It makes me sick to have to say this, but the opinions expressed in this editorial article do not necessarily reflect those of Audiences Everywhere as a brand or team. It makes me sick because I don’t necessarily feel as though what I’m about to say is, by and large, a political statement, and any contention that it is willfully amputates basic morality from politics.
That disclosure out of the way, I’ll state this up front: Like a lot of Americans, I dislike Donald Trump as a person and detest his democratically-ish-elected occupation of the office of United States president. I say this not just from a personal perspective, but as the Editor-in-Chief of this site and from the honored position as the leader of and spokesperson for its staff and writers. We are an arts-based publication, so the latter motivation for my holding Trump in disfavor seems like common sense in a week that has seen the selfish president go to war with the press, strategize to hand select journalists for his press conferences, shout down a decorated journalist’s right to ask him a question with the world watching, and announce plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The collective message of this list is a declaration of war, and not just a culture war, but a war on all culture, one to be fought alongside the war on free information and intelligence. On that basis alone, for our website to even feign neutrality on this particular issue would be for us to wish for our own demise at a multi-fronted attack. But even so, my dislike is more than that.
From the very instant of this site’s inception, from the moment in which its founding members elected the title “Audiences Everywhere,” we have strived to establish an all-inclusive corner of the film community where all perspectives are welcome and elevated to the best of our growing but limited means. By making publishing and organizational decisions based only on demonstrated skill, passion, intelligence, and unique voice, we have built a team whose diversity is a mark of pride for me: our staff covers all social, economic, and biological spectrums, with everyone having earned their status rightfully without charity, nepotism, or entitlement. It turns out that an inclusive playing field is inherently level and lends to a natural diversity. I’ve always believed that in theory, and as far as I’m concerned, Audiences Everywhere has proven it into law.
Incidentally, I have discovered in conversation, without naming names, that our staff and our past and current roster of writers includes not just men and women or conservatives and liberals, but members of multiple LGBT communities, persons of color, survivors of sexual assault, people of limited economic means, people who have endured courageous battles for health care, and non-American citizens who are more than welcome in our America. So, in short, all communities toward whom Trump has either projected direct insult, vocalized measures of dehumanization, or announced the intention of restricting their basic rights. And let me be clear: in the context of Audiences Everywhere, I’m not waving virtue or preaching some generalized concept of progressive fairness here (I do my fair share of that on Twitter if that’s a thing that you would like to fav or debate). This is a reaction to the assault of a family. My family. I owe everyone who has contributed anything to the building of this once-silly brand so much, but more than that, I love them so much. Every one of them. Unconditionally.
So, yes, you’ll have to excuse me for thinking that an incoming president’s assault on their well-being is more than a political discussion.
Yet here we are, on the dawn of his inauguration, livestreaming confirmation hearings of his violently unqualified and seemingly compassionless appointees to Executive offices, nodding as Democratic Senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren take these nominees to task for their collective and singular incompetence, but also dreadfully recognizing that these obstructive job interviews might serve as little more than investments in future “I was on record…”-based re-election bids for the contesting interrogators. And Friday’s inauguration ceremony, a nightmare scenario for many, will go on as scheduled, in spite of the Russian rumors, in spite of the tampered election possibility, in spite of Trump’s multiple lawsuits, sexual assault charges, and unlawful conflicts of interests.
But I will not be watching, and I’ll explain why.
First, I need to slow down as I recognize that currently, I’m risking my point devolving into a political discussion. I’ve never been good at politics anyway. If you’re like me, you’ll know what I mean when I say that my political affiliation is circumstantial, that I identify as liberal-to-progressive because those leanings host philosophies that claim to support moral principles I developed in response to anecdotes of witnessed or received kindness and charity.
An example: my junior year of high school, my family was wracked with medical bills as my dad had wrecked his body through a life of physical labor and my disease-ridden mother was limited to only occasionally waiting tables or taking care of people who were less sick than she was. So, I had to work at K-Mart after school to buy my own team shoes for basketball. Anyone who had to buy basketball shoes in the 1990s or early 2000s knows the expense. My second day of practice, I left those shoes on top of my car and drove them onto the highway. I resigned myself to accepting that I was stuck with a worn pair of tennis shoes that was an embarrassing mismatch to the team’s shoe, when two days later an employee of the school called me into an empty room and gave me a new pair of the team shoes, risking his or her job and spending his or her own money to save me from that now-recognizably mild embarrassment.
That simple exchange informs all of my politics as much as any published article, past or present representative, or law. And that’s why I think it’s important that I tune out of the inauguration.
