"And a great voice boomed from the heavens, and it said 'Don't despair - smile and be happy, for things could be worse.' So I smiled and was happy. And, lo, things got worse."
That's what it said. Now it may have chimed with my innate pessimism. I may have retained it because, like many teenaged boys, I fancied myself a cynic at the time. I don't know. But for pretty obvious reasons it came back to me this morning, as the news broke from the States.
This has been, by both personal and wider measures, an absolutely fucking shit year. My father's death, our own referendum, the refugee crises, war in Syria, terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere, the rise of the extreme right across Europe and beyond, beloved and influential people like Bowie dropping like flies - I could go on. I was, though, naive enough to hope, still, that Clinton would become the first female President of the US. Female heads of State in both Britain and the UK - even if you don't agree with their politics, even if you accept they're both a long way from perfect, that would have been something, wouldn't it? Some signs for hope, particularly in the States, that a black man could be followed into the White House by a woman.
Well no, obviously. 2016 has decided, in its apparently infinite capacity to bring forth shit, that it hasn't done with us yet. It has, finally, squeezed any last vestige of optimism from me, and left me, like so many others, in despair. I still have nothing but the highest regard for those who won't let it defeat their spirit, of course. I may not be much of a Facebook user, but I see the defiance in people I love and admire, the determination to do good, to be good people. The will not to allow Trump et al to drag them down to his hell of fear, hatred, retrenchment and isolationism. But I've got to tell you, just at the moment, I'm not feeling that. I feel beaten. Hate is winning, everywhere.
We're being told that millions of ordinary Americans felt let down, disenfranchised by a political elite they regarded as corrupted, morally bankrupt and completely out of touch with how they felt. Well I know how they fucking feel! In an America with a right-wing nutcase President-elect, a Republican Senate, a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Chief Justice, where the hell is the voice of the Democrat, the liberal, the minority, being heard, still less represented? Don't those millions, equally appalled at the state of their nation today, also count?
On this side of the Atlantic, at least, there seems to be a sort of bewilderment that 'it' could have happened again. That a country that can elect Obama, twice, can then put almost his direct antithesis into the same seat. What happened to the America that elected him? How have people that called him a terrorist, a communist, and a Muslim, the last being intended as an insult, have had their way, when this most human of Presidents, this classiest of men, seemed only ever to want the best for his country?
|The US seems to have forgotten which way round parody |
is supposed to work. The Simpsons, 16 years ago.
I wrote an entry last July about not letting this sort of thinking - this sociopathic, atavistic, solipsistic ideology that's becoming so prevalent - win. Reading it back now makes me feel like I was Cnut, sitting on the beach, watching the tide advance inexorably but still trusting to the future. He, at least, was able to leave the beach when it was clear he'd been right - there was no stopping it. The rest of us have no such luxury, and we're already in it up to our chests.
Never mind - smile and be happy, for things could be worse.