Shine, Perishing Republic
While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence;
and home to the mother.
You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly
long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there
are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say –
God, when he walked on earth.
–Robinson Jeffers. 1925.
Well, I guess it goes without saying why I’m writing, so i’ll try to cut to the chase.
This is not new.
Honestly, I feel a little too stunned for words. I’m looking for solace and hope, and having trouble finding it. But I think the answer, then, is to dig deeper, dig deeper, dig deeper. I’m going to try to dig now. I’m hoping I might find something.
My eyes literally have tears in them. But perhaps it is simply from looking at screens for too long. Screens are funny mirrors. Especially our social media screens. I wonder if part of why we are so shocked is because the realities we have so carefully curated through facebook, twitter, and the like, are simply reflections of ourselves. Insularity is a two way street. They don’t want to talk to us, and we don’t talk want to talk to them. How many times have you seen or thought something along the lines of “if you’re still supporting Trump, I’m unfriending you?” Personally, I’ve seen a lot of it. This should be a wake up call to all of us that we can’t unfriend these parts of America out of existence. We can’t close our eyes and pretend that they’ll simply disappear. Everyone I know is busily trying to pick their jaws up off the floor. Of course, as the popular vote shows, everyone I know represents less than half of the American populace. Even if Hillary did win, that would still be true. There is major work to do.
I keep thinking about this 50-50 phenomenon. If you zoom out, forget about whether the red or blue team lost, you see that every four years, the country falls in along predictable lines which statistically resemble the toss of a coin. This side heads, next side tails. Same coin, different sides. It doesn’t surprise me that the issues which gain attention in the national media are bipolar, rather than multi-faceted. Isn’t it convenient that abortion, gay marriage, immigration (when posed in terms of kicking out muslims and mexicans), building a wall, gun control, and most of anything else that’s been crammed through our screens at us for the past year or more are issues upon which very few people are undecided? When’s the last time you met someone who had mixed feelings about building a wall? Perhaps more importantly, when’s the last time the voice of that person rose above the cacophony of shouting matches and provocative memes that dominate our field of vision?
Watching CNN, that guy kept flipping back and forth between how counties in Michigan or Wisconsin voted in the last election, and how they voted in this one. Blue, red, blue, red. I thought I was editing photos in lightroom. Positive, negative, positive, negative. Here’s the thing, you take a picture, then take the negative. All the black parts turn white, all the white parts turn black. In the end, same picture.
This election cycle, the Republican party took a completely different picture. The democrats stayed with a tried and true image which we know well. We know how that worked out. People voted one way or another: they either voted for Trump, or against him. How many people ran to the polls because of how much they loved Hillary? I know, there are plenty. But it’s not a coincidence that the two nails in the coffin, Michigan and Wisconsin, voted for Bernie in the primaries. That should teach us something. It should show us a different picture.
The great news is, Jeffers thought the world was going to end in 1925, and it didn’t.
The bad news is, since 1925 we’ve had a world war, Korea, Vietnam, countless totalitarian regimes and genocides all over the world, and the foment of an all-out religious war against Islam by radical fundamentalist rednecks at home and abroad. Just because the world isn’t going to end, doesn’t mean it can’t get fucked up pretty bad. And none of this is even to mention the elephant in the room that all of us should have been talking about instead of Trump’s latest misogyny or racism: the environment. So, yeah, I’m terrified. We all should be.
But I’d like to think about that climatologist more deeply for a moment. You ask them what we need, to really reverse the rapid rate of warming which spells armageddon if we don’t get on top of it. Go watch Leonardo’s new movie: it’s An Inconvenient Truth all over again; but less convenient still. What we need? It’s not a gentle nudge in the right direction. It’s a fucking revolution. It’s a new picture.
Now, I’m not going to say Trump is that new picture. Gouge my tongue out with a spoon and shove it up my ass if I ever do.
But maybe, just maybe, this can be the seed of a revolution. Maybe this can help us wake up to just how fucked things have actually become. Maybe this is like in the fourth quarter of a football game, when the other team scores, and you realize that maybe, just maybe, you might actually lose to the underdogs. And suddenly, you pick up the hustle again, and crush them like a fly.
I think we’ve all been sitting on our haunches for far too long. We’ve been trying to blink out the major problems at home and abroad, locally and globally for far too long. I think it’s time to pick up some Robinson Jeffers. Revisit Vonnegut’s Player Piano. Let’s talk about the rise of the machines, about what automation has done to the blue collar American (the blue collar anyone). Let’s talk about the massive failure that the American education system is. Let’s talk about the western world’s obsession with oil when the possibility of making the grid almost entirely powered by renewable resources is actually achievable in the next two decades (see Elon Musk’s mega-factory in Nevada, not to mention electric cars and solar panel roof tiles that can take a home off the grid entirely).
And let’s stop just talking about it amongst ourselves, amongst our constituents, amongst people that we have curated to represent the reality we wish we lived in. Let’s put down the fucking screens and talk about it with the people on the other side of the aisle, state, county line, whatever. You think they’re uneducated? You think they’re ignorant? You think you can count on our schools, or our governments to fix either of those problems? Fuck no. You think you can count on underprivileged parts of the country to magically educate themselves from the trailerpark classrooms and outdated textbooks they have to work with? Fuck no.
There’s a major statistic here about the difference in voting behavior between white Americans with and without a college degree. You want to blame those people for their lack of education, without talking to them about how you’re going to restructure student loans? No. Seriously. This is not rocket fucking science.
Trump and his supporters didn’t come from nowhere. None of this should come as a surprise. Go ahead and drive from North Dakota in a straight line south to Texas. Then drive in a straight line east to South Carolina. Hop up to NC and go back west to Tennessee. Now head northeast up through Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
Or just look at a map of the states, any time in the next couple weeks. It’s a sea of red. The writing is on the wall, folks. We are the minority. We do not rule this country. And the shock and awe with which we approach that conclusion is evidence of just how full of shit, full of conceit, full of arrogance and self-worshipping navel gazing stupidity we are.
We are stuck inside of our curated i-worlds. The time has come to open our eyes.