It has been a while since Ferrebeekeeper has written about politics. This is partly because everything everywhere this year has been about politics, and I wanted a break from the relentless annoying noise (at least in my own little patch of the internet). Also, in general it seems like the vastly increased media/internet attention has not led to better outcomes: instead the “anything for clicks” mentality has made a volatile situation worse. Also I did not want to fan the flames by writing about Donald Trump. Like the screaming kid grabbing people’s hair and kicking desks in 5th grade, he draws his strength from demanding all of our attention. If we could just ignore him, he would lose his dark power to enthrall.
But, now that Donald Trump is officially the candidate of the Republican Party, my strategy of pointedly ignoring him has failed. It is time to actually pay attention to a clickbait election so shrill and mean-spirited that it makes one long for the days of Andrew Jackson, Polk, Goldwater, or even Nixon….
Except of course we don’t really long for such things. Those days are gone and good riddance. Saying otherwise is hyperbole; and hyperbole is our enemy right now. The Republican Convention makes it sound like we are all going to die. “Enemies are at the gate! Our cities are coming apart because of violence and dissembling immigrants! Economic depression and stagnation will doom us all to servitude and starvation!” This is a dishonest and dangerous strategy. It will fail in unexpected and dangerous ways.
I grew up at the end of the Cold War, and I was an anxious child. I read things and knew about the state of world affairs back then. It seemed pretty improbable that we would survive an era when twitchy old men with endless arrays of poorly computerized nuclear weapons stared unblinking across the world at each other. Looking back at those times with nostalgia is madness! The fact that we didn’t all perish in nuclear hellfire sometime between the fifties and the nineties is a miracle. This world is all gravy—an improbable bonus round (and, let’s face it, the fact that we have this impossibly ephemeral bubble of consciousness between two infinities of oblivion is already pretty miraculous).
Yet Cold War shadows linger: the conflict was a decades-long existential crisis which caused us to come together and work in tandem. It demanded good leadership and lockstep order at home, and the gravity of the fight allowed us certain freedoms abroad. Now that the long grim conflict is over, we have great opportunities: opportunities of being closer to other nations and helping people. We can undo some of the great power meddling which was necessary to win that conflict (while making goods and services cheaper for everyone). We can learn astonishing new things. All of humankind can move forward to a brighter world where everyone has opportunities. However to get to such a place will require creative thinking, nimble pursuit of rapidly-changing opportunities, and the ability to adapt quickly to surprising circumstances.
The Republicans make it sound like they want to go back to the past. But, for goodness’ sake, we don’t want to go back to a time when everyone could die because of a rogue bear! And if they want to go back to the time just after the Cold War, when America was the only great power, well it wasn’t a Trump who was in the White House then. In fact we know exactly what Trump was up to during that time because New Yorkers lived through it.
I have lived in Brooklyn a long time, and New Yorkers know Trump. He has refined his act here. There have been times when Trump’s hair-pulling hissy fits and histrionics (and spouse abuse and mistresses and bankruptcies) have sucked up all the oxygen in the local tabloids. It has given us a measure of immunity to his damnable act…and a valuable insight about his nature. Like liars who talk about truth all of the time, or broke people who talk about money with every breath, Trump talks incessantly about winning. It is not because he is a winner.
So here is what is going to happen in this election: This is the biggest act of Trump’s mendacious life and he is going to lose spectacularly to a woman. He will drag his ticket down with him, but not so much that we can escape the deadlock which is hurting our nation by preventing us from researching and creating.
You definitely need to vote, and you need to pay attention, but also remember that, in the bigger picture, things are ok. Don’t be afraid! What people say about the end of America isn’t true. Race relations are improving. People are being drawn out of poverty. The pie is getting bigger here and abroad (although the pie hogs are getting stronger and more shameless too). Heck, even if Trump gets elected through some nightmare circumstance, America has survived presidents who were ninnies, racists, incompetents, or even in a coma.
Or all of the above
We need to put on our grown-up clothes and calm our anxieties and deal with a world of great change and great opportunity. Now excuse me while I go back to ignoring politics and send out some applications and proposals.