Thoughts in the Wake of the 2016 Election

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It’s been a long time since I’ve updated anything on this site. Like a really long time. Figured today is as good a day as any to start back up again.

While I watched the election results last night, and things didn’t turn out to my liking, this is not a political post. Not exactly. This is more about my momentary thoughts about the role of the artist.

Last night, after turning off the TV, I wandered about the house in a bit of a daze. Listless. Wondering where, as a country, do we go from here. Not just because things didn’t go the way I hoped, but rather, because we are so fractured and binary as a people. I wondered, with our binary political system, how can we overcome the either/or tone of our politics has become when it should be something of meeting in the middle? The words of Ray Bradbury came to me, “You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.” Before I could help others, I really needed work on centering myself. So, armed with a little Jameson, I sat down to attack the new prologue of Once We Were Like Wolves 2.0.

I stumbled into bed at about 1 am. I don’t know how long I tossed and turned, but eventually, I slept. 5 am came around, and Robin got out of bed, as she normally does at that time. Sometimes I get up with her. Sometimes I don’t. The deciding factor in that is usually the amount of sleep I usually get…or don’t. This morning, thoughts jumbled around my head doing backflips and cartwheels even before I fully realized I was awake. I got up. We took the dogs for a walk. Robin and I talked, as the morning dog walk is one of the few times we have without one or both of the children vying for attention. My brain was also still trying to come to terms with the election results.

“…if man is ever to solve that problem of politics in practice he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic; because, it is only through beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.” – Friedrich Schiller, ON THE AESTHETIC EDUCATION OF MAN

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. It popped into my head during the morning dog walk. It bounced around my head all morning, especially as I scrolled through my feed, seeing posts on various social media outlets on both sides of the election. I realized that, as an artist, I have a special role in society. I can rant and rave and shout my anger and frustration from the rooftops, but that’s not my job. Not as an artist. My job as an artist is to take my chosen artistic medium, storytelling (in print and in my show), and use it to bring people together, to heal the divide, to hold a mirror up to the world so that people can realize our shared humanity.

Politics is an ugly business, and we’ve had over a year of wallowing in this election, possibly the most polarizing election since the Civil War. It’s made people ugly. It’s made people hate. It’s made people hurt. We’ve paid too close attention to the talking heads in the political sphere and the 24 hour news juggernaut that keeps us hyped, stressed, and freaking out about the other. Now that this bat-shit crazy ride has come to an end, it is in our best interest to not pay quite so much attention to what politicians and news pundits are saying. Yes, we should keep informed about events going on in the world, but not so much about the vitriol being spewed out by the various indivisuals who need us divided and hating in order for them to thrive.

A week ago today, I watched the Chicago Cubs win the world series. Damn what a moment to be a part of. My hat goes off and my heart goes out to the Cleaveland Indians. They played hard, and they’ve been looking for that big win for a long time. In the end, they were classy. And both teams stepped up and gave us one of the greatest performances in the history of sports. It was almost like someone wrote a script and the Cubs and Indians played it out in real time. It was glorious. For about twelve hours after that, my reveled in the pure joy of that seventh game of the world series, as did my various social media streams. Then, about the thirteenth hour, the poison started seeping back in, and my fatigue and exhaustion returned at the same rate that the beauty of that glorious event faded. Now, a week later, I realized that we as a society have lost touch with the aesthetic. We have replaced it with our obsession with spectacle.

I’ve spent the morning thinking, soul searching. Last night I made a few knee-jerk posts to social media. Some snarky. Some bitter. This morning, with Schiller’s words boucing around in my head, I’ve decided to put my energy where I think I can do the most good. I’m going to take this tiny little platform I have and work to raise awareness of art among my small, yet loyal, gathering of followers. Hopefully, they will do the same. Yes, we should stay informed and educated on the events going on in the world around us, but if we are going to progress forward as a people, through civil discourse and rational compromise, we must consume at least as much beauty as we do poison from the talking heads, preferably more.

Art is big and it is small. It’s a novel. It’s a Shakespearean soliloquy. It’s a note jotted to a child in lunchbox or spouse hidden away in their purse or wallet. It’s a song: a symphony, Tupac, the Beatles, sea chanties, a kid’s first music recital, a parent humming to their baby. It’s friends baking cookies together. It’s a painting: Rembrandt, Picasso, DaVinci, or just a finger painting a child makes for mom or dad or a grandparent at school. It’s a comic book. It’s photograph that captures a moment of human experience. It’s the 2016 World Series. It’s a game of stick ball that keeps getting interrupted by calls of, “CAR!” and “GAME ON!” It’s board game night, yes really! It’s a fine-tuned engine that purs just right. It’s a yard full of decorations for your preferred holiday. It’s anything and everything that makes us realize, even for a moment, that humanity has the capacity to reach above the ugly bits and make us think, “We can be better. We should be better.”

The American People are in for a bumpy few years for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the divisiveness running through our discourse on the national, local, and interpersonal levels. Words and ideas are flying all over, most of the dialogue being ugly. I see hate spewing from multiple sides, even from people with similar ideologies, creating even greater discord. So, rather than keeping the same, unending, circular conversations going on, no matter how frustrated and disenfranchised we feel, perhaps we can slowly, bit-by-bit, change the tone of the conversation if we focus a bit more often on the things we love and bring us joy and share them with others. Now, I’m not saying that we turn a blind eye to the darkness and evil in the world. We should absolutely stay informed and educated, but we should not drown ourselves in it. We should expose ourselves and others to at least as much beauty as we do to the other crap floating around in our world. We need to break free of this seemingly unending cycle of poison, and, it is only through beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.” I want to be free.

I want to be free.

How about you?


4 thoughts on “Thoughts in the Wake of the 2016 Election

  1. Thanks for this, I need some positivity at the moment and this has about as much as it can for the situation

  2. Thanks for getting my head back where it should be. IMHO, In the same vein that the Vietnam war was the first real time journalistic war, so was this the first national election where the talking heads (rather than the true reporters) created a divided nation rather than the contenders (in other words in I blame the media rather than the message in both cases). Maybe a Wake is not a bad idea.

  3. I think this is spot on. This morning I found myself listening to upbeat 80’s synth-pop trying to notice all the good around me.

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