Oblivion or Canada

New York Daily News 

The above cartoon and many like it have given me a quick laugh, and a sense of collegiality with whoever posted them on social media. But it was this one in particular, which appeared a few days ago, that started me joining up a few threads.

Leisure to care

Having never listened to Rush Limbaugh personally, I don’t know what he meant by ‘limousine liberal’. But I think this is a hint of it. In the cartoon is a well-to-do white man, obviously a wealthy city-dweller, who is so horrified by the new president that he will lose four years of his life to escape from the grim reality. This means that 1) He can afford to not work for four years while maintaining his vitals, and 2) Any of the bad things that he fears will happen during the new presidency will not affect him personally. He has no fear of waking up with a revoked marriage certificate (see wife); he has no fear of waking up in his (or his parents’ or grandparents’) country of origin; he has no fear of his job being lost in another recession; he has no fear of waking up in prison; he has no fear of war (it might create a business boom); he has no fear of waking up in a detainment camp because of his religion or ethnicity.

In other words, he’s pretty much like me. Few of the immediate threats that were made explicit in the election rhetoric would affect me personally. Of course this is especially true because I’m not resident in the US and have dual citizenship. But if our family were in the same jobs and house (and skin, etc.) in the US, the threat to my quality of life–in the short term anyway–is pretty limited.

And yet the man in the box and myself are sincerely and deeply emotionally affected by this turn of events. This is a good thing–we are not selfish creatures who ascribe to social Darwinism. But it’s not a good thing if we simply cannot handle being emotionally affected by bad stuff and therefore attempt to treat our emotions rather than their causes.

I’m not suggesting that me and Boxman pretend our emotions aren’t there, and sometimes a brief smile at a cartoon or a wry laugh with Trevor Noah is exactly what we need to carry on. But we’ve got to carry on and do something, not merely let this stuff be another indication that we’re right and they’re wrong. Because there are people–our friends, total strangers on the other side of the country, our neighbours, those whose neighbourhoods we fly over–who don’t have a choice about whether to ‘engage with politics’ or just ignore it, and who may very soon have cause to be much more emotionally involved in election outcomes than Boxman or I could imagine.

You’ll never walk alone

I think the ‘we’re right and they’re wrong’ meme (although I guess it’s a gene, which I’m not going to stop and research) is something else that encourages the secondary rather than primary view of political change. ‘I believe government is not responsible for x, y and z’ and ‘I believe government is responsible for x, y, z’ (for example) turn us into die-hard fans of Our Team. We get pushed by media, friends, social groups and our own desire for things to be binary into being a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. Of course party politics (much bemoaned for centuries) has a lot to answer for. But regardless of why this happens, and regardless of whether we actually belong to a political party or not, the polarisation makes us ideologists (and sometimes package-deal ideologists).

It then makes us feel good to root for Our Team, and we are very passionate about Our Team. We follow them faithfully and scrutinise whether their choices will help them win or not. We discuss how well they are doing in recruiting players to help them win. If asked, we only want Our Team to win because it’s morally and ethically right. But I would argue that the line between our personal convictions, and even our own self-interest, and Our Team blurs to such a degree that me and Boxman no longer know whether our emotional reactions are based on righteous indignation about social injustice…or because Our Team lost the pennant.

As long as the Queen is on the money

I can’t avoid mentioning the ‘let’s all move to Canada’ meme, which is basically Boxman with free health care. While it was quickly deemed better to stay and fight in the US, those of us who were already gone bear witness to the fact that this does not solve the problem any more than cryogenics. Yes, we’re safe from what might happen domestically. But the rest of the world does not see America like many Americans see the rest of the world. America is perceived as both a material and metaphoric example/mirror/premonition. American exclusionism might make sense to Americans without passports, but the introvert at the party…is still at the party. Plus, I still rather like you guys.

Conclusion

Not even close. I’ve barely entered the depression stage.

Footnotes

  1. The one obvious thing that distinguishes me from Boxman is that he has a woman who is going to soldier through and look after him and the house while he escapes into nothingness. I imagine that there is a sociological term for that.

We just finished watching 13th. Contributing significantly to secondary emotions. This track played over the credits:

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One Response to “Oblivion or Canada”

  1. Carl Grant Says:

    God help us tell the truth to ourselves!

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