Earlier today, a friend of mine said she felt like we are living in a flashback scene in a movie showing how the dystopia depicted in the movie came to be. A great many people feel that way, myself included. What follows is my response to what she said.
You feel that way because we are living in such a time. I’ve been squawking about this since G. W. Bush was elected. Not that he was going to be the downfall of it all, but that the Republicans had decided having power was more important than doing good. They sidled up to the lunatic fringe … the racists, the homophobes, the misogynists, the evangelical fundamental Christians … and they began to shape their party to gain their votes, because they needed those votes to stay in power. They made it seem okay to be a racist, a homophobe, a hateful Christian, a woman-hater. They supported those views to maintain their power, while simultaneously doing very little to appease the fringe elements they had courted, and then Bush broke things in our systems. Just small things, but it paved the way for the bigger things to be broken later.
Along comes Trump. He has normalized the racism, sexism, homophobia, and the darkest dreams of fundamental Christianity to the point where they feel it’s perfectly acceptable to be themselves in public. To express their inner thoughts out loud and be proud of them. Trump has taken the power the Republicans borrowed from the lunatic fringe during the Bush administration and given it back to them tenfold, and it has proven to them that their faith in the Republican Party was well founded. They are now true believers, and the Republican Party, as it has historically existed, has transformed completely into something new, darker, and wholly awful. They have become the party of hate.
Trump has used the small things that were broken during the Bush administration to break more things. Deeper things … things fundamental to the functioning of our government and society, as well as governments and societies around the planet. And even with all he is doing, I still don’t quite feel like he is the true danger. He’s the proverbial bull in the china shop, thrashing wildly and destroying everything he touches. The true danger is what comes after all the pieces are on the floor and someone comes in with a tube of glue and starts putting the pieces back together again. Do they put them together again the way they were? Or do they put them together in some new twisted way that suits their vision of the way it should be? And what pieces were ground into dust and will be forever missing?
It may very well be Trump that tries to put the pieces together again. It would fit with his method of causing a problem so he can then “fix” it, but his fixes are always illusions. Smoke and mirrors, lies. I don’t believe he is intelligent enough to to entirely reshape America to match his vision of what it should be. What we must be careful of is what comes after Trump. Someone who is more intelligent but has their own vision of what the world should look like, and this someone is likely already already holding power and just waiting, quietly to be handed the mantle of control and a tube of glue. But it needn’t be someone on the conservative side of the political equation. The pendulum of politics swings. With the Bush administration, it swung further to the right than it had in a while, and then it swung back to the left and gave us Obama. It has now swung extremely far to the right, and being a pendulum, it will eventually swing … possibly too far to the left.
Political beliefs and systems do not exist on a straight line with the far right and far left on the ends. It’s a circle, and where the two most diametrically opposed “ends” meet lies totalitarianism. Currently, both the far right and far left are in agreement that the world should burn, that the bull should smash everything in the china shop, because they both believe they will then be able to pick up the pieces and reform the world to their liking. Whoever manages to get through the front door of the china shop, say the right things, make the right promises, and is holding a tube of glue will be viewed as a savior, and humans often overlook the foibles of their saviors when under stress. Just look at the Republican Party today for an example. The President, a member of their party, does things they don’t agree with, and instead of doing anything tangible to push back against it, they express their concerns while giving him what he wants. Why? Because they feel he is protecting them from having to live in a world that isn’t white, heteronormative, and patriarchal. They fear the loss of power and privilege. While the person who steps in once everything is lying on the floor in pieces could exist anywhere on the political spectrum, it is on the fringes where the greatest peril lies.
We live in dangerous times. Not just in America but around the world, the political pendulum is swinging wildly and bulls are thrashing around in china shops breaking fundamental parts of governance and society. Norms are being rewritten, the awful things people used to say quietly are being shouted on the streets, the core values we once thought were indestructible are crumbling, and the worst amongst us are feeling empowered. I don’t know if we are a couple of months or some years from living in a world completely unrecognizable, but I do know we … as a country and a planet … are closer than we have ever been. I also don’t know if the momentum of events has built up enough yet to carry us over the edge or whether we can stop it all and reverse it. Some days, it feels as though we are already falling and there is no stopping it until we find ourselves on the floor, just a pile of sparkling pieces that were once a beautiful whole.
So what can any one person do in such perilous times? Don’t retreat from the horrors of what’s happening in the world. Stay aware and engaged. Push back. Use your voice. Vote. Help other people vote. Be good. Do good. Stand beside those who are also doing good. Protect those who need protection. Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Help those who need help. Insist that we can do better. Persist in the face of opposition. Refrain from giving in to hopelessness and despair. Confront the degradation of society’s norms.
Resist. Resist. Resist.