Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas and the Donald Trump Effect: Lets Make Elections Great...Again

          Its been nearly a month now since the 2016 election came to an end. Or did it? Due to logistical reasons I am unfamiliar with,US presidential elections usually end just before the start of the holiday season. This election has been by far the most horrific I've ever seen. And that probably goes for millions of other Americans as well. There is always a good deal of mud slinging between candidates during an election. But Donald Trump took it to a whole new level-running on a platform of prejudice and fear mongering. And on this election night,he became president elect very unexpectedly.

          Nobody I personally knew expected this to happen. For the past few weeks on Facebook,people and groups I subscribe to have been trying to sort the situation out. What went wrong? Why don't people realize how dangerous Donald Trump is? Is America doomed? These thoughts have ranged from thoughtful to outright conspiracy theorizing. As a year of personal growth for me,this event has been a personally draining one. Found myself somewhat unmotivated to get on with each and every day. Not due to my own fears. But due to a growing sense of empathy for the concerns of those around me. And don't think I'm alone in this either.

            Instead of a holiday season filled with hopes for a positive new year,many American's have learned a great deal in a very short amount of time. The latest headlines is that Trump did not actually win even the electoral votes. That Russian based hacking was involved. And while Hillary Clinton clearly won the popular vote,ballots are being frantically recounted. And the future of America's electoral college is under scrutiny. When I go to the store or any public place,the looks on people's faces don't seem happy or unhappy due to holiday hustle and bustle. They seem distant and concerned for the future. And that isn't a very cheery atmosphere.

             Now a lot of younger people dislike celebrating holidays today. Some see them as corporate,some as pure propaganda. Since the area I live in has a strong potential for joylessness,holiday's such as Christmas tend to come across as a psychological necessity for a wintry season of shorter days and the potential for limited mobility due to severe weather. If one is a wealthy land owner of European descent,the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the cabinet he's assembling isn't a negative thing at all. The reality of it is though,that just isn't most of America. And most of America is either angry with Trump being president elect,or somehow live in fear of what Trump and his cabinet represent.

               Donald Trump's campaign slogan was "Make America Great Again". If I were to have a campaign slogan for American politics in general,it would probably be something along the lines of "Make Elections Great Again". Most of the presidential elections I've lived through have surrounded such extremely high stakes, it can have the effect of making the voter either fed up with the process or descend to seeing both main political parties to blame for social problems. We live in a totally online world. Wikipedia and other outlets provide access to truths about history and the present. More and more American's know the issues beyond candidate's rhetoric.

One could debate that its highly cynical to see ignorance as bliss. At the same time,people heavily indoctrinated with hateful rhetoric often lack the ability to receive new knowledge. And therefore are unable to grow as individuals. This social issue is now referred to as "post truth". Donald Trump has truly capitalized on this. And the fact is,the holiday season of 2016 seems to have the atmosphere of inner terror. This could derive from a mixture of new knowledge, a blunter and overtly bigoted attitude from white supremacist  political figures now referred to as the "alt right" and a sense of wanting to retreat back to a life of ignorance.

Sometimes learning can be scary and sad. To a young child,it can be very saddening to learn there is no actual Santa Claus. It is very scary to learn about stranger danger. Compared to most other nations of the world. After all,its only been 240 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With the knowledge of even that being found on the back of slavery,as well as Christmas as we know it now largely deriving from non Christian pagan origins, modern American conservatism is fighting a losing battle with the known reality of the nations politics. And even the origins and meaning of the holiday's it celebrates.

With all this being said,knowledge brings growing pains but not endings. It does bring evolution. We know now that "republican" stands for democracy of only the privileged. We know now that Christmas isn't totally Christian or totally corporate. Yet that doesn't mean American cannot be a functional democracy-with a two or more party system without the need for a "republic". Nor does it mean we cannot still decorate trees or even display mangers at Christmas. Whatever occurs with Donald Trump,and I sincerely hope recounts deny him the presidency,Democracy and joy in America will simply continue to grow and evolve. And there's no post truth about that. 


