The Vote: and How I Touched the Machine
by Mari Gomez
I go to sleep at night, exhausted from resisting the tedium and minutiae of the typical work day by exercising tiny little acts of protests, (inserting wild ideas into lectures, deviating from the healthy diet, traversing from one news site to the other, scrolling through liberal news feeds for amusement, listening to talk radio at work, piecing together some grand narrative) all of which provide a fleeting sense of control, which I suppose is the only recourse, and I’ll go to sleep thinking if only I could rest, things will be clearer in the morning. Then I wake up, and I start it all over again: another lead, a new series of questions, developments and trending topics. Another way to look at the same story, a new angle, a possible insight. Incessant blows of new information, the one critical detail to further the investigation of the real story, the truth, reality. That is, piecing together the vast world, out there.
This is precisely how the last year and a half or so has transgressed as I’ve followed event after event of this unpredictable story. It began with a wild impossibility that slowly, ablaze in controversy and despite protest and rage and accusations, catapulted into the public consciousness and water cooler conversations (or whatever the modern equivalent is) by a media that would soon turn on him; he went from a joke, an anomaly, a clown, to something like a politician (however unrefined) giving policy speeches, holding his own in debates, turning the establishment Republicans on their heads, and close to beating the Democratic nominee for President, who, for thirty years and with much sacrifice (standing by Bill’s sexual exploits, assisting in destroying his women accusers, funneling cash through the Foundation, losing to the black man), paid her dues for the Presidency, as if it was her God given right.
As a young voter, up until a few years ago, I had not seen through the media and my liberal schooling to how Republicans (and most on the right) were often vilified, misrepresented, and conveniently and cleverly painted, in the shadow of W. Bush, as incoherent war mongering immigrant hating white folks who, like Obama so tastelessly described them, cling to their “god and their guns.”
Except in 2012, there was a candidate that broke through that for me. He too, like Donald Trump four years later, would be met by the auspices of biased media and its potent influence. I remember Ron Paul being left out of the frame in the televised Republican debates, sidelined, ridiculed, constantly pressed that he promise not to run third party.
It occurred to me then that something was deliberately being kept from me. A sense I'd carried for awhile now, given that it didn't' take long to find out Obama was not the HOPE we thought.
The media dealt with Dr. Ron Paul in a much more subtle way than they would with Trump. They were not desperate because Paul was soft spoken and considered pretty radical by many. They couldn’t use dirty tactics, but they could ignore him. His message happened to resonate with more than just the established Libertarians, but with a group of people shifting to the right, not yet identifying as Conservative or with candidates like Mitt Romney. And much of the demographic that liked Ron Paul, were millennials or younger people who’ve come to a more fiscally conservative stance, an alignment with Constitutional principles of liberty, a more reserved foreign policy, a smaller government, a concern for the state of our borders, our sovereignty, and identity as a nation, but also with some socially libertarian approaches like the legalization of marijuana and so on.
Perhaps, the fervor and frustration wasn’t fully formed yet. Perhaps, Paul didn’t know how to break through the media wall. Perhaps he was not fit to carry the rage of the people. It would take four more years for whatever sentiment to fester and rise, as Americans saw the policies of Obama failing them.
I had some hope for Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but it was clear from minute one that it would be Trump stealing the show. People tuned in for the thrill of watching a non-politician navigate the once very predictable and dull process of primary debates. Wikileaks showed that the Democrats wanted Trump to win, with the presumption that he, given his past and stumbling discourse, would be easy to destroy. Clearly they did not foresee the population’s intolerance for media bias, lies, and establishment corrupt hack politicians. They did not foresee that there was an entire force of people out there already prepared to say, ‘screw you.’
I, like many Americans, visualized a candidate with great intellectual prowess, with the ability to eloquently express, like an alpha poet, the woes of the world and to speak from a deep place of virtue and principle. A Churchill-like gentlemen, of the 21st century, a statesman with deep understanding of modern warfare and the nuanced entanglements with our enemies and their territories. I envisioned someone who understood and could articulate the greatness of the American spirit; the importance of the individual and its relentless capacity for innovation, creativity, and perseverance when untethered by government intervention. I pictured someone who knows the Constitution the way poets know Shakespeare, intimately, in their bones, through their hearts and minds, and with a respect for its revolutionary and rebellious origins.
Donald Trump is not that ideal candidate. He is something else entirely. He contains multitudes: he is the amalgamation of modern American angst, the smoking projectile shot from the hip of the forgotten American voters, who packed heat for so long until they saw it, an opening, a rare and wild opportunity to aim at the heart of the establishment. He is the messenger, who has taken it upon himself to change a few words. He is the defibrillator to the dying heart of American culture.
