Every Day a Little Death: The Five Stages of Democratic Grief
1. Acceptance: Okay, fine. Whatever. They win. It’s inevitable, really. A complicated or qualified truth is never as arousing as a good hate-charged lie. It’s not that you can’t make people be intelligent; it’s that you can’t make people care about things they don’t care about. And half the country consists of people who don’t care about the truth.
Maybe it’s rooted in the universal denial of death: we all come equipped with a mechanism to ignore the unpleasantly true and embrace the preferable fantasy. In any case, half the country sees “hero” and “spunky mom” instead of “confused sellout desperately saying anything” and “lying, ambitious religious nut.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “fair.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “insane.” A machine dedicated to exploiting the worst in people will always triumph against a movement asking for the best in people. Meanwhile, since the wall you beat your head against is not going to go away, it’s up to you to stop, take your head with you, and walk away from the wall. I’m outa here.
2. Depression: Who am I kidding? This is a nightmare and the one thing you can’t do in a nightmare is “accept” it. What am I doing to do–leave the country? Ridiculous. Meanwhile, greed and vanity, using lies and fear, will once again manipulate ignorance and resentment. Biden’s decent-man’s sense of modesty and proportion is no match for the turbo-charged ego and effortless mendacity of Palin. The worst people in our public life will win again, and they’ll do it using a secret weapon that’s the most obvious weapon of all: their shamelessness. A hundred rabid sociopaths are salivating in anticipation of taking Rush Limbaugh’s place because that’s what America has become.
And so the “ordinary people” applaud for and collude in their own manipulation. And even if Obama ends up getting more votes, it’s futile to hope that he’ll really “win,” because the machines are rigged and the voter rolls are trashed. There’s nothing we can do about it and there’s no use in even trying. We want a society of justice, fairness, freedom, and common sense, and we’re doomed.
3. Bargaining: All right, look. Maybe it’s not all either/or. Say McCain wins. We’ve still got Congress. Yes, they’re spineless, ass-covering careerists who spend half their time selling their principles to raise money and the other half defending the system that requires them to do it–but even they have some pride. Maybe it won’t be so bad. McCain will surround himself with war mongers and thieves, but even Congress may have had enough of war and theft (and everyone will believe them if they say “we can’t afford it”). So the two branches battle each other to a standstill. Nothing good happens and nothing too terribly bad happens. Then he dies, Palin steps in, and in two months our national life is a cross between Seven Days in May and The Beverly Hillbillies. Couldn’t that be fun?
4. Anger: No. Bullshit. There can be no accommodating these complete and total imbeciles. That mob of credulous people, the teeming throng of decent, self-satisfied, naïve dodos who actually cheered that freak show in Minneapolis, the ones who chant “U.S.A.” as though rooting for a college football team, the “patriots” who think “patriotism” means voting for the guy who tells you that his opponent isn’t “patriotic,” the people who every day live in a fantasy world of made-up “heroes,” superstitious “faith,” self-contradicting “values,” invented “facts,” and proud, defiant obliviousness of history, human nature, science, and common sense: How stupid can people be?
“Well, I don’t really know Obama.” Guess what, Mrs. Sixpack? You don’t know your fucking spouse. You don’t know your fucking self. If you did–if, at the breakfast table, you had the tiniest capacity for honest introspection, and the basic grownup skepticism even you bring to the task of buying a used car–you’d see how you’ve been played. First by Bush and by Rove, and now by their successors. The contempt they have for you is obvious in everything they openly say to you. Giuliani, McCain, even the self-parodying Romney all deserve Emmys for staying in character and resisting the temptation to turn to each other, point to the crowd, and say, “Can you believe these suckers?”
Because that’s what you are: Dupes. Rubes. Marks. You deserve what you get. But we don’t. So, memo to Dems: Fuck it. It’s war. Call every lie a lie. Tell Palin it’s cute that she admits she has the brains of a pit bull but it’s not enough to qualify for the office. Shame McCain, over and over, for betraying literally everything he has ever stood for, and for inflicting that trailer-trash Rapture-ready mediocrity on the United States of America. Tell the morons that whoever tells you that someone else is an “elitist” is really telling you that you’re an idiot. Take off the gloves, then put them back on, then take them off in slow-motion and throw them in McCain’s face. Swift Boat his POW history. Criticize her adequacy as a mother. Ask him why sitting in a cell thirty years ago makes anyone qualified to lead the U.S. in the 21st century. Ask her if she believes in the Rapture and who she thinks will qualify. Ask her if she knows what the Fed does. Ask him if he knows what a server farm is. Are we men, or we moose? Do it.
5. Denial: Calm down. It can’t be as bad as I think. The world doesn’t really work that way. There are too many intelligent, fair-minded people to allow this grotesque possibility to come to pass. Bush in 2000, Bush in 2004: an affront, a crime, yes, but it’s understandable that it was close enough to steal. But this? This fumfering old moral has-been, who no longer knows what he believes, and his provincial beauty pageant runner-up who thinks gall is the same thing as intelligence? People can’t, when all is said and done, be that stupid. Some, yes. But not all, and not most. And the voting machine problem, the vote caging, all that? People are aware of it and dealing with it. It’ll be okay. I really believe that.
(Repeat from #1)