Okay, I resisted for as long as I could (unless you count the few Facebook shares I could not keep my sharing finger from selecting), but I have to take to the keys to ask…
…how will we heal?
The political climate is only the mirror of a country struggling to “grow –up,” and we’re as conflicted as a teenager on a Friday night. (Trust me, I know as I enter full force into a second puberty – it ain’t pretty!) It’s a time when we have cast off the social decorum and intelligent ways of communicating that have, for better or worse, gotten us this far as a country and a society. Somehow the gloves are off and we all, willingly, with full intention ,say things, print things, infer things, and worst of all, SHOUT things that we want to be incendiary, not caring if they are accurate, and actually hope that they will hurt…
…without any thought of the consequences.
I’m as guilty as the next girl. I look to score points, like a boxer peppering my opponent with body shots to “weaken” him so that my real point will land the knock-out punch. I will, with the right turn of a phrase, stop my opponents in their tracks, the blazing light of truth will cut through their stupidity and ignorance, and they will not only cede their argument, but will change their entire opinion and come to my side to work for the greater good of all.
At least that’s how it looks in my head. And that’s what I tell my heart when it protests about my pugilistic ways. And that’s what I shout into my pillow to justify being, well, just like “them.”
Rats, and I was doing so well…
I know I may look like a bright-eyed teenager (rose colored glasses anyone?), but I am, and have been, a media professional for over thirty years. My stock in trade is not only my opinion but the country’s various opinions. It’s how we who are selling the dog food* have to play. You don’t sell TV to yourself, after all. If we did, would we really have ever canceled Rocky & Bullwinkle?
(*“selling the dog food” is a term that refers to the fact that TV is just a medium for selling consumer products. Advertiser-based, it is ruled by the companies that sell to consumers, so don’t believe it one second – there s no such thing as liberal media bias it’s the biggest line of horsesh*t ever sold. Anything that is too controversial for Bob & Betty Sixpack in middle America, won’t ever be said on TV.)
Most of my work (with the exception of hanging out with surfers for 5 years for ESPN’s “Surfer Magazine”) has been “red state – red meat.” In other words, it’s the kind of stuff that is most likely to air on the flat-screens at Hooters – testosterone-laden dude food that goes down best with beer, bravado and bros. So, I can, without any apology or hesitation, say I have studied our great nation’s zeitgeist from the inside out. Call it survival or just knowing your audience, but I know why those on the red side of the equation want so badly to win.
And I chose the word “badly” by design. This “win at all costs” isn’t even appropriate in football (“inflate gate,” anyone? – Everyone who wasn’t from Boston cried foul for months afterward) business (Wells Fargo for 5200, please) or religion (let’s not go here, shall we?). So why is it being done so badly in the battle for the beltway?
Yes, I hear you saying, “But, throughout our history, it’s always been this way, we have always fought tooth and nail for “our guy” (hmmm…). But let’s be real, even the Republicans didn’t think this would ever get this bad. This is bad bad, Robert Altman satirical bad, weak night on SNL bad, nobody will ever buy this, bad.
Fair disclosure, I have had a slightly cynical outlook on politics since high school. Ever since I, as a starry-eyed junior who earnestly ran for senior class president (after earning my stripes as ASB president), was told by the out-going seniors that they were going to vote instead for my opponent because they were graduating and thought it was a good joke to leave the other guy in charge. (Sorry, Lawrence that’s what it was.) I learned that power rules, the best candidate doesn’t always win, and life isn’t fair. That politics is a game… and second place sucks.
So what did I do? Did I quit? Sit-out my senior year with my arms folded? No. I got schooled, so I was going to be the schooler. I became a nasty, backroom politicking, power-broker myself, and the next year got my girl into the oval office. I used the same tactics that brought me down the year before. I harnessed the out-going seniors, those who wouldn’t even be around to live with their decision, but I appeased my conscience by knowing I had used my powers for good.
But that was high school. And we weren’t playing for keeps.
Even so, why do I think that, after all, these years, after three wars (four?) and black lives matter, and HB2, and an obstructionist congress, and gerrymandering, that it would be different in this election?
Because it has to be. At no time since I’ve been able to vote, have I ever had my life literally on the line. When I first got the right to vote, I got a mean package deal. In a scary twofer, I also had registered for the draft (remember Ben Sasway?) because the war machine was still running at top speed and I was of the age to feed it.
