Bar The Shouting

The most surprising thing about Saturday’s call that Joe Biden had won the election wasn’t really the actual call, of course; after that first 24 hours or so, it had been becoming slowly but convincingly clear that Biden was more than likely going to take it barring any kind of over-the-top shenanigans on the part of the Trump campaign and administration. Which isn’t to suggest that there was no chance that such shenanigans would take place — one only has to look at what has been happening in Trump world over the last few months, and increasingly over the last week or so, to see that shenanigans are definitely on the menu over there.

But still; by Friday, it felt as if there would be little way to overcome Biden’s lead without it being something that would be both all-too-obviously a cheat and roundly rejected by the country as a whole. His victory seemed more or less in the bag; it was just a question of when, not if.

The surprise, then, was watching everyone’s reactions to it. Perhaps I’m too cynical and jaded, but I didn’t expect spontaneous public parties across the country, never mind across the world. I didn’t expect to spend hours on social media, just scrolling and looking at the relief and joy of people who realized that their very existences weren’t going to be actively legislated against anymore. (Yes, Biden and Harris are, to be polite, imperfect options; they’re also a hell of a lot better than Trump and Pence, and the weird “what about”-ism that’s argued otherwise from both sides of the spectrum has been gross and sickening for the last few months.)

I wasn’t alone, either; the feeling of recognition as people continually came up with counterpoints to the term “doomscrolling” to explain their inability to stop looking at other people’s relief and pleasure. (“Dreamscrolling” was my favorite, although “joyscrolling” was more popular.)

More surprising than anything, though, was the feeling of hope that came from watching everyone’s response. More so than the win itself, watching the reaction to it made me hopeful that we’re headed on the right track, after years of it feeling the very opposite. And, even more hopefully, that we’re ready to do the work that needs to be done, at least in part.

It’s Back Where It Belongs

When I first moved to the U.S., I didn’t have a green card. As a result, I spent a lot of time wandering around the neighborhood that I’d just moved into, purposefully not doing anything that would cost any money, because I didn’t really have any money; I had, after all, just moved to the U.S. and didn’t have a job yet.

I also found myself spending an extraordinary time watching daytime television, because what else was I supposed to be doing? (I mean, yes, there was that whole “getting the green card sorted out” thing, as well as the various other immigration shenanigans, meetings and requirements; I was doing both of those as well, don’t worry.) As a result, I am left as someone in the year 2020 with an entirely irrational nostalgic attachment to “Cleveland Rocks,” as performed by the Presidents of the United States of America, also known as the theme music to The Drew Carey Show.

It’s not that I really loved The Drew Carey Show — honestly, at this point, I can barely remember it beyond the vague shape and the fact that Craig Ferguson played an uptight boss, in what felt like kind of counter-programming considering Ferguson’s own personality. But that theme music…! I would try my hardest to be in front of the television just to catch the theme every afternoon when it played. I couldn’t explain why at the time.

I can’t explain it now, either; there was something about the way that it built that won me over every single time the guitar started — something about the line “Living in sin with a safety pin,” too, for some strange reason, the connection between the two things that felt as if they should be contradictory, or at least disconnected, as if it were some kind of magical spell.

There was something unfamiliar but inviting about it, and the fact that it repeated daily and was one constant in a time where there were few constants made it even more inviting and appealing; so much so that, more than a decade later, the song drifts back to me in memory and I feel such a surprising connection to a time I hadn’t thought about in a long, long time.

The Cracks in The Ceiling and The Mirror Covered Up with Dust

As I’m writing this, it’s early morning the night after Election Day; I slept poorly, and finally gave in to the desire to check news around 4:45, as if there’d be an answer to what had happened, who had won. There wasn’t, of course.

It’s both melodramatic and honest to claim that my heart broke watching the results come in on Tuesday night, upon realizing that so many fucking people had voted for Donald Trump. It was far more upsetting than 2016, when he’d proven himself to be a terrible human being but it felt understandable that some could have fallen for his lies, not knowing any better; maybe that says something about my own prejudices, that I’m far more comfortable thinking half of the country is ignorant and easily led than simply selfish and cruel, but… but.

I genuinely can’t get over the desire to yell, you’ve seen how bad he is at every Trump supporter. Not just how bad he is meaning bigoted, vile, greedy, ignorant, and any of a number of accurate condemnations, each of them ready to fit: bad in the sense of inept, and unable to do what’s asked of him competently. And yet, and still, millions upon millions of Americans looked at him and thought, “Yeah, that’s our guy.” What the ever-living fuck.

(I’d say something here about it being a good thing that Trump and his administration was so inept, how it likely prevented things over the last four years from being even worse, but the fact of the matter is, so many are dead of the coronavirus because of the administration’s inability to do things right that it feels in poor taste.)

The cynical part of me expected Trump to win through, bluntly, obviously, theft. There’s still the possibility that will happen, sadly — never lose hope! — but the limbo we’re in, where it’s more clear than ever that almost half a country just wants him to win, is… endlessly, exhaustingly sad to me. And not because I slept so poorly.

Unshakable

One of the stranger and, I think, less remarked upon elements of the last four years is the way in which it feels as if everyone has been radicalized to some degree or another. I don’t mean in the sense of political partisanship being on an unmistakable upswing — although, to be blunt, I wonder how much we can really call it “partisanship” when it’s closer to being “the people okay with fascism and the people who aren’t,” but let’s go with the partisan thing for now — but, instead, in the sense that I feel like so many more people are now happily, eagerly, accepting conspiracy theories that support their world view.

Any mention of conspiracy theories immediately points to the rightwing, who’ve been in this space for years: remember Obama not being an American citizen, or the idea that Benghazi was a false flag operation? That kind of paranoia and belief that of course they’re lying to us has, surreally, only grown with the right in power — just look at Pizzagate, QAnon, or the recent furore over Hunter Biden’s business dealings and what they really mean, for proof of that.

It’s not just the right, though; late last week, social media was struck by another wave of a theory that is, on its face, absolutely ludicrous, but nevertheless popular amongst far too many people — that Melania Trump is replaced by a Fake Melania in public appearances, for any number of stupid reasons. I saw countless posts arguing that of course it’s not the real Melania, and look what she’s mouthing to Trump, and so on, and so on, each one convinced that, yes, this was definitely a real thing that was happening and why won’t everyone wake up and smell the fake First Lady coffee.

I’m not immune to this, I admit. Part of me is utterly, entirely, convinced that there’s no way that the election this year will be fair. I can’t believe that the Trump administration won’t try everything it can to cheat and skew the result, and I also can’t find it inside me to believe that, in the face of a loss, Trump won’t do everything he can to stop himself leaving office.

There’s evidence for this, I could (and would) argue; it’s far from a baseless theory. What I keep returning to, though, is the strength of my belief in it not as theory, but as fact; I wholeheartedly believe it as if it’s already happened, even though I know that an alternative is theoretically possible. I know better, yet I still believe.

That’s the problem, maybe.