(My column for November 2016…)
First off, let me ask: are you alright?
Are you sure?
We’ve all been heavily traumatized, y’know. Even those of us who think they won.
This wasn’t sudden, blunt force trauma, like 9/11 was. Oh no, this has been stretched out over months and months, long-term, torturous, a death of a thousand cuts, little bits of our national soul being pulled out and removed, one at a screaming time.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Tread carefully. There is unexploded ordnance everywhere. Some of it is on foot. Beware of mines, tripwires, and hidden pits filled with snakes and sharp spikes.
- Expect aftershocks. Nothing should be considered solid, or trustworthy. Stability will not be restored for quite some time. Stay away from large teetering buildings, or shaky ground. Look out for quicksand. Test everything.
- Marshal your resources. Reach out to neighbors, friends, passers-by, strangers. Share what you can with others. Do not be ashamed to ask for what you need.
Do I sound like I am talking to the survivors of a disaster? I am, and we are.
We are sitting, in case you haven’t noticed, in the midst of piles of rubble. A huge structure has been brought down around us, one nearly a quarter-millennium in the making.
And here’s the thing: it wasn’t even nearly finished yet.
This edifice that we have all been working on, this thing we were calling American democracy, has foundered, shattered, collapsed – the victim of a variety of factors: benign neglect, internal rot, intentional sabotage, and vicious external attacks.
Oh, it was a fine idea to begin with: construct a structure that could harness the immense power of that ravenous beast called Capital, and direct it towards beneficent ends.
But that beast grew too fast, and it grew up mean – and it was always hungry.
Some people thought we should let it loose, that it would be best unfettered. “Let it work its magic,” they said. “It’s not happy being all locked up…” And so they snuck into its keep, swore their fealty, fed it raw red meat, and loosened its chains, bit by little-bitty bit…
So. Now it has fully erupted, like one of Daenerys’ dragons, and broken through to the highest towers, spewing hot orange flame everywhere, breaking everything to bits.. Now it sits atop the rubble like Smaug on his treasure, grinning, steaming, talons clacking, waiting to be fed (only the best food will do), while we all scramble around wondering what to do with it now.
Expect no sudden knight to appear; there might have been one, but he got waylaid by an enchantress. Expect no army to come over the ridge, riding out of the sunrise at the last moment. No, frankly, I expect this beast to rule for now, and to gorge itself in grand fashion… at least, until it explodes.