Election 2016: We Are Pagliacci

Alan Moore's "Watchmen"
I'm not much of a political mind. I can't sing all the US presidents in chronological order. When you share an article I probably begin skimming by the end of paragraph three unless it's about pro wrestling or Skyrim. But I believe in true equality, and I have a voice. So do you.

Though I once was a CNN-watching, Obama rally-attending citizen encouraging people to "get out the vote," I have consciously become quieter as the social climate has reached toward a point where discourse even with those I wholly agree with can quickly become a vile enterprise. Earlier this week I was relieved we had neared the end of 2016's grating election cycle. I avoided what of it I could, and tolerated references and spoofs amid my standard stable of sanity-bolstering entertainment. I've never needed to deliberate over what vote to make, and I'd never believed putting up signs or knocking on doors makes any kind of impact. There was no way a crass, skyscraper-dwelling, beauty pageant-owning billionaire from reality television with more failures under his belt than successes could be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, anyhow. I was excited to have to look at that face and listen to that voice on a far less regular basis after Tuesday night.

Then it happened. And at 3AM on Wednesday morning I realized simply exercising my right to vote is clearly not enough. The nightmare sensation - an almost fight-or-flight response instinctively telling me this isn't actually reality - has yet to wane. When comedians open their talk shows with a harrowed tone clocking somewhere between "9/11" and "David Bowie dying", you know something has gone horribly wrong. Silver lining: Erwin Schrott's glorious bass-baritone reminding me there's still elegance in the world is just about the only thing maintaining my relatively even keel right now, so I am becoming slightly more versed in opera (albeit not versed enough for this diatribe's heading to be anything more than a semi-cryptic "Watchmen" reference).

I'm aware the United States has had reprehensible leaders in its relatively young history, but this is the information age and through inaction we've elected someone who's basically like if Elmer Fudd had been raised by the Rockefellers. We've elected someone who actually makes George W. Bush's inadequacy seem retrospectively endearing. Someone who makes that proverbial beer with Mitt Romney sound pleasant. Someone who wishes to tear down what the past eight years have built by reinforcing fossil fuels, kicking people out of homes, closing borders, revoking healthcare, reintroducing witch hunts, and-- well, you know all of this already. You also know he's failed on several opportune occasions to denounce the KKK, while at other times referring fondly to segregation as "the good old days." Yet we still elected him.

Was Hillary Clinton not a good enough candidate? Well, you're right. I don't think she's particularly the greatest, either. But that doesn't mean don't vote. It certainly doesn't mean vote Trump just because of one or two issues. Every valid candidate is going to have a few relevant aspects you dislike. Maybe the candidate you oppose even has a stance or two you jive with. Shoot, there's a detail in Trump's tax plan that would directly benefit my family. You're not going to find me turning a blind eye to the rest of his platform in favor of that detail, though (in our case the loss of health benefits cancels it out anyhow, but that's beside the point). I mean, can you imagine this ivory tower idiot in an international peace talk? I digress.

And please stop voting third-party. I've listened your arguments - I actually do believe many of the conspiracies - and I know you don't want to hear this. Like it or not, however, the system is the way it is and a non-vote or a vote for someone who does not have a chance to win is essentially a vote for the candidate you like the least. It's not a perfect world and idealism will not make it as such. Truly don't like Trump? Really wish he wasn't the president-elect? Probably should have gone with the person with the best chance to take him down, then, because here we are. If nothing else, this "trap" election has shown that we cannot trust a projected landslide.

Photo source: BaltimoreRavens.com

I watched Thursday Night Football last night. Cleveland at Baltimore. No, it did not turn out to be a "trap" game for the passable Ravens hosting the winless Browns; where I'm actually going with this is that for the first NFL outing of the Trump era, I was afraid I'd feel disgusted listening to our national anthem. I thought I'd cringe thinking of our new, 45th Commander-in-Chief immortalized in historic photographs, commemorative libraries and even derisively in adult cartoons. I thought, "If I punched the head off his animatronic likeness at Disney World would they ban me permanently or just for the calendar year?" Then, when Sergeant Joey Odoms of the Maryland Army National Guard began singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", I instead felt my heart hurting for our nation. I felt a resounding urge to fix this.

If you're just as scared for the future now as I am - if you also feel like the floor has been ripped out from beneath you, and your stomach churns and your body convulses each time you think of this misguided joke framing up the latest portrait of himself for the Oval Office while nearing his goal of tearing away freedoms under the guise of freedom - use your fear. Don't sit out. Vote. Vote in the midterms. Register early. Register with a party if it means you can weigh in on the primaries in your state. None of that takes very long (and do check your state's voting regulations so you don't get shut out of the primaries like I did). If you're motivated, find your local office and volunteer if you can. Spread the word before people become complacent to Trump's America. If you have friends who abstain from voting because they "don't like politics," find a way to show how performing that simple civic duty every two years can make a difference. I "don't like politics" either, but look how close those percentages were. Look at that popular vote tally. Due to that slim margin - due to lack of Democratic voter turnout - millions upon millions of people are going to be affected for the worse, including many who "don't like politics." I only did the bare minimum this year because my candidate of choice did not resonate with me on a deep level, and I couldn't conceive of a reality in which she wouldn't win. Donald Trump does not represent us, but we did not effectively select an alternative and, hopeful as we may be, we cannot rely on his track record as assurance he'll wind up impeached.

My time for worrying about offending friends and family is over. By merely voting and calling it a job well done, the blood of those who have already been attacked by victors who feel vindicated is in part on my hands, and the same goes for that of those who will suffer further in the version of our country Mr. Trump considers "great."

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