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October 17, 2016

Hijacked by Politics -- ACT II

Well, I didn’t think I’d be doing this again so soon.

And why would I?  I don’t know politics.  I haven’t been paying attention to any of it until a few months ago, and I get the feeling I’ll go straight back to my natural state -- one of pure, blissful, drool-mouthed ignorance -- when this election cycle is over.  But it’s not over yet.  So that means that I’m checking the r/politics subreddit daily (sometimes multiple times a day) to check out the latest news.  Inevitably, that means I’ve got a pulse on one scandal after another, and one event after another.  I hardly even need to go that far; the debates thus far, AKA the most official of the official instances, have told me more than enough.

They’ve told me that this whole “race for the White House” is a mess.  Like…is this what politics have always been like?  One absurdity after another, featuring men and women in their 50s, 60s, or even 70s shouting at each other like they’re back on the playground and refusing to acknowledge that they got tagged?  Is it common to feel like no progress has been made and no understanding has been gained, to the point where legit issues get buried and people just end up trusting whoever they were going to vote for that much more?

I don’t know.  Then again, I guess it doesn’t bother me that much -- mostly because that stuff isn’t what this post is about.

*sigh* Let’s talk about Donald Trump.

I’ve been eating up news articles a lot recently, but if there’s one unflinching, unbiased source of information we can count on, it’s the debates.  I watched both of the presidential debates (so far) via YouTube stream, as well as the VP debate.  Well, I say “watch”, but my concentration was split at the time; I had multiple tabs open to get play-by-plays, comments, and of course, fact-checking.  That’s the power of the internet, I suppose.  If you screw up, you can’t run or hide; the truth is just a few clicks away.  I wonder if Trump understands that at this point, given that his denial over saying “climate change is a Chinese hoax” was instantly proven wrong. 

It’s incredible, really.  I mean, sure, you could deny the words, statements, and opinions of others, but contradicting and denying yourself when you act like the top authority isn’t what I’d call the wisest move.  That’s doubly true when you’ve got hundreds of millions of eyes on you at any given moment, and exponentially true when you’re trying to push your ideas into one of the world’s highest seats of power.  But here we are, and it seems as if “consistency” and “Trump” are incapable of existing in the same dimension, let alone the same sentence.

Well, that’s not quite true.  But I’ll get back to that.  In any case, following this election more closely than I ever have before has taught me a lot.  Not just about the candidates or the processes, but about what it means to be president -- and it’s left me with a newfound respect for the executive branch.  I don’t envy anyone who tries to sit in the Oval Office, though.  Even if you overlook the immense responsibilities and pressures, there are still tons of nuances and rules that have to be observed.

Interactions with foreign powers are obviously a massive part of that, but there’s still a level of decorum that has to be observed -- unspoken obligations that I feel like I’ve taken for granted up to this point.  Opinions are always going to vary on the presidents and their efforts so far, but no matter your stance on Obama, Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, and beyond (like the ever-beloved Taft), they’re deserving of respect just because they managed to hold it together as best they could.

Yet here we are with Trump -- someone who hasn’t made it into the White House yet, but someone who’s long since proven that he isn’t worthy of that respect.  Or any respect.  Again and again, day after day, I’m left with a single, simple question: how can one man fuck up so much?

I hate that I have to write this post, because it makes me venture into territory I don’t like going into.  I’ve used this blog to go in all guns blazing against games, movies, shows, and more that tick me off -- and while I’ve raged at organizations and people before, I’d prefer not to single out individuals if I can help it.  Hate the game, not the player.  I’d prefer not to cross that line, because even if I don’t agree with what people do (or what they create, in most cases), I still believe that the overwhelming majority of people in the world are good. 

I believe that they have the capacity to do good, if not the typical desire to do it; even at their worst, people just do what they do to survive.  I wish we could have more opportunities to talk things out instead of arguing or fighting, but whatever.  Part of the reason I put so much stock in heroes and justice is that I believe that, even if we don’t see it every day, we as a species value heroes and justice a lot more than we let on.  It’s not (entirely) just rosy-eyed naiveté.  It’s an idealistic streak that hides within us all -- or rests on the surface, in the cases of some people.

So I guess my biggest issue with Trump is that I’m being forced to have my worldview challenged.  I have to see, again and again, a person who’s turned his back on it all -- not just heroes, not just justice, but basic human decency.  He’s indefensible, unforgivable, and irreconcilable.  I hate that I have to say that about a person, because it means that he’s veering away from being a person.

He truly is a villain straight out of the annals of fiction.  And the worst part is that he’s not even a very good one.

Then again, I guess you could say that about the whole narrative of this election.  If this was an actual story I could pick apart without repercussion, then I’d be chomping at the bit for the chance to pick it apart piece by piece.  It’s a repetitive story, following the same beats over and over again: Trump is at the center of a scandal (From his past or present), and the world is forced to react to it.  But the news barely finishes breaking before another scandal pops up, with a level of severity that ranges from “hahaha look at this guy” to “there is something seriously wrong here”.

And on that note?  Look, I want to be civil here and avoid an absolute condemnation.  But I have to go against that just for a minute.  I know that this statement probably won’t matter in the grand scheme of things -- nobody would care, even if I was a famous billionaire mogul -- but even if it’s blatantly unnecessary and obvious, I have to go ahead and do it.  So I’ll be frank.  If you’re the sort of person who feels like you have to force yourself on others -- male or female -- and hurt them against their will just to give yourself a few extra minutes of pleasure, then do the world a favor and fuck off.  Burn in Hell, and never stop burning.

