Many things have been said about last night’s U.S. presidential debate.
The Times in the UK said of it: “The clearest loser from the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was America.”
The Guardian described it as a “national humiliation.”
Dan Rather at News and Guts wrote: “Who won and lost tonight in a horse race sense, I don’t even want to address. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. This was a sad, sad, sad night for this nation that I love with all my heart. This is a moment to mourn what we have lost, and are in danger of losing.”
Jake Tapper at CNN called it “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”
Dana Bash at CNN called “a shit show.”
I don’t think I can top any of those completely appropriate words. So, all I can call it is a reminder not to ever let your very cleverest pun titles go to waste too early. Because in our U.S. shit show, things can always get worse. And, you’ll regret not having those titles to re-use after a debate like last night’s.
Way, way back in 2017 when Nazis were marching in the streets in Charlottesville, VA, – and I had almost no blog following whatsoever to appreciate my own clever commentary – I had just been diagnosed with dysautonomia. And, I titled my post announcing that fact “POTsies against Nazis.”
It didn’t feel like a waste of the best anti-fascist blog title pun I would ever come up with at that time. Back in those halcyon days of 2017 so many things that now seem de rigueur still seemed impossible. Even to a traumatized statistician used to always having to predict the crisis first for her own family’s survival.
Things like the fact that I would ever have to take unpaid not-FMLA (as I did in 2018): “It’s not fiscally viable, though, to take unpaid FMLA. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The U.S. is routinely on the verge of dismantling the ACA, so I can’t assume I’ll always have insurance if I lose my current job.”
Or the fact that we’d be doing everything virtually (not just protesting): “Now what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Nazis? They, unlike me, are quite inflammatory. I would like to give them a few four-letter words of my own if they succeed in getting a permit to rally in my city this weekend. Unfortunately, that is beyond my current physical capacities. Has anyone on the Internet figured out a way to FaceTime protest? I don’t want to have to tell my grandkids that I did nothing when fascism was ascendant in my backyard. However, though I’m very new to the diagnosis, even I know standing for hours in the August sun and possibly being trampled if I faint is one of the lowest levels of Hell No in Dante’s Dysautonomia.”
Or the fact that I’d be wishing now – three years later – that I hadn’t blown that blog title way, way back when Nazis only marching in our streets seemed like the lowest of the low.
Back before our S.C.R.O.T.U.S. (aka “so-called ruler of the United States”) gave literal marching orders to Nazis from the bully pulpit televised nationally on almost every channel.
Back before our “New Normal” should have woken America up to how terrible our old normal had been all along – but financially comfortable while folks shrugged their shoulders and went ahead with their Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day picnics anyway while covid-19 killed over 200,000 Americans, disproportionately black, brown and poor.
Back before we entered the event horizon of a Constitutional crisis so uncharted that a war games scenario of its potential fallout by the Transition Integrity Project at Georgetown University had to be scrapped when the simulation devolved into “points in the scenarios where there was a constitutional impasse, no clear means of resolution in sight, street-level violence,” and “in one of them we had Trump invoking the Insurrection Act and we had troops in the streets.” (I have to assume the majority of the interviewing for this piece was actually done earlier this year? Back when Trump invoking the Insurrection Act and sending troops into the streets in D.C. also still felt impossible? Instead of just a thing that happened back in…was it June? July? It’s so hard to remember anymore…)
Winston Churchill apparently said “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Somewhere in the intervening 1,111 days between when I wrote that original Potsies Against Nazis blog post and today we let our collective chance to not let these many crises of the past three years go to waste. We, as a nation, threw away all of our collective chances to use all those earlier national emergencies to break the institutionally horrific underpinnings of the system and to try to take responsibility for our collective past, atone, and make things better for the marginalized.
And, so, we’ve arrived at the point wherein for the first time ever my Facebook feed full primarily of people who have remained so shielded from the system that reading their posts – especially amid the worst points of my own history with the 9th Circle of Hell – feels like reading the indecipherable utterances of an alien race now feels like reading things I could have written.
And, so, we’ve arrived at the first point wherein I’ve seen what amounts to anything like “the masses” (albeit, still only the “liberal” coastal ones, which is even more terrifying…) finally realize what it is like to wake up in the morning knowing that there has never been any fundamentally real set of brakes stopping their nation from careening off a cliff and taking them with them.
And, now, suddenly they all want to know what to do to make things safe again.
I’m not sure. That’s why even my so-called light-hearted song posts that Blame Canada for the U.S.’s present situation (for failing to swoop in and save us all – or at least the Northeast! – from ourselves) have always had a thread of underlying morbid bite to them. That’s why I wrote this poem (under the equally wasted tagline ‘Trumpocalypse‘) way, way back on 10/13/17 (instead of today):
It’s a Great Li(f)e
He’s a child drunk on undeserved power.
The adults in charge before him cower.
“It’s crucial to keep him happy,” they say,
“Else he’ll soon drive things much further astray.”
They feed his ego; work around his moods.
They even excuse hateful attitudes.
They normalize the taboo and profane:
Don’t dare risk his wrath. Too mute to restrain!
This is no Twilight Zone old narration.
It’s the fiction we’re still a free nation.
Now he’s no God (even less than a man).
So, why enable this Id-with-a-tan?
Any hope left for our vast moral breach?
If Congress but had the will to impeach…
That’s why you would know that’s an old poem even if I never gave you its original date. Because that seemingly impossible idea – at least back in 2017 – that we might finally impeach our mad man of a president now just seems “so 2019” in hindsight. (And, seemingly impossibly, still wasn’t enough to fix anything…)
And that’s also why I will definitely say to all those scared Americans suddenly wondering what to do to make things ‘safe’ again to go vote on November 3rd. I will definitely say to them to demand of their elected officials the protection of the post office, the right to vote by mail and the blocking of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in 2020 (the way the Republicans blocked Merrick Garland back in 2016.) I will definitely tell those who are physically able to go ahead and punch Nazis in the street whenever possible. (In a safe and socially distant way, of course. Bring a spare set of gloves to protect yourself from their contamination – and covid, too – before you punch them!)
But, I’ll also say “don’t let a good crisis go to write.”
If you come up with any brilliant blog post titles over the next few weeks, go ahead and hold on to them for now. I know I’ll be holding on to mine. Because any seemingly “too good to be true” opportunities to use those titles over the next 33 days before the election will likely only be topped by even better (aka “worse”) opportunities to use them after it…
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms.