John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
-- Terminator: Judgement Day, TriStar Pictures, 1991
I took a few days off.
Watching the world go to hell is damned depressing sometimes.
I mean, you can see it. You can actually see it happening.
Bit by bit, inch by inch: the long slow slide into authoritarianism.
Picking up speed as we rush faster and faster towards fascism and oppression and war.
Disaster and ruin waiting at the bottom like shit-smeared punji sticks waiting to impale us.
Every morning you get up and you can see it rushing towards us and you think, goddammit, just stop.
Just … stop.
Right? I mean, you can see it. And if you can see it, like an iceberg looming massive and deadly on the horizon, then you could at least try to steer around it.
But instead, every day, flank speed! Full steam! Straight ahead! Aim for that son of bitch!
I am daily reminded of Governor Nix from the movie Tomorrowland:
The probability of wide-spread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn't be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they've ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse. But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate éclair! They didn't fear their demise, they re-packaged it so it could be enjoyed as video-games! As TV shows! Books! Movies! The entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you. You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you. Won't. Take. The. Hint! In every moment there is the possibility of a better future, but you people won't believe it. And because you won't believe it you won't do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason: because that future does not ask anything of you today.
You can literally see it happening.
Those who could change this, stop it, won’t.
Those who can see the danger, they shout warning! But it’s futile. Because those alarms fall on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world gleefully shovels more fuel on to the fire, deliberately making things worse, deliberately stoking fear, inflaming hate, pushing for conflict and destruction. Why? Because it’s profitable. Or because they think it’s funny and that they will never have to suffer the consequences. Or just because they’re obsessed with some silly, irrelevant thing and can’t break out of that loop long enough to see it all going to hell.
Every day, you can see the critical go/no-go points, the places where we could avoid this fate, where we could divert onto another, better path -- but every time we choose the worst possible course. Every time.
As I said, it’s damned depressing sometimes.
And so I periodically look for reminders that not everything is terrible.
I try remind my audience of that. But such is the state of the world that even pictures of beauty draw hate and insanity and endless conspiracy nowadays.
Of course, this isn’t new.
Humans are the their own worst enemies. Sometimes I wonder how the species has survived this long.
Sometimes, for your own mental health, you need a break.
So I took one.
Turned off the internet. Locked the office. Didn’t bother to give notice. Walked away whistling.
I did. I turned it all off and went outside. Went to do some things that I enjoy for a change, while I still can.
Four days later, I looked back in.
I should have stayed on vacation.
Because nothing has changed.
Now, of course, I didn’t actually expect it to. But still, here we are again: Oh look, The president of the United States committed another crime, another abuse of power, another perversion of the Office.
This isn’t in doubt. Here he is, this very morning, right now, admitting it for all to see:
Meanwhile Congress … tweets.
We are literally looking at yet another impeachable offense.
The President of the United States of America is literally asking foreign nations to attack his political rivals. He isn’t just hoping a foreign power interferes in our elections, he is again openly soliciting it just as he did in the last election.
He’s not trying to hide it, he’s tweeting about it in the open.
And this is what? How many similar or worse offenses has he committed while in office?
We careen towards disaster, screaming like lunatics, and those with the power to change our course do … nothing.
Continue to do nothing.
Tweet. That’s it.
And the truly astounding part to me is this belief among a significant fraction of the population that congress does nothing because despite all evidence to the contrary there’s some secret plan, some “long game” that our elected representatives must be playing.
Every day I am confronted by this bizarre idea that if we can just hold out another year, why, the very same people who did nothing the last time will somehow, in some way, do something the next time. Defeat Trump at the ballot box, I guess, and in such staggering numbers that this time the Electoral Collage won’t just keep us right on the same course to disaster anyway.
The very same people who daily shout at me about how their vote doesn’t count, about gerrymandering and disenfranchisement, about lousy voter turn out, about rigged election machines, about Russian interference in our elections, about how democracy has failed, those very same people are now telling me, well, you know, we should wait for the elections because, yeah, um, there’s a secret plan, bro, sure. A unicorn will appear at the last second and save us! I mean, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that we worked to elect a House that would do something, that would confront Trump, that would put Trump in check, that would act on the Mueller Report, that would investigate this president and hold him to account in the name of the people, only to say, well, you know, ha ha, let’s not be hasty. Let’s wait. Another year. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.
And that’s the thing, you know.
In the movie Tomorrowland, that paragraph I quoted up above, Nix had the power to change things but he’d grown bitter and disillusioned with the human race and had finally decided to leave them to their fate – because over and over he watched the world brought to the edge of disaster by those who daily could have chosen a different path and just never did.
They just never did.
And that’s the thing. That’s it, right there.
It made Nix the bad guy in a movie about hope, but he wasn’t necessarily wrong to give up – just human.
Ask yourself this: what happens when those who fought so damned hard last time, who showed up and did the grunt work of democracy because they were promised if they did, then those they put in power would then take action, would change our fate, and yet, here we are?
Every day that goes by without checks and balances, every day that goes past without action from those who have the power to stop this, Trump grows bolder.
The racists, the misogynists, the religious fanatics and the Klan and the Confederates and those haters daily encouraged and applauded by Trump grow ever bolder.
The authoritarians, the fascists, those who lust after power and who who would put jackboots on the throat of liberty, our liberty, here and abroad, enabled and befriended by Trump, grow ever bolder.
Those who would despoil the planet, who would pollute the water we drink and the very air we breathe, who would fill the warming oceans with plastic and garbage while the rainforests burn, who would rape and pillage our children’s future, those rapacious sons of bitches grow ever bolder.
The fools and the fops and the ignorant fringe who rise to power on Trump’s coattails, they grow ever bolder.
The wealthy, the greedy and the selfish, who profit from Trump grow ever bolder.
Every day we rush faster and faster towards disaster, you can see it coming.
And the House … tweets.
And so, tell me, why should anybody show up this time?
Why should those who put their faith in me when I told them they could make a difference show up?
Why should those who believed in the Republic, in democracy, the power of the people, show up again?
Why should those who trusted the promises of the politicians who said they would do something, and have not, show up?
Why? Why should those people show up yet again?
In every moment there exists the possibility of a better future, but we won’t take the actions necessary to make that better future a reality.
It’s not that we can’t. We just won’t. And we resign ourselves to the worst present, the worst possible future.
And we do it because that future does not ask anything of us today.
And that – that right there – that cowardice, that’s the whole goddamned point.
You want a better future?
Well, then that better future asks everything of us.
That better future demands blood and sweat and risk.
That better future demands that we put the things that matter most to us on the line.
That better future asks that we show up yet again, and again, and again, and as many times as is necessary.
I don’t give a goddamn about some shitty politician’s reelection prospects.
I don’t give a goddamn about some political party.
I care about the nation.
I care about the future.
I care about the world we’re leaving to our children. My children. Your children.
I don’t owe any politician anything. I don’t owe any political party or any political ideology anything. And neither do you, Citizen.
And if that better future means the politicians who demanded our trust, our support, our future are unable or unwilling to choose that better path, unwilling to risk their own safety or their careers or their political party, to save that future, then to hell with them.
To hell with them.
It’s long past time to take back our fate from those who are determined to drive us to ruin for their profit and from those who are too fucking cowardly to stop them.
It’s long past time to hold our leaders to account. Throw them out, drag them from office if need be and run them them out of town on a rail.
THAT’S why you should show up.
That right there.
Because if you don’t, then you are complicit.
If you want a better nation, a better future, a better fate, then you have to start being better citizens.
The whole thing goes: The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.
-- John Connor, Terminator: Judgement Day, 1991