Last Wednesday, in shock, I wrote on Facebook: “What do you do, the day your country dies?”
My personal answer turned out to be, “Go to work, like any other day.” I simply didn’t know what else to do with myself. I’ve learned through the experience of similar shocks — like losing a daughter in the middle of the night — that sometimes it’s best to just run on autopilot for a little while.
It may still be too soon for me to write, but I’m feeling that familiar pressure to put thoughts and feelings into words.
So let me start by linking to a post I wrote a little over a year ago. It’s hardly “prescient” — my observations were entirely too obvious and derivative for that. The question hanging in my mind a year ago was not whether Trump could become President, but whether the US electorate was ready to embrace Fascism. The answer has turned out to be, “Yes.”
We are now living in the early stages of a typical Fascist State.
I think it’s extremely important to point out that this isn’t about Trump. Trump is a venal opportunist who serves as the focal point to what the Germans call a “Zeitgeist,” literally “Time Ghost,” more correctly, “Spirit of the Age.” This isn’t about Trump, or his deplorable lack of character, or what he will or will not do. It is about the American People, and they have called for a “strong leader” to remove the constraints of law and punish the scapegoats they have chosen to blame their troubles on. Remove Trump from office (by fair means, or foul) and another “strong leader” will be called up in his place. Exterminate one set of scapegoats, and we will choose another.
There must be a bloodbath. The People demand it.
A year ago, I thought — I hoped — that Bernie Sanders represented a possible alternative to this. Fascism doesn’t arise in a vacuum. It happens whenever the majority of the reasonably prosperous citizens start “taking hits for the team,” yet the team keeps losing, the hits keep escalating until they threaten homes and families, and no one in power listens to them. This all started in the US in the collapse of small farms and the loss of US manufacturing jobs, back in the 1970’s. That decline, in turn, was built into the weakened but still-deadly capitalist economic system we chose to retain in the 1930’s. We came very, very close to Fascism in the US the 1930’s — it was all the fashionable rage in Europe at that time — but we instead adopted an attenuated form of Democratic Socialism that soothed the angry beast that the American public had become. That peace lasted for two generations, before capitalism began, again, to erode prosperity in favor of wealth.
I fully expected Bernie to be written off as a Socialist crank a year ago, and was both surprised and deeply encouraged when he wasn’t — instead, he became a populist figurehead for a countervailing Zeitgeist: a vision that did not involve a bloodbath.
I believe he would have won this election. I do not think the majority of people in the US were hurting badly enough, or were angry enough, to reject a peaceful real hope for the future — or even a Hail-Mary hope.
The broken two-party system didn’t support him; instead, it locked him out and confirmed all the worst fears and contempt of the electorate. The Democrats, caught up in far-less-important liberal social issues rather than hard-rock economic issues that meant food on people’s tables, decided that they must now put a woman in the White House, by fair means or foul: and the only possible candidate was a woman who was a quintessential avatar of the existing dysfunction. Republicans dismissed the existing dysfunction early in the game, and turned with open arms to Fascism.
So where this election could have been a referendum between two Zeitgeists for change, a peaceful one versus a bloody one, it instead became a referendum between slow starvation and a bloodbath.
The People chose the bloodbath.
Yes, Hillary won the majority vote, by the teensiest of margins. She lost the election because a huge percentage of the population abstained entirely. Most of the uninvolved doubtless abstained because they’ve abstained for decades — they had long ago given up on politics as meaningful in any positive way, the clear consequence of our multi-generational political failure as a nation — but many of the newest recruits to political indifference simply could not endorse either starvation or bloodbath, and stayed home.
We must now endure the bloodbath. The People have demanded it.
I want to think it could be over relatively quickly. The Axis powers in Europe lasted less than a generation. But it took a World War to stop them. I think this will soon end up in yet another World War, and I strongly suspect it will involve a major nuclear exchange. The US may throw the first nuke, it may not — but it will certainly be one of the targets, and will just as certainly strike back.
That seems to me now to be the most probable way this nation, and modern civilization, will end.
I really, really hope I’m wrong.
I’m not even close to thinking through other scenarios. I’m still in shock that it happened as it did, in a single day, though I’ve been writing about this subject for a couple of years.
It feels to me a lot like 9/11/2001 felt, but where we will go, as a nation, will be a far, far darker place.