can already tell.  This is not the year of the negotiating, calculating political animal.  I thought America during the early Obama years was not a place for middle of the road compromise, but now it’s even less so.

In a way, we’ve gotten what we deserve.  I remember joking about this with my family a couple of years back.  “Oh, 2016 is going to be so boring!  Bush vs. Clinton!  Yawn!”  Well, we wished for interesting and we certainly got it, did we ever.  We didn’t want another Bush, so instead we get the complete nutjob Trump.  We didn’t want Hillary again, so instead we get a democratic socialist calling for a revolution.

Revolution.  Funny word, that.  It’s a very exciting word to shout at rallies–I can say that from experience.  But when there’s a risk of it actually happening, my resolve starts to wane.  I do realize that Bernie is promising a political revolution, not a literal one with guillotines.  But the truth is, my family and I have built a good life for ourselves here in the States, and I’d rather avoid anything that would disrupt that too much or turn our lives upside down.

So besides the fact that I’ve turned out to be a bit of a fraud as far as my political activism goes, what are my options now?  Bernie’s too much for me, but people don’t seem to like Hillary.  Is Bloomberg really going to be a candidate?  Can we still somehow force Joe Biden to run?

What will most likely happen is quite simple.  If we end up with a Bernie vs. Trump match-up, the alternative of Trump in the White House will be unthinkable for me.  So I’ll hold my nose and vote for Bernie–and hope that someday, somewhere in the course of the election zodiac cycle, the Year of the Moderate will be back.

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Well, the winter season is here, and it feels like I’m snowed in at a horror movie ski cabin full of lunatics, idiots and psychopaths.  The door is blocked.  There is no way out.

Listen–it’s Trump’s Freedom Kids, singing their patriotic little hymn again.  Over here, USA!  Over there, USA!

Hillary is at the party too.  She is cackling at everyone’s jokes, wondering why nobody finds her likable.

Bernie and Trump are playing a game of I’ll do you one better.  “I’ll make America great again!”  “I’ll make America even better than America!  I’ll make it Sweden!”  “I’m gonna win!” Trump yells.  “I’m gonna win!” Bernie mumbles.

“Neither one of you is going to win!” I want to say, but there’s too much clatter just outside the living room door.  Out there, religious fanatics are beheading and shooting people, and blowing things up.  Great.  We’re going to have to bomb the kitchen and the pantry.

In the corner lurks the scariest person of them all, Ted Cruz.  “You know why all this is happening?  Because we’re weak,”  he whispers in that smooth telemarketer tone of voice.  “We need to become religious fanatics just like them, otherwise we’ll lose…”

I want to scream, I want to wake up from this nightmare, but I can’t, because this isn’t a dream.  I really am stuck, spinning around on a blue marble with these crazies, unable to get off.  When is the Mothership coming to pick me up?  When are the snows going to melt?  Please, let me out of here, preferably before my head explodes.

It happened just as I flopped down in my chair, ready to relax after a long day of work.  I had been looking forward to an hour or two of mindless social media scrolling.  My brain was in the process of shutting down already.

But then the phone rang.  I stared at the jangling beast angrily.  I never answered the phone anymore.  Who would be asking me for money now?

Going against my instincts, I picked it up.  “Hello?”

“Hey.”  It was a friend of mine.

“What’s up?”

“Why did you unfriend me?”

“What?”  What was she thinking asking me that question?  Didn’t she know that went against every rule of etiquette?

“I’m not an idiot.  I can see that you’re not on my friends list anymore.”

“It’s nothing personal!  It was a social score thing.”

“Oh, okay.  You’re right then, it wasn’t personal.”  Her tone was sarcastic.

“See, that’s the problem.  You’re way too sensitive about this stuff.  It’s only Facebook.  Jesus.”

“I don’t know.  You took it seriously enough to unfriend me.”

“Well, you keep posting political crap.  What’s the point of that anyway?  You know that arguing politics online is a waste of time.”

“Maybe…”  She hesitated.

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life.  It’s your own business if you don’t care about your social score, but you’re bringing everybody else’s score down, too, because they’re friends with you.  You can’t blame people if they want to back off from that.”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

“There are only a gazillion other topics you could post about…your cats, your favorite restaurants.  Things you’d love to buy.  Those kinds of posts would make your friends happy, and they’re approved by Facebook.”

“You know that I do try to post updates about my life.”

“And that’s the other problem.  You’re way too negative.  Negativity brings your score down, too.  The last couple of updates you made were whiny.”

“I got fired from my job.  I wasn’t feeling very happy.”

“Do I have to explain the basics to you?  Just make sure to add something positive to your post to balance it out.  You know, say something like I feel kinda sad today because I was fired, but I know a much better job is just around the corner!”

“But I don’t think there is a better job around the corner.”

“You don’t really have to believe it.  Just stick it in at the end.  Everyone will get what you’re trying to do.”

“Sure.”  She sounded defeated.  “I don’t understand why we have to be so obsessed with our social scores.”

“Well, maybe you don’t care about getting discounts on your expenses, but I do.  Not everyone can afford to pay full price for everything.  It helps me out when my score adds up.  If it goes up by 200 more points, I can get a bigger TV.”

“Okay.  Congrats.  I’m happy for you.  I guess I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

“Social media just isn’t the place for them.  You can tell people your opinions face to face.”

“But we never talk in person anymore.”

“Erm…”  I had no idea how to reply to that.  I squirmed in my chair, trying to come up with some pleasant but noncommittal answer.

But I didn’t need to.  There was only a disconnected beeping in my ear.  She had hung up on me–thank God.

Note:  This story is my attempt to imagine what an American version of the Sesame Credit program would look like.  Sesame Credit is a social media program which the Chinese government is in the process of implementing.  This article is a good basic breakdown of how it’s supposed to work.