Not that it is less important to stay informed or angry. But there won’t be information of any sort in the inauguration. We know this. Trump will announce an unstable skeleton of promises he likely will not keep, he’ll make up statistics, he’ll gracelessly call out his detractors, and he will bloviate about his own popularity. No one, supporter or protester, will learn anything.
And anger must be always be measured lest it grow into hate. Even reactionary hate is self-defeating, even if it feels righteous. I contend that anyone who stands against Trump cannot let anger override compassion as his/her personal default. I know from frustrated years of AIM statuses and MySpace posts under the Bush administration, habitual anger is a cathartic sedative, lulling us into a misguided sense of emotion-as-action, wherein we unknowingly concede the next election through the mistaken subconscious certainty that elections can be changed through fervor of feelings alone. Elections are, sometimes soullessly, a game of numbers. So are ratings. So is egomania. And any numbers we concede to Trump fuel the furnace of his lunatic-level megalomania.
So it’s my suggestion to anyone who is unsettled by his presidency that we play the long numbers game, starting with number one. Yes, we are Audiences Everywhere, but we can’t always afford to be spectators. There is every indication that we will, as a whole country, be less healthy, less happy, less financially secure, and less free by the end of the presumed four years of a Trump administration than we are in the first day of it. Some of us will be dead. So, I suggest skipping his speech, putting whatever dent you can in Trump’s ratings and attention, and enjoying the America left by the grace of our last president (okay, I’ll be political for a second).
If you are on this site by habit, that means you love movies, and there are plenty of theater options right now. I’ll be seeing Split. You will not talk me out of it. Go to the movies. Take someone you love. Take someone who is a centrist voter or quickly-remorseful Trump voter. Do you have a Trump supporter in your family? Take them. Someone has to love them into our side, and if you have the privilege of being white or male, you’re in the most reachable position.
Or do something else. Perform an act of charity. Make it known that a teenager in your life can approach you about anything, that you’re a safe person. Whether that means to get college advice from or a ride to Planned Parenthood. Take a high schooler to your local museum, to the office of your local newspaper, to a national park. Buy an underprivileged kid a pair of shoes.
The farm of compassion and culture cannot be sustained by a perpetual season of harvest. There must be a planting season. Boxers cannot find success by fighting at full strength every day. There is a diet to follow here. When the world gets dark, we will have to remember what the daylight looks like so we do not forget why we are angry.
Tomorrow is going to be the best time to store up that reminder for the next four years. From then on, all of these things will be chipped away at in spite of our best defenses until the next election cycle.
When I was a jaded 23-year-old, Chuck Klosterman wrote the following in an Esquire article regarding the frustration felt at the end of the Bush era:
It seems weird that this is the country and there’s nothing we can do about it, beyond participating in the system that’s already in place. It would not matter what the government did or to whom they did it – nobody knows how to change things in any meaningful way, and the only people who’d try are dangerous and insane. We have reached a point where the reinvention of America is impossible, even if that were what we wanted. Even if that were what everybody wanted.
You might think the government is corrupt, and you might be right. But I’m surprised it isn’t worse. I’m surprised they don’t shoot us in the street. It’s not like we could do anything about it, except maybe die.
That always stuck with me. Mostly, it’s strange now to think that such an extreme attitude of being defeated could exist back then, when things were almost inarguably better. But if the decade since Mr. Klosterman’s essay has taught us anything, it’s that we are far too resilient to just die.
The great part of America may have never been as prevalent as revisionist history would have us believe. Maybe making America “great” by any rational and fair and modern definition would be more of a new milestone than a return to a former condition. But there has been an undying good in her best people. I don’t know how that will win, or how it will even climb this new mountain set before it, but it will not die.
Trump announced earlier this week that he considers Monday, January 23rd his first day on the job, and that he will be taking the post-inauguration hours of Friday and the weekend to rest and celebrate. We will not. That’s why Trump as an idea will lose. Because while evil is unnatural and built of action and choice, goodness is inherent. It’s our absolute. Even when the continuation of goodness makes us tired, we still have goodness as a constant. So, occasionally – and this I would suggest is one of those occasions – maybe we need to let Trump’s ragtag crew of the selfish and the hateful to their temporary, doomed, exclusionary America while the rest of us recharge, not resting, but enjoying the America that we love, the real America which we find in each other and not exclusively in our vindictive self-interest, and reminding ourselves of what it is that we will fight like hell for every time the bell rings.
Featured Image: via Twitter user @RealDonaldTrump