Monday, October 29, 2018

A Different World

In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed the murder of a Saudi journalist who was living in the United States, a man who sent bombs to various critics of President Trump (including George Soros) and a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
I feel like all of these events have their roots in the culture of violence that has been promoted by President Trump and the Republican Party. Trump has frequently referred to the press as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news.” He has dehumanized Democrats like Hillary Clinton with chants of “lock her up” (even though she hasn’t committed any crimes). And Republicans were still showing a TV ad claiming that George Soros was behind the so-called “migrant caravan” on the same day that bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc was arrested. (The George Soros claim—which, like much of  Trump’s and Republicans’ claims, has no basis in fact—is an anti-Semitic dog whistle.)
But we no longer say, “Oh my God, there’s been a mass shooting!”, we say “Oh my God, there’s been another mass shooting” because it’s now a monthly event. Before we even have time to digest one tragedy, another tragedy knocks it off the front page. We’ve lost our capacity to be shocked. And the daily lies and degradations of the Trump administration have made us numb.
As I was riding a packed subway this morning, I thought, “the quality of life in the city has really deteriorated to Third World country levels and people just accept it as normal.” But everyone was hooked up to their electronic devices, so they’ve just chosen to anaesthetize themselves. People are numbing themselves with electronic devices, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, TV, social media—you name it.
And, while we’re on the subject of social media, can I just say that social media is bullshit? It creates the illusion that you’re doing something by pushing a button (although some people can’t even be bothered to push a button). It creates the illusion of social interaction but, when push comes to shove, in an actual crisis, would any of your Facebook friends actually be there for you?
Social media is nothing more than an outrage machine. It makes people feel better, but it accomplishes nothing.
But I understand why people turn to social media. It’s because the institutions we depend upon to help us (i.e., the government) are no longer working. And the reason they’re no longer working is because they no longer represent us. The system really is rigged.
The Senate is rigged because small states get the same number of senators as large states. The electoral college means that whoever wins the popular vote doesn’t necessarily win the election. And the Citizens United decision means that political action committees can contribute an unlimited amount of money to candidates.
All three of these things need to be abolished.
I was so upset by events in my both personal life and in the country and world at large that on Sunday morning I called a mental health hotline. I told the woman who answered the phone that I don’t feel like the quality of my life is getting better and I don’t feel like the quality of life in this country and in the world are getting better. I feel like this country is a more dangerous and violent place since Trump took office. (There’s statistical information to back this up. The number of hate crimes has gone up since Trump took office. The number of mass shootings has also gone up since Trump took office, but has actually been increasing since 1994, when the assault weapons ban ended. Gee! I wonder why?)
I also mentioned that in the last few weeks, there have been a number of stories in the news about men my age who have either committed suicide or killed other people. Granted, each of them may have had mental health issues (one thing we can be proud of in this country is the lack of access to health care of any kind and mental health care in particular), and the easy availability of guns (and assault weapons in particular) is certainly a factor. But we never look at the social factors that cause someone who may already be at risk to “crack.”
In each of these cases, loss of a job or financial problems were a factor (two issues I tried to address in my recent one-man show, Take My Job, Please! Confessions of a Stand-up Doorman).
In the case of mass shooters, the tendency is for the shooters to scapegoat certain groups of people (Jews, immigrants, etc.) that they believe are the cause of their problems rather than the structural/economic issues (i.e., giving tax cuts to the rich while weakening the social safety net for the poor) that rig the system against them.
For these people, authoritarian figures like Donald Trump are often looked to as the answer to their problems. (Certainly that was the case with Mr. Sayoc.)
On Saturday, after performing my one-man show, I was speaking to two audience members. I said, “I feel like we’re living in a different world. It’s like there was Life Before Trump and Life After Trump.”
That’s why next Tuesday, we need to vote Democrat as if our lives and the future of our country and planet depended on it.
Because they do.