“Hope is my religion, love is my God, and acts in the service of peace, justice and equality are my practice. I believe that you and I are of the same tribe. Visualize what you want.”—An e-mail from a friendIn the sci-fi thriller Brainstorm, scientists develop a helmet that enables the wearer to inhabit the recorded experiences of others. In one unforgettable scene, a character dons the special cap and plays a continuous loop of a woman wildly riding some dude's hog—and I'm not talking about his Harley. The character lives and re-lives this virtual fucking until it leaves him nearly catatonic, his limp body twitching, drool oozing from his mouth.
These past weeks have left me in practically the same state, except the virtual fucking I'm enduring isn't the flesh-and-bone kind. It's more of a soul-reaming, heartbreaking gang-bang perpetrated by infamous American gangsters, also known as Republicans. Their antics and the media frenzy perpetuating them are crack, and I'm a wonkaholic. If I could dip my fingers in it and rub it over my gums, believe me, I would. At least then some part of me would be numbed.
I calculated that I spent 13 life-shortening hours yesterday surfing frantically from link to glowing link, disappearing ever further down the rabbit hole of enlightenment, unable to tear myself away from the myriad opinions, snark and lies, damn lies!
Some topics were embarrassingly ridiculous (lipstick and fishes and pigs, oh my!) while others were horrifyingly disturbing (droned chants of “drill, baby, drill!” and the Obama-as-pedophile smear). Most of it was garden-variety diversion from the important issues of our day: The world's most famous hockey mom speaks of war with Russia but—hey!—where did she buy her red vinyl Betty Boop pumps? I'm practically licking my computer screen, I'm so hot and bothered by what I'm reading. And not in a good way.
I'm jittery, nervous and short-tempered. I'm in the front seat of this rickety rollercoaster, the lap belt isn't cinched and I'm being flung about so violently that my feelings hurt. I'm empowered and hopeful one minute, enraged and belligerent the next, then squashed and despondent shortly after that. Admittedly, it didn't help that I began my 301st period during this tumultuous time (roughly 120 more to go, but who's counting?). Yet I can hardly blame my lack of balance on my menstrual cycle because that would be, like, totally sexist.
So erratic am I that Ruby slid my wine glass across the coffee table toward me the other night. “Here go, Mama,” she said knowingly. I'm beginning to wonder if the tempestuousness I've exhibited of late will have a lasting impact on her.
What I'm looking for as I trudge through the shit storm that is modern politics is some small reassurance that Americans are more than the gaggle of ball-scratchin' hillbillies the Republicans are counting on us to be. (This is an insult to hillbillies, and I apologize for that). I need to know that Ma and Pa Smalltown, who hold our collective future in the palms of their work-hardened hands, aren't easily hypnotized by the pretty model from Lenscrafters with the cross around her neck. I need to know they aren't buying what's being peddled by the war veteran's political trophy wife, who paints herself as one of us with palatable sound bites that go down smooth with scripture, a bourbon and a hearty slap on the back.
It's been infuriating to hear the egregious lies being spewed with the same force and broad trajectory as the lunch my brother once hurled on the bell-bottomed ankles of three teenaged girls after getting off the teacup ride at Disneyland. It's been terrifying to see the swirling eyes of the quivering, swooning, fawning, reveling and predominantly white Republican masses. It's been revolting to behold the sycophantic, self-important, group-thinking pundits bestow a deceitful ideologue with Rosie the Riveter status based on little more than her ability to simultaneously smile and speak.
Having lived through Bush circa 2000 and 2004, I can only equate this awful Groundhog Day experience with a lonely bout of post-traumatic stress disorder. But I realized it wasn't just me suffering such trauma when I read a piece by Bob Cesca (www.bobcesca.com), a contributor to The Huffington Post. In “Fooled Again” Cesca asks, “Show of hands: have you gone all Howard Beale yet this week?”
And since I hadn't, I decided that I must.
So, yesterday, I flung open my front door, which put a divot in the paint as it slammed into the wall. It was 4 p.m., and I strutted out onto my front porch, stepped into the sunlight, bent in half, clenched my fists and shouted toward the street as loud as I possibly could, with every ounce of frustration and disbelief purging the rage from my body, “I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymorrrrrre!”
Then I yelled it twice more. It may not have been terribly productive, but it was cathartic. My primal scream cleared a little heart-space that had been clogged with ire, and I began to fill it up instead with an imagined reality, one I'm going to focus on pointedly until it becomes a real reality. Here it is, no helmet required:
Barack Obama is standing on a stage in the cold air of a sunny January day. Michelle and Malia and Sasha are by his side, all of them bundled in thick winter coats. He stands with one hand on a Bible, the other raised at his side, and he smiles as he's sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America.
Brainstorm that reality, gangsters.