08 December 16
onight at bedtime, reflect on the scariest tragicomedies since Antiquity and then eat a large sausage pizza before falling asleep. Your worst nightmare, I humbly submit, won't approach the reality our world now faces.
If this sounds like demented raving, do your own analysis. Look at classic cases of megalomania over three millennia. Consider what Donald Trump is already doing, and who is helping him do it. If you're not terrified, you've already dozed off.
A president-elect who communicates by one-way 140-character brain farts is assembling a cast of characters no one from Aeschylus to Orwell ever imagined. The dress circle and the cheap seats love it. The rest of us watch in stupefied silence.
Sensible people bang alarms loud enough to wake the dead. Temperatures and oceans inexorably rise. Desperate human tides besiege borders. Tyrants shrug off Geneva accords on civilized behavior. Greedheads plunder. And nothing happens.
Of course, the mess we are in accrued over time, and all presidents, including the lame-duck incumbent, bear varying degrees of blame. Now we need to make things better, not destroy them beyond any repair.
Trump is already throwing his working-class faithful to Wall Street wolves. He infuriated China and embraced the mass-murderer Philippine leader who called our sitting president a son of a whore. His secret octopus holdings remain intact.
Soon we may not even be able to watch. "Journalist" Sean Hannity, among others, wants Trump to ban real reporters from the White House. He claims "they" backed Hillary Clinton. Take a long look at Steve Bannon.
In 2009, I co-edited Dispatches, a quarterly that won praise but collapsed because each issue was prohibitively expensive: $25, the price of a crap bottle of Beaujolais at Sardi's. Our fifth and last issue, on the environment, was titled Endgame.
"As legend goes," I wrote in the intro, "Paul Revere galloped all night from Boston to Lexington shouting, "The British are coming!" Men grabbed their muskets, and now Americans don't have to drink tea every day at 4."
Then I imagined a modern-day Revere ride:
"Television ignores it because, late and impromptu as it is, no one gets it on tape. Accounts of it flash around the Internet, some accurate, many skewed. Then the interactive crowd weighs in: The British are coming- what's your opinion? Talk show clowns impugn the motives of an insomniac silversmith; cable news commentators hold forth (What does he mean by 'The British are coming?). Before long, Minutemen are too busy negotiating book contracts to worry about Redcoats.
"Profit would be part of it. Hey, I'd love to fight, but later. My shop just got a shipment of Union Jacks and portraits of King George."
That seems awfully quaint in retrospect. Today, Trump's dissemblers with unlimited resources and unbound by conscience define their own twisted "post-truth" reality like the porkers on Orwell's Farm that believe some animals are more equal than others.
No one who cares about what America is supposed to be can sit this one out. Three branches of government, a docile press, and over-enthusiastic law enforcement can in four years corrupt functioning democracy beyond repair.
China, unfettered by democratic niceties, is fast scooping up dwindling global resources. Russia is exploiting its Trump windfall, cementing Bashar al-Assad in place while Europe is destabilized with refugees. And so on.
Protests at home, without broad public support, only enforce the authoritarians' push toward tougher, meaner policing. Pissing and moaning on Facebook is futile if a critical mass cannot coalesce into action.
If we don't react when a president-elect suggests revoking citizenship for burning the flag, you know we are at the edge. Even the late hidebound Antonin Scalia acknowledged that as protected speech under the First Amendment.
So what can we do?
--Above all, give a shit. This is for real, and if we cannot box the crazies headed toward the White House it will be permanent. Read, discuss, call, write, organize, demonstrate, boycott, prosecute, recall.
--Look beyond personal interest. Those 1,000 Carrier workers in Indiana are happy Trump saved their jobs. But there are 320 million of us. One-off giveaways undermine tax bases and set bad precedents. Those who benefit pay later.
--Pick your own cause. Far too much is at stake for anyone to weigh in against it all. Educators and parents can fight for better schools. Editors and reporters know what they have to do. It all matters.
--Support others' causes. Those guys freezing their asses off in Dakota focus light on a national scourge: big-oil encroachment backed by law enforcement. It's not about "native Americans." That defines Indians but also most of the rest of us.
--Study the Constitution, with its Bill of Rights and all amendments. Linger a while on the key words: "We, the people." We get the government we deserve. If it's corrupt, we're corrupt. If we don't fix it, that's our failing. Start thinking about 2018 and 2020.
--And take heart. With all her negatives, Hillary won the popular vote by 2.5 million ballots; another 7 million went to others. Trump, no neo-con, is just an ordinary conman seeking maximum adulation. If he senses ignominious failure, he can be moved.
This is not as hard as it might seem. Just reread Shakespeare and tape another picture of your kids to the refrigerator.