I know this is far from hyperbole, but I’m going to say it anyway.
It’s a damn scary time to be a citizen of the United States, to say nothing about the rest of the world. But in the one country where the citizenry loves nothing more than to pound its chest and proclaim itself “The Greatest Nation in Human History!!” we seem to be chronically one or two steps removed from complete and utter chaos all hours of the day.
And in the midst of all this insanity, we have to decide who we think is the person to theoretically lead us out of this ideological, economic and social quagmire as the next President in about three months.
I know well this unbridled circus of a process we call the 2016 election has been going on in one gear or another since 2012. I know it’s the obligation of every citizen to cast their vote and be part of the process, and when I was younger and more in tune with the omnipresent zeitgeist that infects each youngest generation to reach adulthood, I was a lot more interested in taking part.
As I sit here writing this, however, it’s difficult to say that I am even remotely interested in being anywhere near this election and for the first time since I received my voting card, I could genuinely care less about using it.
Now before you go off on the whole cavalcade of reasons why I should vote this year, hear me out, because this is what’s been motivating my choice of inaction over action.
Yes, I am well aware that in the current political climate, not voting is part of the strategy laid out by both candidates to better ensure their chances of winning. In this case, it falls more on the side of Trump to benefit if I decide not to submit my ballot and no, I am absolutely not a fan of Donald Trump.
The man, and I use that term loosely, is a malignancy crowned in the world’s ugliest big-boy. He represents not only a section of Americans whom I have little to no respect for, but he is the manifestation of the two grandest illusions predicated upon those of us born and raised in the 20th Century.
Those being the American Dream and the perceived utopia of the 1950’s when white, Anglo-America had dominant control over the political, social and economic power to such an extent that it spanned nearly the entirety of the class structure of the time.
I grew up watching all the old 1950’s sitcoms which propagated this world through the 60’s, the 70’s and on into Reagan’s 80’s, where my parents generation tried their best to resurrect it the first time. By the time the 90’s came around and I reached adulthood, it was evident that the grand experiment had failed, but it didn’t stop those of Trump’s ilk from wanting to try again.
Everything I’ve heard Donald Trump say over the majority of my life has been uneducated bile and I have no wish at all to see him become President. And yet, through some rather sadistic form of osmosis which probably comes from spending the last two years in the high desert surrounded by the very people his rhetoric caters to, there’s days I find myself more able to understand why so many look at him as the definitive answer to the problem of why everyone’s lives seem to suck so much.
When I was a kid, ideological promises were made to me by my most of my family, and they weren’t much different, I suppose than the ones we’re all told when we’re young.
They’re the promises that when we finally grow up, the world’s going to be this incredible place with all these amazing things and life is going to be so easy-going it won’t even feel like it’s real. You’ll have your spouse, the 2.5 kids, the family pet and the big house with the picket fence in a nice, safe town where everyone knows your name and no one has a problem with anyone or anything. Or better yet…you won’t even live on Earth. You’ll be able to live on the Moon, or maybe even Mars, and we’ll be able to get there faster than any human’s ever traveled and it will be the pinnacle of our achievements.
Except for one small problem. That whole pipe dream was precisely that…a big, hollow pipe dream.
Next year, I turn 40 and I am nowhere near where I hoped to be with my life by the time I reached that dubious milestone. There’s no family, no pets, no house, no fence and to hear the average politician explain it, I am completely to blame for all of that because I am just working-class cannon fodder.
The Trump-ites of the world, and I know them as I have the unpleasant reality of being related to and working around a couple, love to lecture me on how I’m lazy, unmotivated, uneducated, and that I wasted all my time pursuing things I was passionate about instead of being practical and accepting my particular lot in life. They tell me don’t look to the government for any answers because government doesn’t care about me any more than anyone else does.
They tell me that, if anything, it’s the government’s fault my life is what it is because it fits with the rhetorical and ideological yarns they’re constantly trying to spin. If only there weren’t all these pesky rules we had to follow. If only there weren’t laws that were designed to hold people accountable, regardless of their pedigree. If only we were allowed to hoard untold amounts of wealth without having to share it with the lesser pockets of society, all would be right with the world.
