But At What Cost 45?

In something like this a larger question is raised that’s not about one person, one party, about winning or losing. Do I know the country I’m living in? Do I want to know it? 

In my most absent moments, I find myself laughing at what 45 says. Because of the sheer absurdity of it, and because it’s hilarious. All the nonsense about “Chinah,” or the idea of curing COVID with a magic light. “The whole concept of the light. The way it kills it in one minute.” Or how he “tested very positively . . . tested positively toward negative, right?” I just want to reach out to my lefty-liberal friends and shake them, and tell them, “This stuff is gold, you can’t make this shit up!” “Live a little and laugh with me, can’t you?” 

But then the darker truth takes hold. I wonder how can the people themselves, his people, take him seriously. The answer is they don’t. They just see him, in all his flagrancy, his bad attitudes, his vulgar indecency, as their last best hope. They don’t respect the man; they respect the agenda. This is the danger. His supporters may tell you he’s made changes, has shaken up the political status quo, and perhaps that’s true. But what they truly support is the alterations he’s attempting to make to society. Alterations to the real changes that have taken place for the better over the course of recent history. Oh, they’ll try to bullshit you all day long with talk about cabals and One World Armies but in reality, the reactionary right has a strict agenda. The desire to retain and promote a position of influence and status for a sovereign society, influence and status that have previously gone unchallenged. They know that he’s their last best chance, not only to stop social change and progress but to reverse it. 

Being a white working middle-class male in contemporary America, I’m the one who stands to benefit most from such an agenda, such an obvious, easy agenda. Perhaps it seems odd, then, that it’s one I choose to oppose. In the end, in opposing it as I do, as I’ve done with my vote, I wonder about my instincts. Are my instincts, my desires, mere humanism? 

Toward A New Pluralism.

These days, when I walk through Eastern Market and get honey from the honey guys, or farm-grown beets and carrots from the veggie guys, I’m reminded that these are people like you and me; they just vote differently and are perhaps fed up, but in a different way, with an all-consuming society that seems harder to read than it was in the past. In a decades-long quest to bring a hundred-year-old house back to life, the help I’ve gotten, offered freely and with enthusiasm, from the parts and fastener shop around the corner has been inestimable. The same goes for the age-old light manufacturing place buried in an eastside neighborhood that has supplied me with shaped iron for more projects than I can remember. I can’t help but think that they want the same things we all want. A society that has a semblance of law and order. The right to vote. A future that is not only safe and stable, but one that makes sense to the coming generations. Freedom of expression but also the quiet retreat of personal privacy. A natural environment that stays beautiful, but with the knowledge that that can’t happen without actual effort and foresight. Fraternity. 

It’s not hard to picture an America that makes sense in these terms. I once thought to argue that it might just translate into, like, a warmer, really awesome version of Canada. But then I visited California and I discovered the promised land. A place where there is infinite diversity. Cities that are filled with dynamism and promise, cosmopolitan and progressive, but also grounded, historic, and sure. Museums and dive bars, restaurants and open roads. Wide, beautiful country populated by people who are proud of where they are. These are the calming forces that might take sway over a generation that has instead seen a rise in fringe thinking and extremism. A bridge back to some kind of normalcy, it seems like the right template for a future of promise and good sense. It reminded me that society can only truly remake itself when a sea change of decency and forward thinking takes place. 

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