Okay.  So let's move on to something else.

As much as I hate to admit it, this is the story spiraling around Trump right now.  And the bigger story -- the battle for the presidency -- has turned into something so impossibly painful to follow.  Instead of following a plot and progression built on ideological struggles, we have to play a game of he said, she said.  And we’ve been forced to endure it for months.  I’d like to hear about the issues meaningfully debated, so that maybe it’d be easier to understand why both camps feel the way they do.  But I can’t.  The incessant dialogue here -- at least when it’s not complete gibberish -- is basically “BUT HILLARY, THO!”  And then the blue team pretty much has to respond by going “BUT TRUMP, THO!”  I want a story with substance, but I can’t have that because of a grievous yet avoidable flaw in the story.

You may have heard of these things called verisimilitude and the suspension of disbelief every now and then.  To pare it down to basics -- or to frame things as I see it -- a story has to maintain some sense of believability in order to stay credible and/or prove that it’s, you know, good.  Obviously the context of each story decides where the line of believability takes root, but in a real-world context?  That’s a pretty hard line to sweep away.  But here we are with Trump, a man who’s become famous for dodging and deflecting questions about his plans, policies, and positions.  It’s reached a point where he was called out in a debate by a moderator for not answering the question and instead going off on a tangent. 

His words are almost always empty -- and it’s only when it’s time to sling mud that he comes alive.  But even then he comes off as desperate and pathetic; instead of making a strong persuasive argument about why he should become president -- why he should be officially allowed to lead the people, followers or otherwise -- he basically stops the clock to cry that Hillary is evil and only has hatred in her heart.  Instead of breaking down her arguments and plans with evidence, he sees fit to claim that her stuff “will never work” or “it’ll be a disaster”.  Why?  How?  And what are you going to do about it?

I guess what I’m getting at here is that this is stupid.  It feels like this story and this character are being written by someone who’s read about how to make a terrifying villain, but doesn’t have the execution for it -- yet he believes wholeheartedly that he’s made a gripping masterpiece.  As it stands, Donald Trump should not have made it this far.  If the idea was to have him succeed based on his intelligence, then the constant gaffes and missteps taken (like having a 12-year-old running his campaign in Colorado) should disqualify him.  If the idea was to have him succeed based on his charisma, then that would require him to have a character worth celebrating instead of called out for his cartoonish racism and misogyny.  If the idea was to have him succeed on his menace, then he should actually be menacing on purpose -- not just a threat because he took a nail bat to some beehives.

But because of this man and this terrible story, the people are forced to react.  To get involved.  To be a part of it, sometimes in the worst ways possible.  And because this is a terrible story thanks to the efforts of a terrible character, the people in the thick of it get all the muck splashed over their bodies.  Suspension of disbelief gets broken on all fronts by anyone who gets in too deep.  Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Republicans, Democrats, everyone -- nobody comes out of this clean.  This election has people acting mad, or going mad, or whatever.

This is our story now.  But it’s not our reality.

We’re better than this.  We’re better than Trump.  Better than political tumult.  Better than a race for a title that’ll age a man (or woman, potentially) a dozen times faster than normal.  Better than stupid stories written by a greenhorn who doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “second draft”.  Better than anger, better than hate, better than fear, better than name-calling.  We’re better than any piece of shit story where the reckless words of a man nearly three fourths of a century old are barely different from the temper tantrum of a spoiled kindergartener.

This story will hit a turning point in less than a month with the election of a new president.  It might not even be that long, depending on how the final debate goes.  But we shouldn’t let reckless words, thoughts, or actions guide us to a bad ending.  As a would-be writing hero, I believe that words are precious; they should be used judiciously and effectively.  They carry ideas and do as much damage as a bullet to the head.  So even if a character gunning for one of the nation’s highest honors can’t be bothered to practice some impulse control, we can still conduct and govern ourselves accordingly.

From what I can gather, this whole story -- the rise of Trump, specifically -- was made possible by people feeling scorned and left behind.  I don’t know how it feels.  I doubt I ever will.  By default, there are divides between me and others that are hard to bridge.  But it’s not impossible, I think; maybe if we spent less time trying to point fingers, toss out insults, and condemn on a whim, then we wouldn’t have had this story thrust upon us.  Maybe if we could bond, we wouldn’t have to fear our bonds -- the country’s bonds, on scales small and large -- being broken.

Is that the rosy dream of some fool with his head in the clouds?  Maybe.  But idealism was what helped give birth to America in the first place.  So let’s nurture it.  No matter what the loudest, angriest voices might scream on a daily basis, I hope that we can all resolve to do better.  We can bond.  We can listen.  We can reason.  We can try to understand each other, instead of trying to build a wall around anything we don’t like or understand.  We can be more than just blind followers or bitter victims.  We can do more than pursue some distorted picture of justice.

Ever since I first heard the phrase “Make America great again”, I’ve been waiting for Donald Trump to explain in clear and simple text how he’s going to accomplish that -- and in a way that won’t do more harm than good.  I’m still waiting.  But you know what?  I don’t need to wait.  I can do what I can to make this country, and the world, a better place -- president or otherwise.  And you can too.  We all can.

And I hope that someday, no matter who’s sitting in the Oval Office a year from now, we can all move toward that ideal.  Because if you ask me, that would make for one hell of a story.   

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