Well, that was close. For a while there I wondered if all my dystopias would be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance. Now they’re more topical than ever.
I think I’ll add a laugh track going forward, though. If I can find one with the right edge of hysteria.
We had a number of feeds going as the returns came in, but PBS was up on the Big Screen because their coverage was less vacuous than the CBC’s. Yet even there, in one of the few remaining refugia of substantive journalistic commentary, the instinctive reaction to Trump’s victory was to reassure each other how great the US remains as a nation, how “resilient” its noble people. Almost as if they were talking about some utopian Star Trekky Federation, and not a country whose origins are rooted in slavery, invasion, and germ warfare— a country which has for generations shamelessly interfered with the internal politics of other nations; which funded bin Laden and cozied up to Saddam; orchestrated the overthrow of democratically-elected governments from S’Am to Iran; funded death squads in Latin America and puppet dictators in the middle east. A country which even now— according to metrics ranging from homicide and incarceration rates, poverty to education— is more third world than first. Yet even the notorious lefties of the PBS seem to think that their nation remains (as Paul Ryan put it yet again last night) “the greatest country God ever put on this Earth”. They seem to think that Trump is some kind of aberration, that America was somehow once “great”, and can be “again”.
I didn’t hear anyone suggest that Donald Trump might be pretty much what the USA deserves, given its history and current behavior. Sure, we’re looking at a flying leap backward for every kind of human rights except the corporate kind. Trump emboldens the racists and the gun nuts and the deniers and the homophobes and the misogynists in our midst. That rightly scares the shit out of anyone who doesn’t fall into one of those categories, but guess what; turns out there’s more of them than there are of us, so they win. Welcome to Democracy, in the Greatest Country God Put On This Earth.
Look, I get it. Our rulers tell us self-serving stories, and we lap it up because we want to feel good about ourselves. Up here in Canada— especially since our last federal election— we like to think of ourselves as players on the world stage, purveyors of ploughshares not swords, newly-reawakened stewards of the environment and a safe harbor for refugees. In truth we’re a pissant little country infatuated with a charismatic bobblehead who says all the right things about climate change and gender parity and Human rights— all the while hoping we’ll forget about police mass surveillance of Canadian citizens, and trade deals that give foreign multinationals veto power over our environmental laws. A dude who seems to think that the laws of politics and of physics somehow carry equal weight, that he can negotiate with the heat capacity of the world’s oceans (“Okay, we’ll cut our bitumen production by 15%, but then you have to increase your joules/kelvin by at least 5…”).
We all do it. We’re wired for tribalism and self-aggrandizement (even Canadians). But if there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on, it’s that Trump’s ascension is the mother of all wake-up calls. And I always thought that a wake-up call, by definition, caused one to rethink calcified positions: to consider the possibility that some of these stories we’ve been raised on are just flat-out untrue.
Instead, the pundits are talking about “protest votes” and stay-at-home Democrats. My Facebook feed squirms with people blaming everything on Sanders’ supporters and third-party candidates. I, on the other hand, still haven’t quite figured out why— once the DNC got caught with its thumb on the scale— Clinton wasn’t disqualified on the spot and Sanders nominated by acclamation. Back in university, if you got caught cheating on a test you got a zero at best, more likely suspension or expulsion. A scientist bases a paper on faked data and that paper is gone, along with said scientist’s career. Hell, even over in one of Trump’s lame-ass beauty pageants I’d like to think that if a contestant was caught kneecapping a competitor she’d be out on her ass.
And yet, the official machinery of the scrupulously-neutral DNC is caught stacking the deck for Clinton— hell, admits to stacking the deck for Clinton— and nothing seems to change. Sure, a sacrificial Wasserman-Schultz gets tossed under the bus in a belated act of damage control, but the tainted results are allowed to stand with a shrug and a Sorry and a whaddyagonnado? The machine grinds on, Clinton’s supporters trot out the same old bromides about her heartfelt devotion to women’s rights and PoCs (although I’m willing to bet that a fair number of the civilians murdered in the course of those drone strikes she gets so wet over— which by the way rack up collateral kill rates as high as 98%— I’m willing to bet that a fair number of those victims might have been various shades of brown, and women to boot). And everyone falls into line, because they’d rather keep cruising toward the iceberg than burn to the waterline before they even reach it.
Looking back, there might have been some opportunity for a wake-up call even back then. Because as it turns out, not everyone fell into line after all.
So now the world’s heads of state are all busy timing their obligatory phone calls for the same moment, so that only Putin has to talk to Trump in real time and everyone else gets mercifully redirected to voicemail. Angela Merkel has announced that “Germany and America are connected by common values,” which I guess is especially true if you factor in an eighty-year time lag. Down in Jesusland there is much rejoicing (which still seems odd to me, given the Whore-of-Babyloniness of the President-elect. Maybe they’re anticipating the Rapture).
The rest of us just hunker down and wait to see how bad it’ll get.
A lot of it comes down to whether Trump actually meant anything he said. He couldn’t have meant all of it; one half of it contradicted the other. Many perceive Trump as a racist misogynistic homophobic thin-skinned sociopathic crook with poor impulse control, but that interpretation assumes a certain level of honesty in the man’s statements (well, except for the crook part). I see something more consistent with operant conditioning: a Pavlovian Trump salivating after applause, randomly trying out various lines until the local audience starts cheering. He was, for example, pro-choice before he started courting the antichoicers—so while he may move to overturn Roe v. Wade he’d probably just do it for shits and giggles and not for ideological reasons. I don’t see much in the way of a coherent ideology at work; I don’t even see much of an agenda, beyond the base instinctive drive of Me Me Me.
Which is not to say I’d leave my stepdaughters unattended within five hundred meters of the man. And he probably will tear up the Paris Accord, because that’s an easy promise to keep and he’s too stupid to understand the ramifications. So the environment’s fucked (but hey, there’s that silver lining for us dystopian SF writers). One promise I hope he does keep is to tear up the TPP; it seems increasingly unlikely our own Prime Minister has the guts to.
I can only find it deeply ironic that it is now, of all times, that— for work-related reasons— I find myself exploring legal options for going back into that cesspit after having been banned for six years. I’ll admit the prospect is enough to make me rethink my carefully-crafted veneer of ironic detachment. If it cracks even a little, I might find myself sobbing with the rest of you.
In the meantime, I’m gonna go drop acid for the first time in my life.
Who knows. With a little luck, maybe I’ll discover I already did that fourteen hours ago.
*Title courtesy of Caitlin “The BUG” Sweet
 Although to be fair, we picked up a lot of pointers in that area from our neighbors to the south.