It’s utter bullshit and the greater majority of the time, I know it’s bullshit.
But here’s the thing about disenfranchisement. Once it gets its barbs into you, they dig in under the skin and they stay there, festering away until you find yourself full of bitterness and envy and anger because all the things you wanted for yourself, you don’t get to have, and there’s always someone willing to point a finger at who they think is responsible for that and they’ll try eight ways til’ Sunday to convince you that you’re just not good enough to be like everyone lucky enough to inherit lifetime passes along the easy path.
Except they’re not…and I know it. I know how much time and effort I’ve put in to making my existence into something I could be even marginally proud of. I know how much I sacrificed along the way to make even one of my dreams actually come to fruition.
How much, you ask…?! Try my sanity, for starters.
So if I’m not in Trump’s corner, the logical presumption is that I’d be in favor of Hillary Clinton, and were I 20 years younger I probably would’ve, just like I was for her husband when I cast my first vote 1996.
I’m not one of those neanderthal troglodytes who thinks women have no place being President. As someone who grew up during the Second Wave of Feminism, my mother’s generation hoped for that along with every ounce of equality they could wring from the old patriarchal establishment. My first stepfather was a troglodyte and I watched him treat my mother like crap because she refused to conform to his 1950’s-era expectations of her.
My problem isn’t with the idea as much as it is with the fact that I’m just not convinced that Clinton is going to make things any better for me and where I want to ultimately end up than Obama has in his eight years in office.
Now could they have been worse had he not been elected?! Considering where we were at the time, absolutely we could be. My grandparents came of age as the Great Depression started and as a boy, they told me how bad things got for them and a lot of people.
But progress is a often a slow boil. It takes time, sometimes decades, and we are not a patient species.
I am not patient, not after having been told I don’t know how many times that if only I’ll continue to wait, the things I want will eventually happen. Well I’ve waited more than half my life now…and they haven’t. They’ve happened for other people and that’s great. Good for them.
They haven’t happened for me though, and with all the legitimate and indisputable amount of honest hard work I’ve put in…it’s hard not to become demonically angry about that.
Angry at myself. Angry at society. Angry at government. Angry at the wealthy and affluent. Angry at everything.
And in that anger, it becomes easy to be complacent and unmotivated and apathetic. You start wondering, “Why bother?! Nothing’s going to change. Things are never really get better. Not for me. This is my crappy existence and it’s too late for me to have anything close to the happiness I was promised by the previous generation who had a solemn obligation to ensure I had every opportunity they did!”
It’s about this time where I often get the standard-issue, universally condescending and patronizing answer from my elders for why things are better for some, but not all of us. Life just ain’t fair. Too bad. So sad.
If that’s truly the case, then why should I bother to be involved in the process any more? Why, when it ultimately seems like nothing is going to come of it? Sure, I could turn in my ballot and wait another four years to see if my particular lot in life has improved, but having been around this track five times now and being still relegated to the back of the pack, I’m finally reaching the point a lot of people got to a long time ago.
My vote truly doesn’t make a lick of difference in anything, so it’s a wasted endeavor.
Had you told me when I was 18 that I would’ve somehow ended up here, I’d have presumed you were at least a mild drain cleaner sniffer. Yet, here I am, on the fringes of joining the amoebic mass of humanity that’s lost faith in the political process because the process doesn’t have much faith in us.
Does that bother me? Hell yes, it does. For a long time I believed in the process. I believed that there was no possible way that this government, which we pride ourselves on as, “the greatest political experiment ever conceived by man,” created by some of the most brilliant people in world history, could in fact be the bane of our existence.
That’s what Trump’s backers would love me to believe, at least.
On the flipside, I have Hillary’s crowd trying to convince me that there’s still room for me at the grown-ups table and that this time, things will finally, inexorably be better. That those little things I’ve wanted; life, liberty, happiness. I get to have those now along with everyone else.
I want to believe them. I truly do, except for one small problem. I don’t trust them any further than I could throw them.
So here I sit. Less than 100 days from the election and I’m not sure what to do. Be part of the problem, part of the solution, or to just step back and watch the whole thing collapse on itself and hope we can somehow build something better.
I really, truly don’t know.