The setting is sometime in the summer of 2015. The first patterings of reality TV-esque political news stories start popping up all across the web, indulging the wishes of every pundit and politico who wants to see the certain ‘inevitability’ of 2016 dashed into a mad-race.
I fall into the trap, too. “I like Hillary Clinton, but I don’t like her enough”. “These candidates are too mainstream, we need people who are willing to say what needs to be said.” I troll Reddit and talk radio stations, listening to bros and gals and everyone in between being pushed from ‘Hill-yeah’ to ‘Hill-no’. Everyone in my generation is falling off a cliff of uncertainty, and I can feel myself being pulled down with them.
Bernie’s a good choice, a rational choice of a people who want real ‘change’. But the other-side doesn’t bend their anger and frustration into an alternative. No, they look for something else. Something deadly.
And I think, in the rush to find intrigue out of a ‘boring’ race, we thumbed through the folders of our past and pulled up old names that brought instant gratification: Santorum, Huckabee, that guy who operated on human brains. It was cute, fun, something out of a silent film where the audience could watch and let their laughter provide the soundtrack.
But it changed quick.
Over the noise of the circus cars pulling up to the Republican HQ office, I hear a name uttered again and again like an unforgettable nightmare.
Donald J. Trump.
Donald J. Trump.
We joked around for a while, all of us who consider ourselves ‘politically minded’. We jested around about the hair, about the way in which he said ‘Yuuuuge’. The media bought into it too, and seemingly it was all in good fun.
But then it got crazy. Way too crazy.
Weeks passed and the absurdity of this man from New York went viral. Went more viral than Zika. The switchboards of the American mass-media conglomerate were ignited by the frenzy that came with a reality TV star running for President.
Over college parties, I huddle with buddies of mine and shared laughs over the Trump phenomenon. Over the first, second, and third beers, our laughter grows. Howls of laughter. Like wolves. Wolves preying on something, something finally interesting about this goddamned race.
You’d think that this sort of maddening fascination with the macabre, with the deadly, could’ve stayed in the realm of our little parties and died off somewhere down the toilet bowl. But it didn’t. Before we knew it, it spread all around the country. Polls rose for the businessman, and apparent front-runners were now in the single digits. Candidates who had had royal names were now peasants, and we laughed at the destruction of the old world of politics.
But we laughed, and raved, and watched the frontrunner dance on Saturday Night with brevity in our hearts. We didn’t ‘like’ the guy, but this thing was never about appreciation in the first place. None of us thought that people liked Donald Trump, he was just a short-term fascination. An illusion, meant to distract us from how royally screwed our whole system is. An opiate. A drug.
Somewhere, during the summer, things began to change. As the leaves began to color and fall, I looked around me and realized that everyone was still laughing, but it was a different sort of laugh. The kind of laugh that you let slip out when the world seems to be crashing down around you and it’s sort of… hilarious. But I wasn’t laughing all that much anymore, only sitting on my hands and trying not to strangle myself over the thought of a Trump Presidency.
But what are laughs, really, when they come at the expense of others? As the mass-media covers the man with intensity and pundits howled about Donald with ferocity, the rest of the people, the people who would be hurt by a President Trump, were left clinging to themselves on the sidelines. What is a laugh when it involves the mass deportation of millions of people and the sheer bigotry of a renegade fascist wannabe? Was a laugh ever worth it?
Some say ‘yes’, and they still do. They’ll say that we need to laugh through the pain and suffering of our lives, even while it still rages. I agree with them. But empty laughter at the doorstep of a reality TV star isn’t a courageous act of defiance: it’s ammunition. It’s merely another tool in the shed of a multi-billionaire who relies upon the attention of the audience to fuel his precious ego. It’s like giving fine-whiskey to an alcoholic.
There is always going to be a political and revolutionary value to laughter. Comedy in its own way provides an outlet for the oppressed, for victims of injustices around the world and here at home. But laughter isn’t something to be capitalized, something to be monopolized upon by politico’s and junkies looking for a quick fix during a dull cycle.
But as the days of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have passed, I have an announcement to make.
Donald J. Trump is not fun anymore.
MSNBC, Fox News, Politico, and CNN all disagree with that. They don’t only disagree, but they need to disagree. Ratings don’t lie.
But I worry more than anything about the friends, family members, and otherwise intelligent people of the world both in and outside of my life who continue to only crack jokes about the hair, the dance moves, and the sheer absurdity of it all. Joking and humor is an effective tool when utilized well, like a toothpick for that rebellious shard of leftover chicken in your teeth. But it’s not the beginning and end-all tool of liberation. Laughter doesn’t call up voters on a phonebank, talk to neighbors on a canvassing afternoon, or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
It doesn’t do these things because the people of the world rarely vote merely on humor and what they think of a candidate’s hair. They go to the polls on election day and think about hopes, beliefs, realities, and fear.
And I fear what’s become of Donald J. Trump, the perpetual drug of a mass-media that can’t kick its addiction to meatless stories. He isn’t just the seasonal clown, paraded on the debate stage to be goggled at for cheap lines and gimmicks. He’s now a real tour-de-force, a power player, someone that is redefining one of America’s most historically influential and essential political parties. He’s taken the ‘Party of Lincoln’ far from the promise of equality to the realm of an American Nightmare. A nightmare that millions of people have no idea that they’re in.
I’m not having fun anymore because a Trump Presidency isn’t something behind us. It’s looming, behind the rising walls of a border fence, sneaking its eyes around the globe and burning every last bridge that we’ve sought to cross. Ruining every garden that we’ve wanted to grow.
I’m not having fun anymore. And you shouldn’t either.