“So this is the end of the New England Patriot? …No! NEVER! The powers that be…shall never keep me away from the mic! …I will not quietly withdraw from the blogosphere. I’ll [sic] just going to have to find a new soapbox, that’s all. Stay tuned, folks—a new evil plan is being formulated as I type.”—The New England Patriot, “The End Of The Line?”, December 2, 2006
“At long last, I have returned! …Er, Kyle? Why are you standing so far away and wearing that weird mask?
…What the fuck have you done to my America, Kyle? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”—NEP Today
You know, the last time I looked around this place, things didn’t seem all that bad. Sure, that moron Dubya and his cronies were running rampant in the White House committing war crimes and trying to read all our emails, but the people had a new Democratic Congress with an ambitious agenda (raising the minimum wage, cutting student load interest rates, negotiating for lower drug prices, etc.), the country had a new direction as it tried to move past Bushie’s failures in Iraq and New Orleans, and I had a shiny new Nintendo console with fancy new motion controls. There were problems looming on the horizon (*cough* climate change *cough*), but there was an optimism in the air that America could rise to the challenge.
So when Kyle called me to write an anniversary post for his…whatever the heck this blog is supposed to be (“Random thoughts on country music, Nintendo, and other things” is a nice way of saying “scattershot rants that no one will actually read or care about”), I figured it was a great chance to look at how far we’d come as a country in the last fourteen years, and imagine what the future held in store.
What I did not expect to discover were that the answers to those questions were “we’ve lost ground” and “we’re on the verge on a second civil war.”
So let me get this straight:
- The economy has collapsed twice since I’ve been gone?
- We buried Millennials under a mountain of debt, destroyed the job market justas they came of age, and then blamed them for “destroying” industries and cultural conventions because they couldn’t afford them?
- We did nothing to slow climate change, and are now watching the temperature rise, the West burn, and the Gulf and East Coasts get pummeled by hurricanes and tropical storms?
- We watched police officers kill Black people over and over and over again, and yet did nothing to bring justice to the fallen or bring equality to those still living?
- After the nation’s first Black president dug the country out of the hole Wall Street put it in, we found a racist orange clown with no capacity to care about anyone but himself, and we stuck him in the Oval Office?
- We got overrun by a deadly pandemic that’s now infected almost 7 million people and killed over 200,000, and our official strategy is “oh, it’s not that bad; get back to work already”? You’re telling me we turned mask-wearing into the latest front in our ongoing culture wars?
Dammit Kyle, why the hell didn’t you call me sooner? And why are you wasting your breath on some guy named Robert Counts when the nation is collapsing around you?
This is a DISASTER! In case Donald Trump and his toadies have forgotten, the U in USA stands for UNITED. We’re facing problems on a nation-wide (and even planet-wide) scale, and we need all hands on deck if we’re going to find any solutions. Instead, we’re drawing lines, building walls, and sticking our fingers in our ears, trying to wish and hope our way out of a maze that we ourselves constructed. When governors are competing over personal protective equipment and Trump is drawing distinctions between blue-state deaths and red-state ones, we’re not the United States of America anymore—we’re just states.
Oh, and now we’re learning that our democracy has been tested about as well as our computer software, and this administration is more than happy to be our pentester. The Trump team is already putting together a plan to suppress the vote, cast doubt on the results, and bank on GOP-controlled legislatures and a friendly Supreme Court to turn the Electoral College in his favor. The GOP has already demonstrated their willingness to use their power to flout their own rules in the debate over replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“oh, we said justices shouldn’t be appointed in an election year? Oh well, sucks to be you, huh?”), so don’t be surprised to see this crew pull out every last stop to keep their guy in the White House. (I can’t believe that after all the sparring I did with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, they only turned out to be mini-bosses, and the real final boss wound up being Mitch fucking McConnell.) Some outside groups have also started mapping out potential scenarios for the election, and their findings (no matter who actually wins the election) aren’t reassuring either.
