Election Day Celebration/Commiseration [politics/off topic]

@Splificator has an amusing-as-always article up on the Daily Beast today featuring some spectacularly awful advice about sobriety on Election Day.

I, for one, plan to aggressively ignore said advice.

So any suggestions on an appropriate cocktail for the saving/end of our democracy? My first thought is applejack-related—perhaps some corruption of a Jack Rose—but like our current President, I’m open to outside influence.

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I am aggressively focused on ignoring the entire situation to protect what’s left of my psyche’s wellbeing. I voted weeks ago, so I can go on about my day, such as it is. Even if the election goes relatively ideally, we’re not out of the woods, it just means we’ve paused our plunging deeper for a moment.

To me, any element of sport in politics is long gone: all that remains is suffocating existential crisis and the howling media machinery that has almost perfectly isolated me, cowering in my corner. I’ve never found it easy to drink (or possible to enjoy it) with my hands over my ears.

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Courage.

Your observation about an element of sport in politics is apt. I’ve been active in politics all my life, and yes, most years there was undeniable fun in rooting on my party’s candidates. But looking at it now, post-Trump, I’m not sure it was ever truly appropriate. The real-world stakes in even a “normal” election make treating politics like a game seem terribly callous in retrospect. That U.S. politics have lost any sense of sportsmanship, souring into goonish tribalism, underscores the point.

I know that corner can be comforting, but I can say with confidence that any positive solution to this mess will lie with increased direct civic engagement, not less. There’s a good chance we all still have a lot in common underneath the knee-jerk fear and loathing, even if it’s just working together to plant trees in the local park. Small personal steps fostering dialogue and shared purpose can be a potent counter to the howling winds of propaganda.

And I’m always ready to toast to that.

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I don’t think there’s any shortage of common ground on tangible, practical matters, but the forces arrayed to prevent engagement on that basis are formidable. There are exceptions, such as the First Step Act; whatever its shortcomings, it’s not nothing, even if 98% of Americans have never even heard of it. But that’s an exception.

Planting trees—i.e., local politics—may well be where it’s at, but framing it like that sounds like restarting from square one and reinventing the country. This particular morning, that feels like a tall order. And the hour is already late.

I’ve long suspected the collapse of the Soviet Union took away the last thing that sort of held this “United States of America” thing together (basically through a veneer of authoritarianism) and gave it a shred of shared identity. With “the enemy” gone, wealth concentration kicked into overdrive, the ugliness that was simmering all along was gradually unleashed and oxygenated, and the knives came out.

I will admit to harboring the Morphean delusion that a strong enough repudiation of the politics of division and self martyrdom would have constituted a lancing of the boil, but it seems that is being revealed as the dream it always was. But still I hold out hope.

I have worked for years with people suffering from hoarding disorder–it can be (and often is) a terrifying disease that leads people to live in seemingly unendurable squalor and danger while looking around and saying “oh, it’s not that bad at all”. With most patients, you can get a lightbulb moment where they become honest with themselves and their loved ones and admit how ugly and precarious their situation has become. I believe that is where we are at now.

I wish I had good news following that realization, and there is some. Many people, once the light has been turned on, seek out the help they need from friends, family, and counselors, and get their house in order (quite literally, in most cases). But just as many do not. They make a token effort, or one huge cleanse and purge cycle, only to fall back into the same behaviors. Without introspection, support, and work–actual, capital ‘W’ Work–on the self and the underlying causes, it all comes crashing back, often worse than it was before.

But there is a choice to be made. And it can be made, and followed through on, one tentative, agonizing step at a time.

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