politics


Somewhere in America, a young man sits at the breakfast table, eating his cereal.  He’s getting ready to go.  His backpack and coat are in the chair next to him.

His parents are nervous and excited for him.  He’s told them that he’s going to the city for a job interview.

Before he leaves, he gives his sister a hug.  She tells him to be careful.  The big city is not a safe place.  He gets into his truck and takes off.

He sits in horrible traffic for hours.  Slowly, he crawls his way downtown.  He looks out his window at the dirty streets and the crowds.

He finally finds a parking spot, and then he walks, in the noise and the shadow of the towering skyscrapers.  He hates it here, but he’s willing to do this.  He’s here to save his country.

For a while, he hangs out in front of a store window, staring at a display of the latest phones.  Across the street, a slim figure strides down the sidewalk.  It’s easy to recognize her.  She’s a female journalist, and he has read online that she walks to work every day.  He agrees with his President–she’s one of the enemies of the people.

Pulling out his gun, taking the shot–it all happens in a flash, and she crumples to the ground.

The next bullet is for him.  He doesn’t mind dying.  He has fulfilled his mission, done what he believes his role models and leaders wanted him to do.

Maybe–he thinks in his last moments–maybe, thanks to his sacrifice, America will continue to be free.

 

When America first woke up, she didn’t know where she was.

She wobbled upright on the couch, her head spinning, the stink of Old Crow and cheap beer hanging in the air.  “I’ve got to stop having these crazy blackouts,” she thought.

There was the sound of incoherent mumbling nearby.  She gingerly turned her head to look.  Oh, God.  Richard Spencer was passed out next to her, his head back and his mouth open.  Was it possible?  Did she make out with a Nazi last night?

America rubbed her face and tried to remember what the hell happened.  Nightmarish images floated back to her.  The fascist embracing her waist, whispering in her ear.  “I will make you feel like a real woman… you’re not a woman until you’ve been taken by a strong man…”  And she had let him take her, she suspected.

Her living room was torn to pieces.  Trash everywhere.  The plants on her windowsill were dead.  There were greasy spills and burns on the carpet–and a few unconscious people, most of whom she didn’t know.

She stood up on shaky legs and made her way to the bathroom.  Clutching the sink, she did her best to straighten up her hair.  The water which ran from her tap was filthy, so she gave up on the idea of splashing her face.

A noise from somewhere in the house caught her attention.  There it was again–a tiny, quiet sob.  She wandered into the kitchen and found her daughter crouched under the table, shaking.

“Oh, honey,” America said, reaching out to her.  “I’m sorry things got so nuts.”

“Mom…what did you do to our house?”

“It’ll get cleaned up, sweetheart.  I guess…I just wanted to try something different for a change.  Our lives had gotten so boring…so politically correct…”

More and more of it was coming back to her.  The kitchen table surrounded by a crowd raising a champagne toast, screaming out that everything was going to be great again.  America cheering along with them.  She would be number one again.  She would be a star again.

She snapped out of her reminiscing and looked down at her child.

“I got so damn tired of feeling guilty all the time,”  she heard herself saying.  “So I had too much to drink.  Big deal.”

“Big deal?  Mom, what about the people who got killed?”

“Someone got killed?”  America searched her mind, but she was completely blanking out on this one.

Her little girl broke down in tears again.  “The neighbors across the street…some  of the men here burned their house down…and shot them…said they were the wrong kind…”

“Really?  Huh.”  America scratched her head.  She peered back out at the wreckage of yesterday’s party.  Fuck.  What if she went to jail?

The fascist in her living room stirred and gave a loud snore.  She stared at him, her confusion turning to fear.  How would she get him out of her house?

“Shot…shot them,”  she muttered.

“Mother?”

She turned to see her daughter standing in the kitchen, a heavy backpack weighing down her skinny shoulders.

“I’m sorry, Mom.  I have to take off for a while.”

“Don’t leave, cupcake.  You feel upset right now, but it’ll get better.”

America moved in to attempt a hug, but her child pushed her away.  “I can’t stay here anymore.  It’s awful.  Our family is in debt.  The land we live on is toxic.  I have to…”

“No!  If you leave, I’ll be stuck here with…with them.”

“You shouldn’t have invited them in.”  The girl shrugged and walked out.

“Fine, go then!”  America snarled after her.  “Where you gonna go, anyway?  You don’t think the Europeans have their own problems?”

Behind her, she heard rustling and groans, much like the sound of a horde of zombies jerking into motion.

Her guests were waking up.  The party would go on.

My vision for the future of women:

lizwarrenforpresident

 

The alt right’s vision for the future of women:

backtothekitchen

I know we’ve been talking a lot about finding common ground…but I’m also pretty sure there’s no common ground here.

So, it’s been a month, and progressives and Democrats have been hearing a constant refrain–that we need to reach out to Trump supporters, to try to understand the forgotten working-class base in the heartland of America which voted for him.

That is a very good point.  We do need to do that if we want to win the next election.  There is only one problem for me:  I don’t really want to know or understand the Trump voters.

This is not the wisest attitude to have, and I guess it marks me as an elitist of some sort. But I don’t care.  I don’t want to know why people continue to support Trump and overlook all the things he’s already said and done when it comes to women, immigrants and Muslims. When I recently visited a website where the deplorables gather to chat, I saw plenty of caricatures of yarmulkas and hooked noses, and references to Reichsfuhrer Trump. Blaming the Jews for your own economic woes is an age-old tradition.  The Trumpsters clearly feel the need to scapegoat someone for their own miserable situation.  What can I possibly say to them about that?  How would I change their mind?  I could suggest changes to the political and economic system which would make their life better, but these are the same people who thought Obama was a Marxist and the ACA was a government assault on their liberty–and frequently voted against their own health insurance coverage.  What does one do when faced with such ignorance?

Not to mention that in order to reach out to the Trump voters, I would have to find them where they live.  Thing is, I love my urban bubble.  I have little interest in going too far beyond its protective shield.  I’ve lived in the rural world before and I’m grateful to have escaped it.  I have no desire to move to a place where my neighbors give me the side-eye just because I don’t attend the same church they do and behave in ways they don’t consider “normal.”

Again, this does not bode well as a political strategy.  Democrats did get the popular vote in 2016, but the Democratic electorate is clustered in a few major metropolitan areas, mainly on the two coasts, and that’s not the way the American electoral system works. Hence the idea that progressives should transplant themselves to swing states.  If only I could convince myself to be enthusiastic about a midwestern or southern swing state….

The progressive movement certainly needs ambassadors right now to take its message across the country.  Unfortunately, I’m not that person.  And I wonder how many of my fellow liberal bubble-dwellers are willing to do the difficult work of outreach.  And if that work doesn’t get done, what will 2020 look like?

2016 was a very special year and it deserves a very special sendoff.  Here is my recipe for Dec 31st:

For the ritual soundtrack, I’m going to turn on some nostalgic Prince.  Your tastes may vary–you are welcome to instead try some Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Sharon Jones, or any of the many talented musicians who left the planet this year.

Sadly, I don’t have a cauldron, so instead I’m going to find a large pot and put it on the stove.  Bring water to a boil in the pot and then toss in the following ingredients:

–the hair of a Trump voter

–eye of Pepe the frog

–my now useless I’m With Her sticker

–my now useless Bill of Rights

–a photo of Justin Bieber…who is still alive

–a few chopped up pieces of the root of division and prejudice

Be sure to stir the pot, and then dance around it, muttering dark incantations and chanting:  “Things will only get worse!  Things will only get worse!”

Repeat as many times as needed.  Keep the pot for next year–I’m sure we’ll be doing the same thing in 2017….

“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.

 

 

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been seeing a lot of supportive I’m With Her posts on my newsfeed.  Mostly, I think, in reaction to the utterly disgusting and frightening comments Trump has made, both at the debates and in his personal life.  It’s been nice to see those posts popping up.

This has been a rough year for some of us who have, indeed, been with her.  For a while there, during the primaries, being a Hillary supporter was practically a mortal sin.  Here in Portland, it would probably require going to confession 😉  I know I mostly remained quiet about it on social media, as I didn’t want to get my head bitten off by Bernie supporters.  I also didn’t want to lose good friendships–not worth it over a crazy election year.  And I know for a fact of other Facebook friends who supported Hillary–they told me so in person–but didn’t post very much about it either.

Now, I can completely understand people disagreeing with Hillary’s policies.  I can even understand people not voting for her in November and will not lecture anyone about that choice.  I do believe in people voting their conscience.  If that means voting for a third party this election, so be it. But during primary season, things went a little farther than that.  Hillary was more than just an opposing candidate.  She was evil.  She was a fascist.  She was Satan.  She would mean a nuclear war and the end of the world.  As opposed to Bernie, whose little bird was a divine sign of approval from God or Mother Earth. No wonder that voting for Hillary made me feel like I should put on my devil horns and mount the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse before filling out my ballot.

Why am I saying all of this now?  Sure, there’s some small amount of satisfaction in seeing more open support of Hillary lately.  Even more so since I think she will make a much better President than people give her credit for.  But mostly, this is an apology to myself.  There’s no pride in being a coward and keeping silent about what you believe.  Especially when I consider myself a “political blogger” unafraid to “express my opinions” and all this other bullshit.  You’re supposed to do that precisely when it’s difficult and unpopular, not when it’s easy.  Maybe when the next election comes around, I’ll be a little bit braver.  For now, go Hillary!

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