Ok. This is going to be a long post with lots of ranting and jumping around. If you don’t like that kinda thing, it’s a good time to check out.
Still here? Did those ninnies leave? Cool, cuz we got some serious shit to talk about.
2016: Merciless Pop-Culture Killing Machine
If you had told me in December 2015 that we’d lose Bowie, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen and Sharon Jones, among many others, I would have invested my efforts heavily in time travel technologies. As I said, many more than those I’ve named have taken their final bow but these particular losses hit me the hardest. Each of them shaped my perception of art and performance in Earth-shaking, reality-altering terms.
Bowie’s unyielding theatricality and commitment to radical re-invention, Wilder’s manic earnestness, Cohen’s embrace of the dark and ability to communicate in words what I once thought inexpressible, Sharon Jones’s raw heart and passion, her fearless energy, helped me trust my own inclinations. Each was unapologetically individual in industries committed to exploiting trends, ceaseless in their loyalty to their truths. None of us come in to being with answers, at least not answers that apply to songwriting or performance. We observe, we duplicate, we manifest. I started off as a mere replicant of these artists in one way or another and found my truth along the way. For that and to them, I am eternally grateful.
2016: The Year of Fear and Loathing
Donald Trump is our president-elect and people are fucking scared. If you, like me, are a CIS straight white guy who has the ability to provide for yourself, stop telling people to chill out. Imagine for a moment you were an immigrant, a Muslim, a woman, a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ community, disabled or anyone else that Trump promised to persecute or bragged about sexually assaulting during the campaign. Imagine hearing for months that actions would be taken that would directly alter the legality of your standing in this country. Imagine being told that there was no way someone so arrogant, so divisive, so thin-skinned could ever be president. Then imagine watching in horror as the electorate, state by state, disregards your fears, your freedoms, your story and wake up to realize the man who promised to repeal your healthcare, deport your family, monitor you and people who share your religion, repeal your right to choose when you do or don’t have a child, is actually in a position to start making good on those promises
You would feel isolated. You would feel betrayed. You would feel disregarded. You would feel scared.
2016: Echo, echo, echo, echo…
Nothing has hit me harder since November 8th than the realization that I surrounded myself with too many people who agreed with me. I didn’t spend enough time talking to people who supported Trump or Johnson or Stein. I bought in to the media narrative that Trump supporters were either hardcore isolationists and/or white supremacists and/or morally confused evangelicals. Don’t get me wrong, I would say the overwhelming majority of those segments supported Trump…but there simply aren’t enough of those people to swing an entire electoral map.
Nope. There are a lot of people hurting who simply don’t trust the establishment to look after their concerns anymore and didn’t trust Hillary Clinton to change anything. Trump, for all the bigoted, fascist demagoguery he represents, also represented change. Horrible, unacceptable change from my view but...change. I, along with about 51% of the electorate, the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and the entire media establishment, underestimated how motivated that voting bloc was.
Facebook, Google and the litany of other corporate internet conglomerates who cater to the whims of their customers, show you the people and things they think you will respond most positively to. Not the things you need to know. Not the people who feel diametrically opposed to everything you believe. Not the ”other side”.
The internet, social media, etc. allows us the freedom to construct our own reality. We don’t have to hear the voices of those we disagree with. We don’t have to acknowledge anything more than we choose to once we’re nestled within the digital womb.
As we dwell within our digital constructs, laughing heartily along with the rest of the people who agree with everything we say, we lose touch with…how to say this…ACTUAL REALITY. The world that all of us, the ones we love and the ones we despise, physically inhabit in unison at all times. You may hate an issue, you may even hate the people who represent the other side of the argument, but they share the land you live on and are residents of the same country.
Polarization of the electorate benefits very few. But those who do benefit from it BENEFIT BIG. And who would that be? Right off hand, I would say the political parties themselves benefit the most. With a frenzied public that won’t agree on anything, Democrats and Republicans can keep the country gridlocked and always blame “the other guy” for not actually getting anything done.
The less we talk to each other, the more power we give away. The more apathetic we become, the weaker we are. Snark can be momentarily cathartic but solves nothing. We have to engage with our allies and those who oppose our views in order to have any idea what the fuck we actually have to work with. Hiding behind digital walls will not make the world a better place. Conflict is essential to the creation of a better world. Taking the time to understand why people feel the way they do can at least open a dialogue, no matter how far apart you are on the issues. Racism, homophobia, sexism, gender discrimination don't have to be pardoned or minimized to have a healthy argument either.
2017: The Year of ???
Life is really fucking short. Watching so many of my heroes leave this mortal coil serves as a reminder that we have a short window of time to be true to ourselves and inspire the next generation to do the same. I want to show my daughter that she can be heard no matter who holds power in Washington DC. I want to show her that change starts in her community. I hope she can do a better job of listening, of embracing disagreement, than I have so far.
If you are still reading this, thank you. It feels good to get this out.