I’ve talked with a couple of Canadian scholars over the past few weeks. Inevitably, the subject of politics in the United States comes up. You know, coups and whatnot.
“What’s going on down there, eh?”
Okay. Retract that. None of the people I’ve talked to have actually said “eh.” But they all expressed concern about the state of our politics.
“It’s like a constant panic attack down there,” one Canadian told me. “We have political divisions up here, but nothing like what you’ve got.”
The stereotype is that Canadians are kind. I’ve found this characterization to be true in my recent interactions with Canadians. Did you know that Canadians have free health care and free higher education? I knew that already, I guess. But I learned this the other day: Canadian elections are not privately funded. So that means politicians don’t spend every waking second holding rallies and raising money. They aren’t for sale to the highest bidder. I imagine that helps to keep the rhetoric dialed back.
The rhetoric ain’t dialed back down here. Woo, mama. I’m writing this blog on January 9th. A couple days after a mob stormed the US capitol. I can only imagine how out-of-date this blog will be come next Saturday, when I post it. A tribal warlord might have seized power by then. Or maybe we will be governed by Morgan Stanley. Or a wild boar. All things are plausible these days.
And here I’ll admit it. Watching a mass of people invade the capitol on the news the other day made me very upset. And then Trump released a statement about it. The first words out of his mouth were more raving nonsense about a rigged election. I snapped. I started yelling at the TV. Like an old man. Like Archie Bunker. Solomon watched as I called Trump a monster. At least I didn’t use the F-Word. And, in my defense, Trump is a monster. He called a mob of people waving confederate flags and wearing shirts that read “Camp Auschwitz” lovely. He told them he loved them. I’m sorry, y’all. My not-so-distant Jewish ancestors fled anti-semitism to come to this country. So to see people wearing shirts celebrating the holocaust marching through the Capitol building on live TV, sanctioned by a sitting president? That’s some demonic energy. Anti-democratic energy. Regardless of whether or not you support tax cuts for the wealthy or immigration reform or raising the minimum wage or whatever. I’m not saying all Republicans are this, that, or the other thing. And I’m not claiming any great love for the Democratic party in the United States. But I can say the following with clarity. Trump is a monster, and I yelled at the TV when I heard him speak last week.
Talk about embarrassing.
I avoid writing about politics in these blogs. I just don’t want to get embroiled in the polarizing gobbledygook. And I’m not convinced that it is productive or healthy to discuss anything important on social media, and that’s where these blogs usually end up. At least it has never felt good to me to post or react or talk about politics on the internet. I won’t cast the first stone if you find it productive. Just not my cup of tea. Or coffee.
I don’t think what I’m writing about has much to do with conservative or progressive ideals. Or policy. It has to do with my reaction to our current state of affairs. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Well, actually Denmark is fine. I’m writing about the United States. I just wanted to reference Hamlet for the second week in a row. Check that off my list.
Here’s some gentle advice. Feel free to ignore it. If your political views lead you to wave a flag with the swastika on it, or compel you to storm the Capitol building or decide anybody who disagrees with you should be destroyed, you might be on the wrong path. And there’s nothing liberal about what I just wrote. Or conservative. What I just wrote has more to do with the things Jesus said (and did) than anything else. So it was doubly irritating to see the flags that read “Jesus Saves” in a crowd of people who were storming a capitol building. Jesus saves people. Not nation states. Or violent uprisings. Or whatever.
Americans are so damned bad at talking openly about politics. I think that’s part of it. I used to say as much when I taught high school. Oddly, this always came up in drama class. Or when I was leading improv. Improv or drama, as I teach it, requires a radical affirmation of difference. If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were in my drama workshop class, I would do my damndest to help them build creative things together. This philosophy pertains to whoever shows up. I wouldn’t have to agree with them or support them or like them. But I would challenge myself to accept and work with them. And I take that kind of work seriously. Black kids and white kids. Poor kids and rich kids. Straight kids and gay kids and albino kids and Morgan Stanley and wild boars. I challenged all of us to build together and, in doing so, we practiced the art of being in radical relationship with people we wouldn’t usually be with. That’s important work. That’s democratic education. That’s what should be happening in public schools. Take your tests, your honors classes, your remedial classes, and your grammar workshops and put ’em where the sun don’t shine. Instead, give me an experience where people gather and learn to think and feel and be together as they figure out problems and build something unique. That is practice for democracy. That is democracy. And that is what my career in education has been about. And that is not what I saw on my TV screen the other day when I yelled. Like Archie Bunker.
So, in summary, I got upset watching the TV the other day. I’m usually better than this. Unless the Vikings are playing. Then I swear like a sailor. Or a Viking. I mean, have you seen the Vikings defense this year? Yikes. Typically, I avoid getting sucked into the 24-hour news cycle. But it isn’t even the media coverage that has me concerned. It is the actual things the monster mentioned above says and does. And the way that people don’t seem to agree, whole-heartedly, that those things are monstrous. It’s scary, y’all. Scary in the way that armed cossacks in my grandparents villages were scary. There’s some dark energy in this country, and I have a family to look after. A friend once told me that, in having children, you become more invested in the world. I’ve found that to be true.
So forgive me if you are a die-hard Trumper. Storming capitols and whatnot. I can still love you. That’s a Jesus thing too. But I don’t want to hold my tongue about how upset his comments the other day made me. It’s always been too much for me, since I first listened to him speak in 2015. But it was too much the other day. Turned me into a real Archie Bunker.
And I didn’t know what to say to those kind Canadians I spoke with.
“You got a real situation down there, eh?”
“It’s pretty wild,” I said with embarrassment.