America is now a failed state. That sounds like hyperbole, I know – the melodramatic wailing and gnashing of teeth that’s become commonplace on social media over the past 48 hours. But when you take a step back, you realize that, melodrama or not, it’s a true if surreal statement. The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the world was in some ways a coup, with bad actors who are theoretically supposed to have no business directly influencing American politics conspiring to hijack the presidential election, wresting it from one candidate and swinging it in the direction of another. But the designs of these bad actors – Putin’s Russia, Wikileaks, the FBI – wouldn’t have come to fruition without us. Without a staggering portion of our apparently stupid, racist, sexist country. Without this democratic experiment, begun 240 years ago and always, it seems, vulnerable to both exploitation and our own rank fears and idiotic whims.
As of right now, our country should be looked upon by the world as a clear and present danger. Because that’s what we are: a threat to the entire planet. The person who will soon take the reins of the most powerful nation that’s ever existed is vulgarity personified: a thin-skinned narcissist, a vengeful authoritarian bully, a petty, preening and ignorant buffoon. He’s exactly the kind of person who should be prevented from having real power over anyone at all costs because he’s proven time and again that he’ll abuse it in the name of feeding his own ego, and yet he will now control public policy at home and a nuclear arsenal abroad. That bears repeating. Donald Trump will soon have the authority to send men and women into battle and to, if he so chooses – and he’s reportedly wondered aloud why we haven’t done so already – unleash nuclear weapons on those he considers enemies.
We now have a strongman regime, no different than a South American or African banana republic. We’re a failed state. But we’re the most powerful and dangerous failed state imaginable.
The only question then is, what do we do about it?
When you consider that half the country cosigned this nightmare, this utterly shameful and offensive era in our history – half the country was told to its face by the man himself that it would be electing a fledgling fascist dictator who boasted of sexually assaulting women and did so anyway – it’s tempting to throw in the towel. To keep our heads down or abandon this botched experiment altogether because even the most optimistic can’t deny that our country basically asked for this. How do you take that into consideration and still believe America is worth saving? Why would you even bother? Maybe our founders had it wrong all those years ago. Through nothing less sinister than a lack of imagination, they couldn’t fathom their creation brought down by its own people. True, they were wise enough to create a republic rather than a straight democracy, but even a republic can be undone if that’s what its dumb, selfish, easily amused citizens want.
Even if you choose to stand up to this homegrown tyranny, there are millions across this country who hold beliefs diametrically opposed to yours. Millions who want the United States of America to be a reflection of Donald Trump. Millions who want a Russian-style kleptocracy, with a self-indulgent billionaire using government to further line his pockets. Millions who will never listen to reason and who can’t be reached by pleas to their decency, humanity and, yes, their alleged American values. Millions who didn’t care that they were sanctioning the rule of a man embraced by the KKK and giving voice to the worst bigotry this country has to offer. Millions with whom you have little to nothing in common, because they opened their arms to a despot who gave them a good show, many as a means of asserting the dwindling authority of their own identity and many more just to piss you off as somebody who actually gives a shit about progress.
So, again, what do we do about it when the situation feels so dire and hopeless?
The answer is as seemingly hyperbolic as the situation itself. We fight back. We resist. We rage. We don’t hold hands and sing Kumbaya and we don’t sit quietly and let the fewer people who enabled this madness suppress the more of us who sought to deny it. As of this moment, we live in a different America. Already, the hateful monsters Trump worked into a frenzy during the campaign have begun rampaging across the land, determined to show the “undesirables,” those who spent years gaining a foothold of acceptance in our culture, that this isn’t their country anymore. This is Trump’s America now. Their America. Except that it isn’t. It goddamn well isn’t – not unless we allow it. This is why we can’t do what we tend to do when adversity seems overwhelming. Forget. Get used to it. Become comfortable in our discomfort.
Much of the press abdicated its responsibility by normalizing Trump’s unprecedented ugliness and it’s tempting to do the same, to learn to tolerate the intolerance and become inured to the stench of America’s first genuinely tyrannical regime. That’s the easy thing to do. But none of us has ever experienced anything like what we’re witnessing now and what we’re about to. We’ve had it relatively easy for a good, long time. So easy, in fact, that some among us had to seek out grievances and perceived slights when in reality we lived in a relatively charmed era in which legitimate, even violent oppression was something many of us were privileged not to know. At the very least it was largely being held at the gates by a government that believed in inclusion and progress. That cultural bulwark is now gone, though, and truly institutionalized oppression, potentially on a scale this country has never seen, is coming.
So the time for arguing amongst ourselves over petty outrages and miniscule transgressions is over. It has to be. We don’t have time for it anymore. Those closest to Trump’s firing line within our diverse population will be counting on every single decent person in this country to take a stand for them and the only way we can do that is with a unified front and sheer numbers. Our voices have to be loud. Our anger has to be righteous and it needs to be seen and heard in everything from our politics and those who speak for us politically, to our music, to our art, to even, ironically, our comedy. We’re already seeing our artists, creators and thought leaders giving us a hint of what might be to come. And come it must. That’s the voice of the resistance.
The Reagan years gave us the thunder and fury of punk rock. And as so many have commented this election season, by the standard of today’s Republican party – the party that now has complete control of our government under the control of a demagogue and will do his bidding unquestioningly – Reagan would’ve been shamed out of the movement for being too much of a pussy. We now have to find that fury again, though, and make sure it’s relentless. We have to mock Trump. We have to deny him legitimacy. We have to provoke him at every step, because he’s proven over and over again how easy that is to do. We have to show the world that Trump’s America isn’t the real America. Somehow, we have to give people hope that we can save this country from being nothing more than a weaponized Donald Trump – a tool for his vaingloriousness and vengeance and a bully writ large.
It’s time to get mad – and stay that way for as long as it takes. We no longer have the luxury of complacency and distraction. As of now, America is a failed state. But if you want to change that, you’re going to have to fight for it. What are you prepared to do?