5:30 AM is an uncivilized hour, a ragged beast usually experienced either under duress prior to the drudgery of the special sort of hell we’ll refer to hereafter as “gainful employment” or the skullcaving brutality of leftover consequences from the prior evening’s poor life decisions.
It’s morning in America. Or in some parts of it, at least. Today is Election Day, and the polls are opening as I write this.
I am milling about outside the voting room. There are six people in front of me. Six souls dedicated to notions of democracy. Kindly folk who are proud of their citizenship and the duty it imposes. They nod approvingly at me as I join their numbers. There’s a grim, steely determination in these eyes. I particularly note a kindly woman in her eighties who is quite probably packing a shiv. Grandma’s here to vote. And she’s ready to add a few holes to anyone who even remotely resembles a cretin intending to impede her Constitutional rights.
By the time I’ve punched my card the line has wrapped around the hallway and is about a hundred people deep. It’s morning in America, and the people are ready to decide.
* * *
As the good citizens of Norfolk line up to cast their ballots, we should take a moment to recall that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. No, not actual Denmark. It’s a metaphor. Stay with me, people.
Our fair town is currently saddled with a Treasurer — Anthony Burfoot, who from all outward appearances resembles nothing moreso than a trapped hyena desperately gnawing his leg off to escape charges of public corruption. A major property developer has pleaded guilty to bribing highly placed officials. These officials, aside from Burfoot, are as of yet unnamed and as far as we know — and still in office. Let that sink in for a few moments.
We have criminals in our city government.
The more overtly cynical and jaded among you might respond that they’re all criminals, but that’s unproductive and ultimately contrary to the health of our Republic. I believe that good men and women answer a call to serve the public good.
I also once believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. You may mock the silliness of those notions, but at the end of the day there were chocolate eggs, a pile of shit under the tree come the end of December, and I got a quarter every time a baby tooth gave up the ghost. That these childhood figures weren’t exactly what I thought they were? Who gives a fuck? Shit got handled. None of us want to see how the sausage is made. There’s a reason kitchen restaurants have doors. If you get a decent meal out of the deal, who cares who prepared it or how?
All of that said, there’s a difference between an ugly as sin chef cooking up your filet mignon, and a line cook who **eats** your filet mignon, gives someone else your dessert, and then slaps some Mickey D’s on a square plate in a blatant attempt to sell it to you as what was supposed to be on the menu. Most of our city government is filled with well meaning, hardworking people. Burfoot and whoever else is on the take are the exceptions, not the rule. The reason we know this is that it’s harder today than at any other point in human history to keep a secret. The truth outs when every Tom, Dick, and Harriet have a Twitter account, Snapchat, Tumblr, or whatever else the kids are using today.
There’s likely a host of good reasons for the identity of these officials to have not been made public as yet. No doubt cases and charges are being meticulously prepared. But we the people have a right to know where the rot is, that we might support efforts to cut it out.
One hopes that prosecutors get a move-on with their announcements. Who knows what damage might be done in the interim. If nothing else, the public interest is continuing to rest in the hands of people who aren’t interested in helping anyone but themselves. That this drags on, is intolerable.
Make the names public. We deserve to know.
* * *
None of us should forget that the grand national drama is playing against a backdrop of some soul crushing poverty and social ills. Young Terrace is filled with victims of a war on the poor, and it shows in the haunted faces of many of its residents. Our schools continue to under-perform and are sorely in need of cash. We have a magnet level Arts Program in one of our High Schools that students apply to only to find out after they’re accepted that there’s no money to fund their efforts. We continue to throw people in prison for grinding up and smoking plants while white collar ne’er-do-wells roam the streets unchecked.
We have a new mayor who by all appearances has some ideas on how to make some of this better, but now is a time for action and not intent. This city needs more major initiatives to provide job training, public mental health assistance, and other paths out of poverty for the least advantaged of our ranks. We should be approaching every major business housed here for voluntary contributions to underfunded schools. Near to two dozen math and reading specialists are out of a job. Maybe we can offer the opportunity to assist in the hiring of “Ms. Ikea” to our captains of enterprise. The “ADP Student Theater” has a certain ring to it, no?
In the rhetoric of the national election, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that local problems more often than not have local solutions. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, Mr. Mayor. Let’s go.
* * *
In the days, weeks, and likely years to come — there will be no shortage of hyperbole as to how we are living in an occupied nation. The AltRight will lament minute by minute of a Clinton administration as a sign of the apocalypse. If, goddess forbids, Trump takes the golden ring? Those of us with progressive agendas fear we’ll be moved into camps.
Regardless, the true enemy of the good and just in today’s America is that the worst of us have been given a megaphone. Inch by inch they have advanced into the civil discourse, drowning out the voices of the reasonable and the thoughtful.
If Donald Trump is a festering cancer on the face of America, these people are the four pack a day habit that feeds him and those like him. Whatever happens after today, we’ll need to deal with them. Through patience and education, and baring the usefulness of those techniques, with strategically placed opiates.
That there has ever been a massive movement within our boundaries fueled by ignorance and powered through obstinacy is a basic truth of the Republic, but in previous generations they lacked a cohesive voice. The tragedy of the wired age is that while never before has so much information been so freely available, never before have so many idiots had so grand a tool to advance misinformation, fear, and doubt.
This is the real fight. This is why we must persevere and overcome. Because the truth is that we are all living under an occupation — just not the one the AltRight or the fevered Left decries. We’re suffering under the brutal yoke of the oppressively stupid. Of the greedy. Of the short-sighted interests of corporations. And of the mean, who when offered a choice between helping those less fortunate, mutter that it isn’t their problem and turn away. Those who when faced with the possibility of saving lives, reply with, “Let them die.”
If Donald Trump wins today? It will be evidence that these people are in the driver seat. And the enlightenment ideals the nation was built upon, even if it hasn’t always lived up to them, will at long last founder. It’s time to stand against the tide of ignorance.
That the noble experiment may not perish from the face of this earth.
* * *
If you honestly think that both choices are the same? I offer you this: Hillary Clinton may only be interested in passing us bake sale brownies through the bars of our prison cells so that we shut up long enough to enjoy them, but Donald Trump wants to have us all deported. Airlifted and dumped into the Atlantic Ocean because we neither look nor think like he does.
That’s a pretty clear fucking choice if you ask me. Take the fucking brownie and live long enough to find a way out of jail, eh?
In times to come I’ll be using this space to poke and prod. The warm fuzzy ball of yarn that serves as my editor asked me a bit ago, “What about tomorrow?” The answer to that is the same today as it was yesterday. It’s the same today as it will be the next day, and the day after that.
We do the work we need to do. We continue the struggle to live up to the premise that all are created equal. That all possess certain inalienable rights.
Because it’s still morning in America.