I’ll be honest with y’all: I see no scenario on November 3rd that does not end with violence in the streets and people dying unnecessarily. I made fun of my project partner freshman year for getting drunk and trying to hitchhike to Canada, but I’m only one or two more refusals to commit to a peaceful transfer of power away from attempting the same trick sober.
So what are we supposed to do in the face of such an electoral apocalypse? Here are my suggestions:
- Vote safely. Whether you do this in-person or via an absentee ballot, the key is to make sure your voice is heard. Stephen Colbert and The Late Show are putting together a guide for voting in all 50 states, so that’s a great place to start learning about the process, but you may also want to check out your state’s “Secretary of State” website for more information. Regardless of what the talking heads on cable news say, it will make it much harder for anyone to claim power if the vote count doesn’t turn out in their favor.
- Demand accountability from your politicians. If a candidate wants your vote, make them earn it. Are you passionate about climate change, criminal justice reform, or gun control? Don’t let a politician skate by with token lip service; push them on these issues. Do they have a plan, and is it actually going to change things for the better? And if they win and get into office, keep the pressure on and make sure they follow through on their promises.
- Don’t overlook the down-ballot races. When the federal government’s response to COVID-19 turned out to be a shrug emoji, it was up to the states to figure out how to combat the virus and try to keep it under control. Those with competent leadership at the state and local levels have manage to bend their curve and (mostly) keep it bent, and those that didn’t saw the virus explode in their faces. Defense in depth isn’t just a cybersecurity thing: You need competent, reasonable people at every level of government to maximize your chance of success against a nationwide threat.
- Be patient, and don’t expect the final results to be available on Election Night. News organizations need to treat November 3rd as just another day at the office, and not with a six-hour special that tries to call the match before their competitors do. No one will know who’s going to win that night, and anyone that says they do is lying through their teeth. It’s going to take a while to add up all the numbers, so ignore the shouting matches that are sure to erupt on social media and wait for credible results from a trusted source.
- If you see something, say something. If your state’s vote total and the actions of your state’s legislature don’t seem to line up, don’t let it happen quietly. Speak up and make sure your elected officials know that if they mistreat your vote this time, they won’t get it next time.
- If you want something done right, do it yourself. It’s a bit late for this election cycle, but if you aren’t satisfied with the candidate options you have, maybe it’s time to consider throwing your own hat in the ring. (This has admittedly crossed my mind quite a few times over the last nine months.) There’s a part of me that thinks we need to have a generation shift in Washington, and start recycling some of these stagnant career legislators in favor of some fresh faces with fresh perspectives. That fresh face could be you! And it doesn’t have to be a national-level position; there are plenty of opportunities in state and local governments to get involved and make a difference. (Heck, it doesn’t even have to be an elected position—if you’ve got expertise that would be useful in a civil service position, go ahead and send in your application! I wonder if Vermont needs a state blogger…)
2020 has been a rough year by nearly any measure, but we’ve got an opportunity to take back control of the ship and put America back on the path of trying to live up to its ideals. It’s going to take a long time to undo the damage that’s been done, but we can take the first step towards fixing things in a few months, and we have to take it. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option (I’m talking to you, Kyle)—if we’re going to keep this democracy, we’ve got to get involved, stay involved, and make “liberty and justice for all” a mantra rather than a bumper sticker. Our forefathers would expect nothing less.
When Kyle invites me back here in 2034, I want to see a nation that stepped back from the abyss. Instead of rolling over and dying in the face of a paranoid, closed-minded ideology that considers some people more equal than others, I dream of a country that recommitted itself to being that “city on a hill” it always liked to think of itself as, where all of Dr. King’s hopeful prophecies finally became reality. A country made great again not by exclusion and hate, but by kindness and generosity, A country where a person’s value is not measured by the size of their bank account, but by their contributions to the community and the world. A country that I would once again be proud to call my home.
Stay safe and stay strong.
—The New England Patriot