I was just thinking back to the election of 2004, and remembering how passionately I felt about that result, and how tumultuous my emotions were. I look back on it now, and the objections that I had to George W. Bush seem so quaint and so trivial. As concerned as I was about the lives that would be lost and the innocent blood that would be shed and the rights that would be curtailed as a result of a second Bush term, I never once doubted that his term would be over in four years and we would have a chance to start again. I just took for granted that democracy would continue. I don't take that for granted anymore.
This result is worse. This result is so much worse. And yet, I don't really feel anything. Nothing like the outrage I felt twelve years ago, for reasons that I can barely remember. All yesterday I felt anxiety, but even that is gone. I feel nothing. I feel empty.
I guess I must be in shock. I think I don't really believe what has happened yet, even though I know it to be true. The strangest feeling in the world, yet familiar to me.
I am not one of those people who underestimated Donald Trump when he announced his candidacy. When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and John Oliver were all saying, "Oh goody! This is like a gift from the comedy gods!" I was saying, "Don't say that! Because if he runs, he could potentially win. Is it worth risking that to be able to make a few paltry jokes and get some cheap laughs?" And interestingly enough, I didn't really know at the time what Donald Trump was. I knew he was an unpleasant, greedy, shallow, self-centered person, but I had no idea of the depth of his predatory agression and his shameless psychotic sociopathy. I didn't know HOW dangerous he was, but I always knew he was dangerous.
And yet, while I always knew that he COULD win, I guess I never really believed that he WOULD win.
So I have within me this feeling of nonfeeling, this heavy feeling of emptiness, and I went to YouTube to try to find something to watch that would make me feel something. Watching Stephen Colbert trying to uplift through gentle philosophy and humor, didn't make me laugh. Watching recent episodes of Keith Olbermann eloquently prophesy like a Cassandra in a well-tailored suit didn't make me cry.[*](His most recent episode was yesterday. I can only imagine that today's episode is going to be ten minutes of him openly weeping into the camera.)
The only thing that made me come close to emoting was a video posted by Stephen Colbert on Monday, before the election, encouraging people to get out and vote. And it was only near the end, when a cast member of the Broadway musical Hamilton came out in full costume and started rapping about voting, that I finally came close to tears.
I'm so struck by the irony that this is a country that embraces and reveres a musical in which a multiethnic cast sing hip-hop songs about the Founding Fathers, and at the same time can elect a psychopathic man child with racist and fascist tendencies to the highest office in the land, in flagrant disregard of everything those founders stood for.
It brings home to me the fact that it's not enough just to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance; it's not enough to wear red, white, and blue or stars and stripes; it's not enough to put your hand over your heart and mouth along to the Star-Spangled Banner. In other words, it's not enough to just go through the motions. You have to really think about the words you're saying and understand what they mean. You have to understand that when you have rights, you have responsibilities. As Americans, we hve responsibilities to each other, to safeguard the rights of others, even when--perhaps even especially when--they disagree with you. Because when we circumscribe the rights of others, we open up the possibility of our own rights being circumscribed. When we build ourselves up at the expense of others, we're just setting ourselves up for a steeper fall.
I worry that we're learning this lesson too late.