Now, before I go any further, my TV fans know (and you should too) that I actively support our men and women who defend our country. (This isn’t just slapping a bumper sticker on my car kinda support – I put my money where my hiring mouth was, and made it a practice to bring returning vets onto my crews.) There are obvious differences between being drafted and enlisting. It’s another thing that makes our country great. We all get to choose how we serve.
But this election season, the vitriol has been the epitome caustic. My rights have never been on the line before. There’s states that I literally can’t go. This is freakin’ America! Are you kidding me? There are systematic and well funded efforts to pass LAWS that make it legal to discriminate against me and my LGBTQ brethren. Here. In the good ‘ol U.S. of A. And the right is so blinded by their rage that will say anything, do anything, hurt anyone, to seize this power. And without also making a false equivalency, the left is not entirely blameless, giving as good as they get, we all take off the gloves and go toe-to-toe without anyone caring…
…where we go from here.
How will we reconcile with each other after whoever wins in November? Will we be able to ignore the cuts and bruises we all suffered on the way to this decision? Will those who have spent the last 18 months with veins bulging in their necks and blood on their tongues, actually be able to put all that aside to work together?
How could we? It’s not like elections past. The Republicans tried to distance themselves but it was too late, they already sold their souls and the devil came a’callin’. Doesn’t matter that, to stand by their boy, they have to compromise every value this once proud party had, they’ll have to soldier on and take a bullet for the team, merely to save face with the largest donors…
…all at the expense of our country.
And I’m not going to pretend to present a fair and balanced view here. Hillary is a President. Her opponent is nothing more than a spoiler – but the spoiled of that war, is a legalized mandate that it is okay to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, it’s okay to roll back women’s rights, It’s okay to mandate over woman’s bodies. Misogyny is okay. Racism is expected. Hatred is a tool. Xenophobia, the law of the land.
There is no pretending that this is the last gasp of white male privilege. There is no getting around the fact that the great white hope is willing to trade fear for substance, blame for responsibility, and hatred for patriotism.
The army of apologists and surrogates sell out themselves and this country every time they step in front of a microphone or camera. They know it, and nobody is smart enough to pull up on the stick to get out of their own nosedives. How will any of them look themselves in the mirror after November?
How will any of us look each other in the eye and go forward?
We’ve seen this movie before. We just lived through eight years of an obstructionist congress standing on principle to block anything that moved in the name of “gamesmanship.” But this go-around even the Republican leadership can’t hide their sins, and the fact that they can’t control Godzilla now that they’ve blasted it with the atomic ray gun, has us all bracing for impact. Every morning they have to peek between their fingers at the latest headlines to see which is the latest “Republican value” to die an unholy death. Their boy is apparently settling a golf bet to take them all the way down, and apparently there’s no bottom in sight: not defrauding students with his fake university, nor faking charitable donations, nor illegally going against a federal embargo with a communist Cuba and lying about it to Cuban-American patriots, not defiling a beauty Queen, insulting a Judge, spewing hate toward an entire country and an entire religion, and just about anything that isn’t white (except Hillary), not taking bribes from Russia, nor bribing a state’s attorney general. Not even referring to this country as a “third world country,” is enough for his basket to hit bottom. And don’t get me started about being “smart” enough to not pay taxes. Nothing is low is enough. Nothing apparently is too far for them to ever cry, “uncle.”
This is what happens when you sell your soul.
But there I go judging again.
I honestly have no idea how I will look any of my friends who are pretending that their vote for that guy isn’t a vote against me. I have no idea how Republicans will ever really believe that they will have any shred of credibility left. It’s an amazing phenomenon, really. Just like those high school seniors who wouldn’t be around to reap what they had sown. I’m wondering where all of these people think any of us are going. They’ll have us on the day after the election. It’s not like half of the country suddenly disappears; and it’s not like any of the festering wounds will maybe ever heal.
So what then, is the answer? We can’t close Pandora’s box, we can’t put that genie back in its beer bottle. We can’t kill Godzilla; we can only pray he goes back into the sea.
We are already different as a country. Mainstream media has lost all credibility. Our establishment’s pillars are crumbling. We are so polarized that there’s no such thing anymore as a “healthy exchange of ideas.” There’s only us and them. No we.
Will it change in November? Will we have learned anything positive through this all? Will the ideas of reform and change that were brought up produce anything other than even more talking points?
Will the racial divides that have been exposed get spanned with bridges of understanding, or will the disenfranchised continue to rally around a champion that will do nothing more than knock down those bridges with the spray of hate and fear?
We’re all holding our breath…
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"