Friday, October 21, 2016

Pray to the presidents,or voting for them?: The United States 2016 election effect

It was a year or so ago that my good friend Henrique Hopkins showed me a YouTube video. We were having one of our many sociopolitical online chats.  The video was by a young woman who suggested that as a solution to a lot of the nations problems,we should "just pray to the presidents". At the time it was a source of great laughter for both of us. It was so ridiculous and beyond naive. Sounds like the beginnings of a fascist dictatorship. Surely not something that could ever happen in the USA,land of the free and home of the brave right? Well its the 2016 presidential election as of this writing. And the question of voting for or praying to politicians looms at the center of it all.

In America,there is theoretically supposed to be a defined separation between church and state. But its the internet age now. And anyone of any American generation can look at their money and see "in god we trust". Does that mean the old cliche "money is god" is true? Maybe it just means church and state separation is paper thin in America today. And that due to it being the internet age,a quick online fact check reveals that "in god we trust" wasn't on any US currency until 1956 following the HUAC hearings. In the end,all of this confusion comes down to one reality. And that reality is that having a religious belief and having a religious understanding are two entirely different things.

I am a Mainer born and bred. Always lived in that state.Growing up,there have been people around me who are regular church goers who care about humanistic and liberal causes. And there have also been secular humanists,agnostics and atheists who will view as scientific or political figure they admire with idolatry. As if they could do absolutely no wrong. Church goers or not,more and more people I'm encountering lately seem to be falling into the category of idolatry on that level. This election also contains one of the most polarized characters in my personal lifetime. And that's Donald Trump. 

Trump is scathingly written about online almost hourly it seems. At his fundamental core however,I would describe him as being totally apolitical. And non American. That should be that. Yet there was someone else who ran for office this election. Someone who didn't become the democratic nominee. And that was Senator Bernie Sanders,representing the state of Vermont. This native New Yorker was a classic European democratic socialist. He has a stern yet avuncular manner. And a caring,intelligent social agenda. His words seemed to capture the hearts and minds of even the most cynical around me early on in this electoral cycle. Then something I never would have suspected happened.

A lot of people face difficult odds in life. I count myself among them. That led me to finding Mister Sanders' sociopolitical platform very appealing: progressively democratic without being fascist about it.   Part of my own therapy in dealing with difficult odds is being a photographer. Love being able to go out and just take pictures of the romantic and beautiful aspects of the outside world. Its very therapeutic. On these journey's this past summer,it was hard not to find a household along the way without a "Bernie Sanders For President" sign posted on their lawn. Towards the end of the summer,Hillary Clinton became the democratic nominee for US president.

After this happened,and I went back out to those same areas looking for new pictures to take,all those Bernie Sanders signs had become...ones that supported Donald Trump and his VP nominee Mike Pence. How could this happen? In another conversation with Henrique,the question arose how people could support a socially progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders one moment,and a fundamentally bigoted one such as Donald Trump. The answer became evident in listening to public conversations around me. Would hear people say they missed having Bernie Sanders to believe in. How they didn't trust Hillary Clinton. And Trump spoke his mind loudly. So they would support Trump instead.  

That's when it occurred to me what seemed to be going on. These no longer seemed like politically understanding individuals looking for a politician who supported their views and needs. They began to come across as people looking for a god like figure in the white house. Someone who they could follow behind unconditionally. Again as Henrique and I discussed,there are many American's who are not interested in freedom. Some of these people might say they want the right to do as they please with guns. They might wish to live off the grid and totally support themselves. Yet at the end of the day,they are still seeking a titanic seeming leader to tell them how to be non conformist.

Its an eerie contradiction for sure. It reminded me of a song I was listening to a lot during the ill fated 2000 presidential election-Devo's "Freedom Of Choice". The chorus of the song says "freedom of choice is what you've got/freedom from choice is what you want". Now it would appear American's,especially too many around me, are facing the concept that a pop group posed 36 years ago. In the end,breaking an election down only opens up the opportunity for a readers clarity. There's no guarantees. The question Americans have now is do we want to vote for a president,or pray to them? Its something more people should consider when filling out their ballots in an election.