Donald Trump worked his entire life outside of government, but close enough to look over and see the inner workings. A man that took risks, failed, tried again, failed better, had fun, went wild, made mistakes, got into fights. His weaknesses are out in the open. Many of us wish we had that kind of courage. He is a man of grit, imperfect, and somewhat volatile, that had a wild idea and pursued it. If that’s not the American Dream, I don’t know what is. Trump said in an interview that the campaign trail had changed him. His rallies, those thousands and thousands of people, from one state to the other, became his window to the heart and soul of an America holding on to a different vision of itself. The America long left out of the popular narrative. His campaign shake ups showed a man trying to find his voice in real time, trying to penetrate the political arena, which is hostile to outsiders.
No, Trump is not ideal, but he was necessary. And what happens if he gets in? Who the hell knows. Trump showed the system that it could be broken into. He shone a light at the establishment Rhino Republicans and how out of touch, how spineless some of them have become. He demonstrated that people are not so susceptible to the mass media, as they once were.
Trump went from comedic relief to the protagonist. And we’ve seen him shine, and lose it, and stumble and come back up. And the deeper he digs into this American landscape, the more he sees that people believe in him and I think, I want to believe, that he takes that very very seriously.
All of this comes to a head when you’re at the voting booth. It reminded me of Catholic confession. You must be quiet, you must not disrupt. You must respect the process. It is sacred. And that vote is the only true connection to the reality you’ve been trying to piece together for over a year. Your finger touching that screen is you touching, possibly effecting, the outside world.
I went through moments of doubt, to absolute devotion to Trump, to moments of disagreement with some of his policies, to moments of cheering for his fortitude, to moments of disappointment, to hope, to frustration with his inability to articulate crucial details, missed opportunities, to admiration for his calling out of the media, to moments of rage where I wanted to yell at people that they were missing the point. This whole election has shaken me to the core. There is conviction though, I think, in the embrace of the unknown, and what might be madness. And this, I presume, is what it means to be a person of faith.
My faith is in the American idea and spirit. What I have come to love is liberty. The left makes politics about emotion and this warped utopian vision of a perfect world where everything is equal, everyone is the same, and the government is the savior. Somehow, they're winning the argument.
And here we are, at a crucial moment in the story. I wrote not long ago about how the obsession of following the story can effectively, kill you. It’s an idea I’ve returned to again and again in this election cycle because I have been forced to asses and re-assess the way I think. This developing story has given me something to hold onto, where it feels that sometimes my life is secondary to it, or perhaps now so inextricably tied, that my day revolves around the necessity to feel close to it.
I have followed everything as if I was watching an ongoing film of which I could not press pause or stop. So upon waking, I was jittery about having missed a detail, a plot twist, a character entrance. I watched as most people turned against Trump, how my news feed turned into Trump bashing, endless articles blaming Trump for wars and policies of which he bared no fault and dismiss the crimes and negligence of those that did. I watched people suggest that I was ignorant, racist, had no respect for women, had betrayed my Hispanic background, and that I had been blindly influenced by my very "white privileged" partner. I watched as friends and colleagues, after Bernie was kicked to the curb, all align, without much protest, behind Hillary. The most frustrating was respectable publications, like The Atlantic, which I read on a regular basis, endorsing Clinton. I could be wrong, but If the FBI pulls through, I’m going to love watching these editorial boards come to the realization that they openly endorsed someone under FBI investigation, someone that had sold out the State department for favors, who took money from foreign leaders. Someone who believes in open borders and maintaining a public and private position, a.k.a lying to the people. I’m going to laugh at them looking perplexed at how out of touch they were to actually go out of their way and endorse a woman who might get impeached. I’m going to enjoy watching them have to report and detail that impeachment. I’m going to relish the reaction of these pseudo-feminists (in the vein of Lena Dunham) enthralled about a woman president, when she is forced to step down. How about that vagina monologue?!
It is the most beautiful drug. A dangerous entertainment. You invest yourself in it until you are in it, or part of it. David Foster Wallace was getting at something much bigger with the idea of the fatal entertainment in his novel Infinite Jest. He understood just how powerful entertainment and the media were. This election and its aftermath will keep me watching, trying not to blink, trying not to miss a second, in order that I may live to see the end. And who knows, maybe when the end comes I’ll see myself motionless on the couch, flies on my face, and my body decomposing.
Oh yeah, I’ll say, that was me; full of ideas and dreams.
I can’t do anything now but wait for the climax. The release, the petit morte. It is through the little deaths, that we are reinvented. Trump may just win this, making it the best film ever made by the American people. And I was a part of it. I think, or it was part of me. Is this the beginning or the end? This is the fatal entertainment and it can kill, but just like it can kill you, it can also jolt you awake, it can lead you to great risk. It can shape you. It can help you live.