Is This Thing On?

Okay, let’s unite behind this not-very-progressive, hawkish, corporately-funded, slightly-to-the-right-of-the average-mid-20th-century-moderate-Republican former First Lady, who will not criminalize abortion, who will not build a wall, who will not round up people in the street based on their ethnic background, who does not say racist things out loud in public all the time, who does not incite her rallies to physical violence. Let’s feel our weird feelings, ranging from lump-in-the-throat pride that yes, a woman candidate, finally, but no, not the candidate we dreamt or wished or imagined or believe we deserve.
Let us acknowledge that politics is a dirty, dirty business, and most, if not all, elections that are close enough are stolen, sometimes for our side, or what can vaguely be called “our side,” that the so-called American “Revolution” was a bunch of white slaveowning colonists overthrowing distant royalty so they could keep more of the profit they generated by systematically working millions of people to death, and that there were other revolutions, of enslaved people, of indigenous people, of indentured servants, put down by these colonists we call our “Fathers.” Many of our so-called revolutions have involved the suppression of another potential revolution, see: the complex relationship of first- and second-wave feminism to the humanity and working lives of people, especially women, of color, et al. So, it is fittingly American that subsumed into Hillary’s candidacy is another, far more progressive vision, and opposed to her candidacy is one so regressive it hints at the potential for large scale atrocity. Let’s make history, again, kind of, but really. We make history every day by living in the present. We make history by being alive.
For most of my life I have had a recurring nightmare that I am trying to drive a car from the backseat. Sometimes the car is also going in reverse, over a bridge. This is a terrifying dream, the roots of which I’ve only recently discerned.
As a toddler, I had a Fisher Price toy that fit over my carseat, a steering wheel with a driving console. I could play at driving the car, from the backseat.fisher price
I distinctly remember the day I realized that my driving console was attached to nothing, that it did not control the car, that I was merely pretending. I let go of the plastic steering wheel and stared out the window, thinking the toddler equivalent of, “I feel like an asshole.”
When democracy failed at the dawn of the millennium, and Bush stole the election (twice), I felt the same way I did when I realized my backseat steering wheel was connected to nothing, that it did not matter if I pushed the buttons on that plastic dashboard or I didn’t push the buttons. But I kept pushing the buttons, just in case. I pushed the buttons, because it is a privilege to push them. I pushed the buttons, to try to “make history.”
Because people fought for me to be able to push the buttons, died for me to be able to push the buttons (did they?), because my ancestors came here to push the buttons. (No, they did not. My ancestors came here to lower the odds of being raped and murdered by Cossacks in a pogrom in a shtetl.) Because my friends who are not American citizens tell me they wish they could push these buttons, they would if they could, so I do because I can.

When I showed up to vote yesterday evening and found my name missing from the rolls, I was dismayed, but not surprised. It was not like finding out that in 2000, in the South, African-American names had been purged from the rolls for fictitious felonies committed in the year 2019, or in 2004, whole polling places in African-American neighborhoods in Midwestern swing states simply did not open.
This system is very, very flawed. It is subject to mistakes and it is also subject to fraud. It is resistant to real change, it is obstructive of real justice.
The more years I show up to push the buttons, or draw the lines to make the arrows (it does not seem insignificant that the arrow in Hillary’s logo points to the right), the more I become convinced that I am not driving the car, that my steering wheel is just a toy, and that it is connected to nothing. And yet the nightmare is always real. The car is going backwards, sometimes over a bridge, and I don’t know if I am steering it, but I cannot make it stop.
Are the buttons we’re pushing connected to anything? Are we driving the car? Are we asleep at the wheel? Are we living the American dream, or the American nightmare?
Both, neither, either/or. Even when I am having the nightmare, of the car going backwards, I am still trying to drive. I am still doing what I can, from the backseat, seized with animal, childish fear.
We have a woman candidate, and she is far from progressive enough. But her opponent is so regressive, he is the stuff of nightmares.
It looks like some dirty business went down for Hillary to take the primary from Bernie. In a perverse way, I rejoice in this. For maybe that means she has the means to do whatever it takes to win the general.
I was so disappointed when Gore didn’t fight harder in Y2K, when he just folded in the interests of “democracy.” Democracy doesn’t exist, it’s just an idea, just a dream. Sometimes it is as fake as a plastic steering wheel designed to occupy a toddler, sometimes it is as real as the nightmare that we are speeding backwards out of control.
Let’s get behind the lesser of two evils. Let’s push the buttons, just in case. I hope she is good and crooked, as Trump likes to call her. I hope she keeps it up, all the way to November, all the way to the White House.

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