Brian and I both grew up in Reagan’s America. We were united against a common enemy: communism. We were better at everything. Space exploration, patriotism, the Olympics, heavyweight boxing. The Cold War made us winners.
Then the Challenger exploded and the wall came down. Our world got bigger and the voices got louder and our divisions defined us. We are tribes. And we are all losing. Every election cycle, every political conversation, every time politicians tell us they will save us, we lose.
Sometime around October 1, I stopped writing. The political editorials I could easily monologue abandoned the page. I felt some kind of way about Amy Coney Barrett and the politicization of her nomination. But I didn’t write about it.
I felt frustrated by the talk of yet another fear-fueled pandemic shut down, another bailout we can’t afford, and more authoritarian reach from the current or new administrations. But I couldn’t write about it.
I felt worried by the possibility of civil unrest, continued doubt over the integrity of our elections, and my candidate getting no air time, no mention, and no mainstream media.
But I couldn’t write.
For the past few years I’ve been writing every day. Keeping the muscles in shape. Keeping the habit. Calling myself a professional because I don’t wait for inspiration. I write even when I don’t know what to say.
But I didn’t write in October. I couldn’t.
And it wasn’t because I was too busy volunteering and organizing and campaigning. It’s because I’m experiencing the kind of paralysis that comes from being bullied out of optimism and into inevitability. I feel like I have before at the end of a football game when we’re down by 21 points and there’s just not enough time left or enough possessions to come back and win.
And it sucks.
When Charles Dickens got paid by the word, he constructed thirty-two-word sentences. Our government constructs programs to get people out of poverty, train policemen to intervene in domestic disputes, and ready four-year-olds for twelve years of standardized testing.
On Sunday, I heard our Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate say the IRS would tell you they know exactly how much you owe but they want you to guess first and when you get it wrong, they’ll ruin your life. Because that’s what government does. It fucks everything up.
And on election day, millions of Americans cast their votes for the very criminals and grifters that sunk our economy, sent us home, mailed us our own money, and told us they would keep us safe. Even though they can’t. And they won’t.
And I haven’t written anything because, honestly, I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of Facebook campaigning: virtue signaling, mansplaining, hate politics, and fear mongering. I’m tired of finger-crossing liberals shrugging and saying that Biden wasn’t their guy, but they can’t stand Trump. And Christian Conservatives claiming Trump represents their values when the man used the exact words “grab them by the pussy.” Remind me, again, what chapter of the Bible that’s in?
After the PBS documentary Not Done showed so many participants in the Women’s March who sobbed over Hillary Clinton’s loss but never bothered to look at Jo Jorgensen, I wanted to write. Dear Women, I would say, What the actual fuck? Another white man? Really?
I’m experiencing a malaise that only comes from decades of uphill battles. From decades of watching shit candidates in deeply-entrenched political parties dominate elections and run the government like they’re being paid by the word.
And so, you see, I haven’t been writing. I’ve been seething. Stewing. Listening. Trying to understand. And I come to the page to make sense of all the feels and I haven’t been able to.
We’ve always been a divided nation. With record voter turnout, those divides are just confirmed. Is the memory we have of ourselves as unified just a Cold War mirage?